Scoot McNairy may not be a household name, but he’s steadily built a career appearing in some of the biggest movies of the last few years, as well as critically-acclaimed TV series for good measure.
You’ll remember him as the band manager in Frank, the wheelchair-bound Wallace O’Keefe in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Andrew Kaulder in Monsters.
Along the way, he’s also featured in Argo, 12 Years A Slave, Black Sea, Gone Girl and Non-stop and currently stars in the AMC drama series Halt and Catch Fire which will return for a fourth and final series later this year.
Depicting a fictionalised version of the personal computer revolution in the 1980s, McNairy plays Gordon Clark, a Steve Wozniak-type to Lee Pace’s Steve Jobs-like Joe MacMillan in a show that may just be TV’s best kept secret.
In the meantime, he’s also found the time to star opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in Aftermath, another project grounded in reality.
The film tells the story of Roman (Schwarzenegger) a man on the hunt for answers after his wife and child are killed in a plane crash. But what starts out as a search for the truth soon turns into a revenge tale, with Roman pursuing Jake Bonanos (McNairy), the air traffic controller he holds responsible for their deaths.
“I found the script for Aftermath fascinating but had no idea it was based on a real event at the time. It was only afterwards that I found out,” McNairy admits to loaded.
Indeed, while the names and places have changed, the mid-air collision at the heart of the film was based on the real-life Uberlingen disaster and subsequent murder of Danish air traffic controller Peter Nielsen at the hands of Russian architect Vitaly Kaloyev, who lost a wife and two children in the crash.
Though McNairy was keen to learn more about Nielsen, as with Halt and Catch Fire, he wanted the character of Jake to take inspiration from real life rather than be entirely based on it.
“I wanted to dive into Peter but I didn’t want to portray a version of him. This film is something independent of that,” McNairy explains.
“I focused more on his life after this event and all the court cases and hearing that took place. Reading through the reports on it, one comment Peter made during it all really resonated with me, this idea that the more the trials went on, the more childlike he became. I found that to be interesting and something I based the character on.”
“I took a lot of what she said and tried to incorporate that into the character of this guy who is feeling a lot of shame and guilt. He’s an adult almost going into his inner childhood with these emotions.”
The result is a film and performance that has won widespread praise, helped in no small part by Schwarzenegger in a role many are calling a major return to form for the Governator.
McNairy, for his part, has nothing but positive things to say about his experience with Arnie.
“Schwarzenegger is an icon of cinema and just an incredibly charismatic presence to have on set. He cracks a lot of jokes and can just switch it on when the cameras start rolling. Everything he says sounds like one of his classic one-liners.”
Not that Aftermath is your standard Arnie movie, as McNairy is keen to stress.
“Aftermath is a hard movie. It’s not an inspiring film. The main takeaway is that revenge doesn’t always make you feel the way you thought it would,” he concludes.
“These days people act and respond so quickly to stuff without thinking it through. Because it’s something that could change the course of your life.”
McNairy isn’t dwelling on any dark messages though – he’s too busy with a part in the next series of Noah Fawley’s Fargo TV series coming up.
“I play Maurice Lafaye. He’s a drug-addled stoner with a dark past. I’m a huge fan of the show and would be doing you a disservice to say anymore.”
Thankfully, McNairy is allowed to reveal a little more about the final series of Halt and Catch Fire, which sees the action fast forward to the mid 90s.
“It’s mostly set around when the search engine boom began,” he explains.
“What we’re doing with computers on the show has always been a reflection of what the characters are going through. Last season, there was this app called Community and it was about these characters trying to find their own sense of community. This season is going to be about search engines with the characters almost searching for who they are and what they are.”
And as for his character, Gordon’s mystery illness that has featured all the way through the show? Or whether Pace will go “full Jobs” this time around?
“I would say you are going to see a little bit of where the illness has taken him. We won’t play too hard on it but there is an interesting reveal to his sickness,” McNairy teased.
“I don’t know too much about what is in store for Lee but I’m a big Steve Jobs fan and would love that.”
Aftermath is available to rent and own on Amazon now and comes highly recommended.