Harriet Sansom Harris (‘Hacks’) on her Emmy-nominated character: ‘She’s certainly not afraid of saying much of anything’ [Exclusive Video Interview]

“I’m glad that I got nominated for something that I really was proud of,” shares Harriet Sansom Harris about the joy she feels about her Emmy Award bid for the HBO Max series “Hacks.” The actress received the nomination in the Comedy Guest Actress category for her role as Susan, a former acquaintance of Jean Smart’s Deborah Vance and one-time standup comedian. She calls the recognition a “delightful surprise,” adding that she felt “very proud of the show.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.

Harris appears in the episode “Retired,” in which Deborah unexpected bumps into Susan at a Lord & Taylor while touring and decides to invite her old friend to see her performance at a local fair. Deborah feels personally responsible for Susan’s exit from professional comedy because of a competitive and dishonest choice she made, but Susan later admits that she just didn’t want to make the kind of sacrifices that Deborah had. “I do like this idea that they’ve lived very different lives and their ambitions were similar… they had the same desires when they were young,” shares the actress about why she signed onto the role.

WATCH our exclusive video interview with Jean Smart, ‘Hacks’ Season 2

The episode features a reunion between Harris and Smart, who previously worked together on Broadway in “The Man Who Came to Dinner” in 2000. “We’ve worked together but we’re not pals, so in a way I think that was perfect for Susan and Deb,” reflects the actress on how their past collaboration helped inform their characters’ on-screen dynamic, continuing, “There’s an interest and respect there, but there’s not a deep knowing of the other person.”

The actress thinks Susan must have felt surprised but exciting about seeing Deborah again after all those years. “I think it’s kind of like maybe looking up at the sky and seeing a blimp… unexpected and wonderful,” explains Harris. She figured that Susan “must have been aware of her all these years, but I don’t think I fly to Vegas to see her.” Reflecting on what kind of a standup comedian Susan might have been, the Tony Award winner shares, “She’s certainly not afraid of saying much of anything. She says things in front of the grandkids that I think most grandmothers would be surprised by.”

WATCH our exclusive video interview with Christopher McDonald, ‘Hacks’ Season 2

Harris and Smart share a terrific scene together in which their characters have a very frank and forthcoming conversation about the past. “I think she really thought it was more important that she be a good mother,” observes the actress about the real reason why Susan dropped out of showbiz. The star continues, “She could see that it would be a very difficult thing. There weren’t a lot of female comedians at the time… that was scary to contemplate.”

In Harris’ final scene, Susan tells Deborah to “hang in there” after a particularly bad set at the fair, during which the comedienne got upstaged by a birthing cow. “She had a bad set! You can’t deny that it was not Deb at her best,” admits the actress with a hearty laugh. On whether she thinks the line was intended to be a compliment or a dig at her old friend, she says, “I think she was trying to be nice, and saying you’ve got a lot of talent and that’s the brakes.” While she doesn’t know if Susan will make another appearance on “Hacks” in the future, the Emmy nominee jokes, “I don’t see that I would be opening for Deb on the road.”

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