Jean Smart interview: ‘Hacks’

“I really did not have a clue as to what they were going to do with Season 2,” shares Emmy-winning “Hacks” star Jean Smart about where the sophomore comedy series would go after its cliffhanger ending. The first season closed with Smart’s stand-up comedian Deborah Vance hitting the road with her writer Ava (Hannah Einbinder) but unbeknownst to her, Ava has sent out a revealing and harsh email about her boss. Smart says the cross-country tour arc for the new episodes was a “really, really smart idea” because “being on the road with somebody, there’s so many opportunities for funny things to happen, and dark things to happen.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.

Smart praises series co-creators Lucia Aniello, Jen Statsky and Paul W. Downs for their brilliant handling of the second season. “The second season of a show that’s been considered a hit, you feel like there’s a target on you,” she notes about the pressure to maintain or outdo the quality of the first year. Those worries were allayed when Smart learned what they had in store: “I was just thrilled when I started reading the scripts for Season 2.”

SEE our exclusive video interview with Hannah Einbinder about ‘Hacks’ Season 2

The relationship between Deborah and Ava is more complicated than ever in the new batch of episodes, only in part because of Ava’s email. Smart says that her rapport with Einbinder off camera helps them find the nuances of their relationship on screen. “I respect her so much. I’m kind of in awe of her,” she comments, calling Einbinder a “deep, kind, sweet person.” Those feelings apply in the new season since “Deborah and Ava are now a little bit more comfortable with each other, a little more trusting,” Smart observes. Of the episode in which Deborah finds out about Ava’s email, she remarks that the scene is “so uncomfortable to watch.”

Since the second season focuses on Deborah testing out her new material on the road, the audience gets to see a lot more of Smart performing stand-up comedy. “It was more fun this season because the pandemic rules were relaxed a little bit so I actually had an audience,” she reveals, comparing the process this year to the sparse or non-existent audiences they had when shooting the first season. Not every set of Deborah’s goes very well – she is developing new material, after all – so Smart occasionally had to perform her stand-up poorly on purpose. “There were little moments when the audiences doesn’t respond and she’s very uncomfortable,” she notes of those hilariously awkward moments.

SEE our exclusive video interview with Carl Clemons-Hopkins about ‘Hacks’ Season 2

Smart also gets to show off her singing voice in an episode or two. She admits that she wasn’t personally as happy with her voice as she hoped, but then realized, “It makes sense, Deborah’s not a singer. It shouldn’t be perfect, and she’s drunk, and she’s having a good time!” The episode in which she sings happens to be one of her favorites of the second season because “it’s got everything, it’s got twists and turns.”

The whole premise of Deborah’s new act is to recount her life story and its many ups and downs through stand-up comedy, a choice which makes sense to Smart since comedy is such an insightful storytelling tool. “Humor can teach people so much in a way that they will accept that they wouldn’t if you just sat down and lectured them about something,” she notes, adding, “I think you can get away with so much if you make people laugh.”

For the first season of “Hacks,” Smart won the Emmy for Best Comedy Actress, which was her fourth victory. She recollects of the night that she won, “It meant a lot, because I’m really proud of the show and I love doing this role so much, so that was very gratifying. But it was difficult because it I was still in such grief [over her late husband Richard Gilliland], so it will for better or worse always be connected with that.”

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UPLOADED May 18, 2022 3:36 pm