Jen Statsky interview: ‘Hacks’ producer
With the high volume of great television being created for cable and streaming services these days, “Hacks” was one new series that was able to separate itself from the pack as one of 2021’s most acclaimed comedies. After premiering on HBO Max last May, “Hacks” quickly earned high marks from critics and was renewed for Season 2 just a month later. Co-creator, executive producer and co-writer Jen Statsky says the cast and crew feel “lucky” the viewers connected the way they did. Watch our full interview with the PGA Awards nominee above.
“It’s so lovely,” Statsky tells Gold Derby during our “Meet the Experts” panel for Producers Guild Awards nominees. “You just never know if something’s going to hit. When you’re making it and you’re in the writer’s room and you’re on set and you’re in the edit you’re like, ‘I think this is good. This is something I would watch. I like it.’ But you just never know. And you certainly don’t know now that there’s 14 billion TV shows out there. I think we feel that it was a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication that our cast and crew put in, especially making the show during the depths of covid.”
For Statsky and her co-creators Lucia Aniello and Paul Downs, the story they hoped to tell is all too common. “We were drawn to telling the story of a stand-up, but specifically the story of a woman in the arts who had been under-appreciated,” she explains. “While her peers got that recognition, she wasn’t given that same sort of acclaim and reverence. There are so many women like that when you look at the arts and industries at large. It has been a markedly harder path for women in that way so we wanted to honor that type of story.”
“We pitched the show as a dark comedy,” Statsky continues. “So when the very important moment when we had to cast Deborah Vance came about, we needed an actor that was emblematic of that tone. Someone who could be so incredibly funny, but also play the drama and the more dramatic storylines. When you make a list of who can do that, Jean Smart is at the very, very top. She is so gifted on both sides of the coin, it’s really quite incredible. We knew that if we could get her that the tone of the show would be very clear. HBO Max knew what kind of show we wanted to make and once we got Jean it became even more crystal clear of the tone and what it was going to be.”
“Hacks” received 15 Primetime Emmy nominations and won three. Smart took home Best Comedy Actress, Aniello won Best Comedy Directing and the trifecta of Aniello, Downs and Statsky claimed Best Comedy Writing. In addition to the PGA Awards nomination for Statsky and her colleagues, Smart is up for a SAG Award for Best Comedy Actress. The cast of of Smart, Hannah Einbinder, Rose Abdoo, Carl Clemons-Hopkins, Downs, Mark Indelicato, Poppy Liu, Christopher McDonald and Megan Stalter is nominated for Best Comedy Ensemble.
“Juggling the business aspect with the human aspect is a challenge,” Statsky says of her work as a producer. “It’s an incredibly ambitious show. We’re shooting all over. We block shoot, which means that we shoot scenes from Episode 1 and scenes from Episode 6 and scenes from Episode 8. It’s such an intense schedule. It’s managing that schedule but also making sure that your cast and crew is safe and healthy. As a producer you’re always weighing the creative, but also the business aspect of it. Creatively that’s best, money-wise that’s best. The other part of it is, these are people you care about and they’re human beings. You want to do right by them and make sure everyone is treated well. It’s a constant balancing of all those things that you’re trying to do as a producer.”
Watch the full interview above. “Hacks” is available to watch on HBO Max and will return for its second season later this year.