‘Halt and Catch Fire’ Actress Kerry Bishe on Representing Women in STEM Fields

KERRY-BISHE Variety Facetime Interview
Celeste Sloman for Variety

Kerry Bishe’s breakthrough was as a medical student opposite Zach Braff in Season 9 of “Scrubs.” Eight years later, she’s still representing women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) as the tech-savvy Donna Clark in AMC’s ’80s-set drama “Halt and Catch Fire,” which begins its fourth season this month. She also appears in Netflix’s “Narcos.”

In “Halt and Catch Fire,” is it important to show well-rounded female characters?

That’s been a really big part of being on the show for me. The show focuses on the characters as human beings. We don’t sit around talking about feminism or sexism in the workplace on the show, which I find really refreshing. We talk about computers, and we talk about business, and we talk about creativity and compromise. The idea of supporting and encouraging women in the STEM field feels like it has come from showing women who work in those fields.

Did you learn Spanish for the “Narcos” role?

I did high-school level Spanish, but that doesn’t exactly prepare you for the vocabulary you need in talking about drug trafficking in South America. When the Colombian actors would play fast and loose with the dialogue, it was pretty difficult to keep up. It was one of those experiences where very little acting was required. I was out of my element, didn’t really know what to do, didn’t quite exactly feel like I belonged in this environment, and those are all ways that you could also describe the character that I was playing.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten?

Find a way to make whatever you’re actually feeling as a human being work for the role. If you’re creative enough and smart enough about it, you can find a way to use whatever is deeply happening to you that’s engendered by the role that you’re playing — to allow that to happen in the role.

What drew you to acting?

Acting, for me, is not an end in itself. It’s more a means to asking the questions I’m obsessed with about life. There are some great opportunities as an actor to answer those questions, to make yourself vulnerable, to empathize with people in terms of these characters you have to play, to justify their actions and their desires. It’s a way of understanding myself and understanding other people better.

What you didn’t know about Kerry Bishe

AGE: 33 ALMA MATER: Northwestern University GUILTY PLEASURE MOVIE: “Jupiter Ascending” FAVORITE SHOW GROWING UP: The West Wing LAST SHOW SHE BINGE-WATCHED: The Girlfriend Experience HIDDEN TALENT: Built a 16-foot boat

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