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HBO Max 'Hacks': Jean Smart, Hannah Einbinder are on the road in a perfect Season 2 setup

·8-min read

Beloved HBO Max comedy series Hacks is back for Season 2, with Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder taking their stand up show on the road, and it certainly does not disappoint (on Crave in Canada, May 12).

”I just was really happy that the writing was up to the level of Season 1 because lots of times if you have a show that's kind of become very popular, you have a hit show, everybody's waiting for you to fail a little bit in Season 2,” Smart said. “All I cared about was just that it was as funny as we had been before.”

When we left Season 1 of Hacks, Ava (Einbinder) had just gotten a phone call from her manager Jimmy (Paul W. Downs) about the email she had written to the writers of the TV show about terrible women bosses with personal details from working with Deborah, right as she’s sitting on a plane next to her. It left all of us eagerly anticipating the moment Deborah finds out what Ava did, which we see play out in Season 2.

Smart revealed that she was particularly pleased that Season 2 sets off just seconds after the end of the Season 2.

“It was something we wanted to do because I think we left the season with such tension, but if you lose that tension and jump into the season somewhere else, I think you're kind of missing an opportunity to kick off the season in such an intense way,” co-creator Lucia Aniello said. “It's fun to also see that Ava's still so stressed about it and not have resolved it.”

“We came up with a show a long time ago and because of that we've had a lot of time to think about what we want to do with the show. So as a result, each season is a little bit more like a chapter.”

Jean Smart, Hannah Einbinder in Season 2 of HBO Max
Jean Smart, Hannah Einbinder in Season 2 of HBO Max "Hacks," on Crave in Canada. (Photograph by Karen Ballard/HBO Max)

As close to a perfect second chapter as you can get

We know there's no such thing as perfect, particularly in entertainment, but Hacks is pretty perfect in terms of its ability to hold on to the dynamics we know and love from Season 1, expanding the storytelling and the breadth of the characters, but still leaving room to grow and evolve in the future.

A cross-country road trip is truly the perfect setup for the hilarity that ensues in Season 2 of Hacks, while it also explores the bond that Ava and Deborah have, oftentimes with a maternal feel while shining a light on the ways in which these two women are very similar. But it's important to note that this is all while under the tension of what Deborah’s response is to Ava's scathing email.

Mark Indelicato, Carl Clemons-Hopkins, Hannah Eibinder, Rose Abdoo, Jean Smart in Season 2 of HBO Max
Mark Indelicato, Carl Clemons-Hopkins, Hannah Eibinder, Rose Abdoo, Jean Smart in Season 2 of HBO Max "Hacks," on Crave in Canada. (Photograph by Courtesy of HBO Max)

For fans of Deborah’s crew, namely Carl Clemons-Hopkins as Marcus and Mark Indelicato as Damien, you’ll be happy to hear that we get to see a lot more of them in Season 2, developing their complexity as characters, and also their personal comedic moments.

“Something that Paul Downs, who is one of the co-writers and showrunners, told me at the beginning of Season 1 is, he said, we’re going to be going into your personal life, and I feel like they did a wonderful job of setting up the groundwork for that in Season 1,” Clemons-Hopkins said.

“We take him through what essentially is his first romantic relationship and then essentially his first heartbreak, and how he reacts to that as someone who doesn't process feelings very much, someone who isolates themselves a lot, someone who doesn't have many friends, and outside of his mom and his aunt doesn't really get contact much family or community ties.”

In Season 2 Damien, who is actually on the road with Deborah and Ava, really establishes himself as part of this group, and also leans into more hysterical physical comedy.

“I was just happy to be asked back, in general, I really genuinely was, I love making the show with these people,” Indelicato said. “It’s really a testament to Paul, Lucia [Aniello] and Jen [Statsky] who were like, ‘OK, full like Groucho Marx, we want physical, slapstick comedy, and I was like, ‘yes, done, easy.’”

“They were like, he's not having the best time doing all of these things but yet he is doing it because he's good at his job, and so I think that that was kind of the impetus for all of the physical comedy that I got to do.”

Megan Stalter, Paul W. Downs in Season 2 of HBO Max
Megan Stalter, Paul W. Downs in Season 2 of HBO Max "Hack" on Crave in Canada. (Photograph by Courtesy of HBO Max)

Hacks co-creator and actor who plays Jimmy, Paul Downs, and Megan Stalter as Kayla, explore this odd love-hate relationship between their characters much deeper in Season 2. It's an example of the different dynamics of comedy explored in Season 2, as Jimmy is still annoyed to work with Kayla, but there is a shift in their relationship.

“I was freaking out when I saw the scripts, I was like, ‘oh my God, we get to do that,’ just cry-laughing at the scripts, real tears when we read it over Zoom,” Stalter said.

“I think Paul's the funniest person in the world and I have been in love with him way longer than we met, like through Broad City, I just think he's the best, so to be able to be partners in the show and to be directed by [him],...I’m the luckiest.”

“[I] genuinely loved watching Meg for so long and we wrote the part with her in mind,” Downs added.

“She's so electric and one of a kind… I also feel really lucky that we get to play together and have so much fun… You never know what your chemistry will be like with somebody.”

Jean Smart, Hannah Einbinder in Season 2 of HBO Max
Jean Smart, Hannah Einbinder in Season 2 of HBO Max "Hacks," on Crave in Canada. (Photograph by Karen Ballard/HBO Max)

'The cruise episode was a perfect storm of things for Deborah'

One episode that viewers should be particularly interested to watch is when Deborah takes a gig on a cruise. While we can’t tell you the exact details of the kind of cruise she goes on, we can say that it certainly wasn’t what she expected and fell into a demographic that Deborah states she hasn’t been particularly popular with.

“I think somebody's blind spot can sometimes be the source of an enormous amount of humour, and that certainly works for Deborah,” Jean Smart said. “She's obviously smart but she's [had a] very narrow focus in a lot of areas of her life, so I think the cruise episode was a perfect storm of things for Deborah.”

“It's been very easy for Deborah to learn very quickly what her audiences likes. She's got a lot of people who are [her] blue collar audience, people from red states, who want a certain kind of entertainment, and she’s more than happy to provide that. So she's never had to really evolve much. That's why she's having such a hard time now.”

“There's something to be said for the fact that Deborah, when she was 25, 26, was so progressive, so new, everything she was doing was, for that time, insane, unheard of, she was the first to do it, but time goes on the cultural standards shift and change,” Hannah Einbinder added.

Jean Smart, Hannah Einbinder in Season 2 of HBO Max
Jean Smart, Hannah Einbinder in Season 2 of HBO Max "Hacks," on Crave in Canada. (Photograph by Courtesy of HBO Max)

'There is still this intense force trying to pull women back'

Fans of comedy will likely remember a time when the belief was, essentially, that women couldn’t be funny, women weren’t likeable if they were funny, or they had to be funny in a way that fit into the male constructed model of the scope of “funny” a woman could be.

While circumstances have evolved for women in comedy, Jean Smart admitted that she isn’t entirely sure if Hacks could have even been made five or 10 years ago.

“I think we've made really wonderful strides in terms of, I don't hear as much the question ‘can women be funny,’ which even crazily enough, I think 10 years ago when I first started doing comedy professionally, that still was the question, which was insane,” co-creator Jen Statsky said. “Anyone who still is of that opinion…you just feel bad for them because they're missing out on such a large breadth of work, both in modern day and in the past.”

“As female comedians and artists, I think we've made great strides,...and then at the same time, it's not as if there isn't still a large group in society who wants women to not have equality… There is still this intense force trying to pull women back and hold women back, and bring us back.”

“And we won’t go,” Lucia Aniello added.

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