DGA nominee Lucia Aniello: ‘Hacks’ is ultimately ‘a love story’ between Deborah and Ava

“Ultimately of course, this show is a love story between the two of them,” Emmy winner Lucia Aniello reveals about what lies at the core of her hit HBO Max comedy “Hacks,” and the complicated relationship between veteran stand-up comic Deborah (Jean Smart) and up-and-coming comedy writer Ava (Hannah Einbender).

We talked with Aniello as part of Gold Derby’s special “Meet the Experts” Q&A roundtable event with 2022 Directors Guild Awards nominees. Watch our exclusive video interview above.

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Aniello goes on to explain that the pilot sets the scene for how both women begin to realize how to “have a living relationship with each other, which is in and of itself is the true thing that they need, even though they think they need a job or they think they need their dates back or whatever,” she explains. “But what they really need is somebody, a kindredness with another person who challenges them and ultimately makes them a better person, but also makes the work better. So yeah, there’s a lot at play!”

“Hacks” stars Emmy winner Smart as Deborah Vance, a Vegas stand-up comedian in the twilight of her career, who is forced to find ways to freshen up her act. She reluctantly hires Ava (Emmy nominee Einbinder), a young comedy writer facing her own professional struggles. The two form a begrudging partnership as Deborah learns to respect her young employee while Ava begins to admire both her employer’s talent and her longevity. Emmy nominee Carl Clemons-Hopkins plays Marcus, Deborah’s no-nonsense manager, Kaitlin Olsen plays Deborah’s daughter DJ, and Christopher MacDonald plays a casino owner with whom Deborah has a love-hate relationship.

The comedy series made a big splash at last year’s Emmys, earning 15 total nominations including acting bids for Smart, Einbinder and Clemons-Hopkins. Along with Smart’s Best Comedy Actress win, the show ended up upsetting Emmy juggernaut “Ted Lasso” with Aniello taking out the directing prize and also sharing the writing prize with co-creator and husband Paul W. Downs and co-creator Jen Statsky.

Aniello is nominated by the DGA this year for helming the pilot episode “There Is No Line,” the same episode that won her that Emmy, which typically introduces the show’s ensemble cast and in particular establishes the complicated relationship between Deborah and Ava.

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