‘Hacks’ Creators on Bringing Deborah’s Special to Life in Season 2

Hacks Season 2 Jean Smart Hannah Einbinder
Spoiler Alert
Karen Ballard/HBO Max

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 2, Episodes 1-8 of Hacks.]

Hacks took viewers on quite a trip this season as Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) and her comedy collaborator Ava (Hannah Einbinder) hit the road to test her standup routine.

While the grand plan didn’t exactly play out as they had imagined, the women created magic that was bottled up in a taped standup special. Even if not every audience member made it through the experience (R.I.P to the man who took a free ticket for the last time).

On display throughout the season was the ever-changing dynamic of these women as they climbed a few metaphorical mountains. Helping put it all into focus was the touring element that co-creator and co-showrunner Lucia Aniello acknowledges as being a key point in Ava and Deborah’s story this season.

Hacks Season 2 Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder

(Credit: Karen Ballard/HBO Max)

“There’s something about traveling with somebody that tells you so much about them,” Aniello says. And we learned a lot about Deborah and Ava this season as they grew beyond their previous boundaries. While Deborah realized she didn’t have to have a Vegas residency to create some buzz, Ava explored opportunities that had previously been closed off to her because of a bad reputation.

“Deborah being in a position where she’s kind of booted out of Vegas, her safe haven, and now is out in the country doing the show that isn’t doing well. I mean, that brings up so much insecurity in her,” Aniello says. But in being pushed to that breaking point, Deborah and Ava find a creative stride.

“She’s forced to confront a lot about herself,” Aniello says of Deborah. “And that’s not easy, but of course, the first thing she does is immediately put it into the show, into the work of this new self-awareness.” That self-awareness comes from that email Ava sent to the Bitch PM showrunners in anger, and although it resulted in a lawsuit that eventually was dismissed, it was a catalyst for the progress made.

Hacks Season 2 Jean Smart

(Credit: Karen Ballard/HBO Max)

“There’s no way she could have come up with this hour if she didn’t log in the experience of going on the road and going through the tough stuff,” says Aniello. “This [season] is an ode to hitting the road and starting from scratch and building yourself back up from the beginning and doing it the tough way. And that is what Deborah does because Ava’s really pushing her to do it.”

In order for Deborah to achieve her success, she has to put the hard work in as she always has and as Aniello says, “that’s also a major lesson she imparts in Ava, is in this business and in this art form, there’s no easy way to do it. There’s only the hard way. And that’s the Deborah Vance way.”

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That tough love lesson came towards the end of the season when Deborah essentially released Ava as her writer, pushing her to go onto new jobs and projects. As the young woman complained that she can’t do the work without Deborah’s stories, the seasoned comedian tells Ava, “that’s the thing, you’ve gotta go figure it out. I told you, you’re just like me. You got your own mountain to climb.”

“While it may not come the expected way, Deborah bets on herself and takes things in an unexpected direction,” adds fellow co-creator and co-showrunner Jen Statsky. Will the same be said for Ava now that she’s been set loose? Should the show return for Season 3, we can only imagine where the bright young comedian could go and where it might take her changing relationship with Deborah. Here’s to hoping it isn’t the last time we see them together.

Hacks, Season 2, Streaming now, HBO Max