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NPR Arts & Life

Kerry Bishé: Halt And Catch Science

Kerry Bishé on Ask Me Another.
Kerry Bishé on Ask Me Another.

Kerry Bishé started her career performing with the Montana Shakespeare in the Parks company. She and the other actors traveled all over the state, setting up the stage with their bare hands. This simplicity of life appealed to Bishé, who considers herself quite the Luddite. "I collect typewriters...they're amazing," She told host Ophira Eisenberg. "I can see it working, there's ink on a ribbon--it's so good."

This passion for simpler technology is a far cry from her character in the AMC series Halt & Catch Fire — Donna Clark, a computer engineer in the early days of personal computing in the 1980s. Bishé tried to understand her character by taking apart and putting back together some old Speak & Spells, an 80s educational toy that read text. Once she realized that the hard part was putting the machines back together, she had a change of heart. "I realized...that I don't actually need to understand the way computers work. My job is to understand the peoplethat understand the way computers work."

Bishé's interest in these very people led to a surprising responsibility: advocating for the depiction of science in media, as well as for the inclusion of women and girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs and careers. Bishé told Eisenberg that she hated science in school. It wasn't until after graduating college when she picked up books about neuroscience, psychology, and physics on her own that she discovered her love for the sciences. "I'm a real amateur enthusiast," she explained. Bishé sees the way STEM is taught in schools as part of what made her dislike it so strongly.

As for the representation of science in media, well, that'll help girls too. "The kinds of people that we see on television making science are old white guys with crazy hair, and those aren't the only people making science." Bishé said that seeing women in science on TV and in the movies really affects girls, who can see themselves doing those jobs. As part of this advocacy work, Bishé was invited to the White House Science Fair in 2016, an experience that she remembers fondly. "I feel like they took me there to inspire kids to pursue science, but I was much more inspired!"

In light of her passion for STEM, Kerry Bishé tests her mettle in a quiz about women rock stars of computer science!

Heard on Kerry Bishé: Halt And Catch Science

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