‘Hacks’ Star Christopher McDonald on Channeling ‘Happy Gilmore’ for Season 3

Christopher McDonald and Jean Smart in 'Hacks' Season 3

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Hacks Season 3, Episode 6, “Par for the Course.”]

Christopher McDonald may forever be remembered as Shooter McGavin, the pro-golfer nemesis to Adam Sandler‘s titular character Happy Gilmore from the 1996 comedy film, but he is also delivering laughs in the latest season of Max‘s acclaimed series Hacks.

It just so happens that he’s channeling his Happy Gilmore character a bit for Season 3 as his character Marty hits the golf course alongside Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) for the American Television Affiliates Golf Tournament in Episode 6. Part of the show since Season 1, Marty owned the casino that kicked Deborah out for a new act, forcing her to reevaluate her career.

The duo has always had a push-pull dynamic, and while Marty exhibited that he still has feelings for the comic in this installment, he was more annoyed by Deborah’s restrained golf game than her schmoozing of the executives. Below, McDonald opens up about where Marty and Deborah stand in terms of their relationship, talks about channeling his Happy Gilmore character on the golf course, and much more.

Tony Goldwyn and Christopher McDonald in 'Hacks' Season 3


Marty’s been a part of the show since Season 1. How do you think he’s changed since fans first met him?

Christopher McDonald: Deborah and Marty have had a history. Marty still has such great feelings for Deborah and he only wants the best for her. He’s really sorry he had to flip her out for the pop group to go [into his casino]. And now he’s losing that friendship, but at the same time, he wants to rekindle it because she rocks and it’s a lot of fun. And this golf episode was an absolute blast to do. I had a couple of lessons with [Jean] at her house and she got her swing down.

Jean Smart could do anything is all I can say. She just killed it. And I just had a lot of fun working with Tony Goldwyn. But you could see how his heart was [crushed the] moment when Marty is walking down the stairs with a couple of nice martinis and she’s hitting the ball with Bob. I’m happy for her, but there’s a lot of loss at the same moment. It is kind of a very bittersweet moment for Marty.

Do you think Deborah and Marty view their relationship in the same way?

I think they’re very much on the same page. He says early on, “I see what you’re doing this weekend.” She’s trying to get her dream, which is hte late-night show. And she’s got to focus. And then I talk about her a lot to the great Hannah Einbinder, playing Ava. She is on the same side of Deborah that Marty used to be on. [They have a] back and forth. And since she’s only two or three years into this relationship with Deborah, she’s still getting [the hang of this whole thing]. Deborah gets the same kind of boost from Ava’s character.

Christopher McDonald and Hannah Einbinder in 'Hacks' Season 3


Marty seems happiest when Deborah lets her facade drop and starts golfing a good game. Does he want to see her succeed by being herself?

That’s exactly what happens. She finds out [that she lost out on late night] and it’s a beautiful montage. Paul W. Downs did a beautiful job of directing this particular episode and bringing her down. We all know how she’s feeling and Marty knows that she won’t quit. So at the same time, that was so beautiful, she just turned her game because she’s a good golfer. She’s tough as nails and she’s going to survive no matter what. So I love seeing that as Marty. I love seeing her get back on her own two feet and just go out there and kick some ass.

As you mentioned, Marty and Ava have a moment together in this episode. Are they able to connect because they’re some of the only people who really know Deborah?

Yeah, that’s what I loved about that scene. We both know who she really is and Avas’s that younger ilk, and Marty’s known Deborah for a quarter of a century. And it’s kind of like putting those two things together. It was a beautifully written scene and we had such fun doing it.

We can’t talk about this episode without bringing up the elephant in the room, which is that you’re very well-known for your role in Happy Gilmore. How do you react when you get a script that involves golfing?

Well, there’s always pleasure and pain when you’re playing golf. It’s one of those hardest games ever. But it kind of came up in a conversation I had with Lucia [Aniello]. She said, “Chris, you golf, right?” [And I go], “Oh yeah, yeah, it’s for the kids, for the children.” And she wrote this, “It’s so funny, I’m writing this into this in this episode.” They hadn’t written the episode yet. And so she let me do it a couple of times. It is very funny, and we joke about it when we do this, but we raise a lot of money for St. Jude Hospital for the kids.

When I was doing Happy Gilmore, 300 people were watching you on the tee and you kind of got jitters and stuff, and I just wanted to make a bomb. And sure enough, the first one came out, it was bingo. But it’s great when you get one out there. I’m still so blessed and have so much gratitude for these great writers, directors, and producers who have allowed me to come on the show and play so many fun scenes and we’re hoping there’s more to come.

Hacks, Season 3, Thursdays, Max