Hacks Season 3: Press Conference with Cast and Staff

Hacks Season 3: Press Conference with Cast and Staff

Carl Clemons-Hopkins, Jean Smart, @Photograph by Beth Dubber/Max

Hacks : A dark mentorship forms between Deborah Vance, a legendary Las Vegas comic, and an entitled, outcast 25-year-old comedy writer.

Executive Producer : Paul W. Downs, Lucia Aniello, Mike Schur, David Miner, Morgan Sackett

Network : Max

Rating : TV-MA

Genre : Comedy, Drama

Original Language : English

Release Date : May 13, 2021


©Courtesy of Max.

Press Conference with Cast and Staff 


Q : What do you think about the year in which Bevorah and Ava didn’t leave together?

Jean Smart: I love the way they got back together, because it just felt completely right, this kind of fake politeness for five minutes and then they start to insult each other again…But I think it was good that they were both enjoying their lives and accomplishing things that they wanted to accomplish. I’m sure they thought about each other, but knowing they would be better if they wouldn’t call. I do think Deborah was a bit altruistic, she was trying to do what was right for Ava.

Hannah Einbinder: I definitely think there is a point where Ava and her girlfriend are having issues and her girlfriend speaks about how hard it was for Ava leaving Deborah and how much of a toll it took on their relationship. Ava’s life, when we first see her, it’s incredibly together: she’s got a live-in girlfriend, she’s on her way to being really high up at this new cool show she’s writing on. But for her there’s always that little missing piece without Deborah…

Q : What was the idea at the end of Season 2 and how long you wanted to keep them apart, versus bringing them back together? 

Jen Statsky: Our first goal has always been to push their relationship further and further. We knew it wasn’t the end, or hoped it wasn’t the end. This idea of separating them would be a next step in their relationship where Deborah would do something that was partly altruistic, partly her being a little bit scared of the closeness that she felt for Ava, and falling back into old ways. But then this year apart would allow them to reach new career heights, which you see in the first episode of the new season.

They’re both doing better than ever, Deborah is now doing so well she doesn’t have to work as hard for it. Ava is doing amazing, even though she’s been in couples therapy. They’ve both reached these new incredible heights of their career; and yet they realize they still need each other. Deborah needs Ava to push her. Ava needs Deborah because there is a spark that she doesn’t get from anyone else. That point of where they separated was always very intentional, because we wanted them to kind of go off in their separate ways to realize what they were missing in each other.

Q : Can you talk about this idea of the talk show, wth Deborah finally capturing the thing that alluded her back in her younger career? How important was that for the three of you to sort of dive into? And what did you want to say about comedy?

Paul W. Downs: The premiere episode this season is called Just for Laughs, takes place at the Montreal Comedy Festival, which isn’t happening this year. There are so many live venues that have shuttered post-pandemic. For us, the show is about comedy. It’s about the making of comedy. We think of it as a love letter to the comedy industry, which is so important to our political landscape, speaking truth to power and satirizing things. There’s less and less of that happening.

The white whale of her talk show, this late night show, we always knew was going to be the thing that was a goal of hers. We always knew and wanted to bring it back. We also knew that we wanted Deborah and Ava to be on top when we come back to the season. But they’re both underdogs. They’re better when they have each other. We knew that having that be their mission for the season, which is like the biggest mission of all, was going to be something that would really drive them for all the episodes.


Paul W. Downs, Megan Stalter, ©Photograph by Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Max

Q : Deborah is thinking about her legacy. She’s thinking: I’m heading toward the end of my career and what is it that I still haven’t been able to do. She’s thinking a little bit about mortality. Where do you think Deborah’s mind space is campaigning for this?

Jean Smart: It’s something that she’s thought of so much over the years and hung onto, and that bitterness and disappointment is something that’s sort of fed her. She is definitely at a point where she’s considering her own mortality. And all of a sudden, she has this opportunity to host and suddenly she gets that little taste, she almost didn’t really realize how much she still wanted it, how badly she still wanted it, because she’d kind of tried to just say: “Well, it’s just not gonna be in this lifetime”.

Q : Ava has made some mistakes over the years. She seems a lot more comfortable in her own skin this season. She has a running commentary on the side of everything going on, and it feels sharper than ever this season. How do you think Ava has grown and how do you see her choices now versus the choices she was making in season 1?

Hannah Einbinder: There are a lot of lessons about hard work and cutting your teeth that Deborah has imparted upon Ava. Through their relationship, Ava is learning about hard work and just like determination and perseverance through failure, something she didn’t really deal with much. I think just having to grow and go through life and go back to Los Angeles and right the wrongs that she was a part of in some of the earlier seasons. She has some good reconciliation with people that she maybe wasn’t respectful towards. And obviously she’s in couples therapy with her girlfriend. She’s making that relationship work, for a limited time. Still Ava, you know…

Q : Hacks is a very queer show without necessarily being about queer-ness. How do you balance this and why is this topic an important one to all involved?

Lucia Aniello: I think it’s just a reflection of the world we feel we live in. It’s reality, it is what it is. Queer people exist and this is life and that is life; it’s not a debate and that’s what’s going on. That’s it. 

Q : We’re living in such a culturally challenging time where if you did or said something even years ago, just apologize and move on. Can you talk about your own relationship to apology and how that kind of filters into your own life?

Jean Smart: I don’t find it difficult to apologize when I know I’m in the wrong. It’s the same way when I’m not sure I’m right about something, I don’t go forward with it unless I’m convinced I’m absolutely right. And I don’t probably apologize unless I know absolutely I was wrong. My late darling husband might disagree with that. Obviously Deborah doesn’t apologize easily at all. But as a comedian I think a lot of comedians feel that way, they’re just doing their job, it’s just a joke. I think a lot of people feel that way, not just comedians. People are starting to say: “I have to be so careful of every single thing I say or do.” 

Hacks 2

Hannah Einbinder,©Photograph by Eddy Chen/Max

Q : We still hear people saying: “Women aren’t really funny”. Which is obviously not true. I was wondering if you still hear that, if that’s something that any of you considered while doing this season?

Hannah Einbinder: The only time I ever hear that is like anonymous comments online. No one’s said that to my face. And I dare them to.

Jean Smart: I do think there’s still that feeling a little bit. I think women can be funny about different things and men are funny about different things. Because we’re different. Jen Statsky: People have never said that to our faces. It’s in the DNA of the show. So many of these women had to deal with that being said to their face and did have to deal with it so aggressively head on. And even though we are not free of it at our age, in our age, we stand on the shoulders of the women who did have to deal with that for so long. Hacks is both a love letter to those women and also proof that these women are incredibly funny. So shut up. 

Paul W. Downs: But then you think about I Love Lucy or the Mary Tyler Moore Show, or Carol Burnett who is still working. The funniest, most popular best things are written and performed by women. How come Jerry Lewis hasn’t aged as well? It’s just interesting. There is empirical evidence, in my opinion, that makes that untrue. I think it’s a sexist thing. I think men are really threatened by women who are funny. There’s that saying, men’s greatest fear is being laughed at; There’s a huge power dynamic that we’re dealing with that is millennia old. And it’s really hard to get beyond. 

Jean Smart: The bottom line goes back to the woke conversation we were having: until we accept the fact that we all have differences and not try to pretend that we don’t, we’re never gonna get anywhere. We will never be the same, men and women and different cultures. Why is it sort of funny if a woman makes a joke about hitting her husband over the head with a frying pan, but if a guy says that about his wife, that’s not funny? 

Lucia Aniello: It’s because of the power dynamic, which we all know is about how people are marginalized, even in communities. We’re all operating in this kind of power dynamic of racism, sexism, and so on. To Jean’s point, why certain things are funny, certain things aren’t funny is because they’re playing within the power dynamic of our society. I think Deborah Vance as a character is somebody who endured a lot of sexism, in comedy specifically. So our show analyzes what kind of person comes out of that system at this age. She has had a lot of internalized misogyny. That’s why the character is often so concerned with how she looks, she still wants to be considered attractive. We’re also breaking down how that character is able to evolve past a lot of the misogyny she lives around. And somebody like Ava who has kind of grown up in a slightly less misogynistic world is there to kind of help break her out of those shackles even more. 

Q : Jean, do you relish these moments where Deborah allows herself to be vulnerable? Where do you sort of play up this side of her? 

Jean Smart: I do, because I think that it’s important to see as much as I relish the moments when she does stand up. To have both is such a luxury. That’s why I fell in love with this show when they first sent me the script. Is because it had everything. I couldn’t ask for more and for a broader, more detailed character.

Q : How do you choose such difficult topics that you talk about so brilliantly?

Jen Statsky: We are always trying with this show to not take a topic and say we want to address it. We try to be character first and story first. These are just people that live in our world, they are topics that we feel would come up in their natural lives in what they’re doing. Deborah and Ava are two characters who have been on the fringe. They’re both people who have had to fight to get in there. We always want to treat these characters with respect and love and say they deserve to be there too. No one should be keeping them out of this. They use each other and partner with each other to get into this world and keep doing their work and help each other. And so yeah, I think that’s always the goal of the show.

Paul W. Downs: What Jen said is true, we try never to come down too hard on one side of things. We show a nuanced perspective that both characters would have. We try to explore it in a way that is representative of how complex sometimes those issues are. If you’re sure that you’re using your comedian brain to explore things and to get humor out of the things that won’t cause harm. In the end, if you can do that without causing harm then nothing is off limits, it’s just about doing it in a way that uplifts and lets us all laugh and connect with each other. Because that’s what comedy is for. I think at a time when the world is divided, we need comedy to help remind us of the ways in which we’re different and how beautiful that is. But also the ways in which we’re the same, the ways in which we laugh at the same things. 

Hacks 3

Jean Smart, Mark Indelicato, ©Photograph by Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Max

Q : How would you say Deborah and Ava’s relationship and dynamics have evolved to the point of season 3? 

Hannah Einbinder: There’s certainly been an evolution; but I also think that there was an immediacy to their connection initially. It was so special the first moment they met: a couple of pages in, they were off to the races. And that’s like us in real life too. That connection was so instant, the dynamic was so readily and easily established, because Ava is the only person in Deborah’s life that’s gonna tell things how they are. And just say it right to her face without any concern for the consequences. Deborah likes that from her, she likes being challenged. 

Jean Smart: Deborah doesn’t like to admit that Hannah is right. But now she does just come out and say it’s so annoying that you’ve changed me. I’m so pissed off at you for making me think about stuff. You know, and the fact that she actually finally comes out and says it is so great. And you’re right, that they would only take that from the other person. Not even a spouse would get away with some of it.

Q : The other dynamic on the show which is evolving is the one between Jimmy and Kayla…

Paul W. Downs: It’s really evolved. They’ve gone out on their own, doing their own thing. And this new season their story is really entwined with the Deborah and Ava story. Because as Deborah and Ava’s manager, this goal that they have, really allows them to stretch and try new things. And helps give Jimmy a better perspective on Kayla. That gives Meg Salter and myself the opportunity to stretch ourselves as performers. 

Q : What do you miss most since season 1? 

Lucia Aniello: I don’t know if this is something I miss but before making season 1 we were really excited and nervous because we had been working on this show for four or five years before we even made the pilot. So there was a lot of excitement and anticipation. You don’t know if something is going to be as good as you want it to be, because of so many factors. All these things just kept falling into place and being so magical and beautiful. I still feel that way literally today, as you guys are seeing season 3. That excitement and anticipation will ever truly go away. But I do remember the very first days of people seeing it. There is something about the anticipation and the excitement of putting something out in the world: it still happens every season, but especially for season 1 was terrifying. 

Q : A lot has happened in the time that Hacks first was conceived. There’s a lot that you all have kind of gone through together. There’s something special in experiencing these life moments together and just everything that’s gone on in the past couple of years. 

Jean Smart: When you go through personal things with people that you work closely with, it does really bond you. We work with people who are so incredibly talented, who are also every bit as kind and as nice as they are talented, it’s such a gift. And you think: “Why can’t it always be that way? It should always be that way!” We are extraordinarily fortunate in the group of people that we have. 

Hannah Einbinder: We make a show about the specific depth of the love shared between people who laugh together, that’s like what we do every day. We are actively doing the thing that we are making this piece of art about. There is no greater bond than the one between funny people who collaborate. It is our love language. It’s how we deal with everything. It has gotten us through everything that’s happened. Yeah, the love is real. 

Check out more of Adriano’s articles. 

Here’s the trailer of the series. 

Comment (0)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here