‘Hacks’ Creators on How Jean Smart ‘Elevated’ Their Vision for the HBO Max Comedy

Jean Smart HBO Max's Hacks

When it comes to HBO Max’s new comedy Hacks, it’s all about Jean Smart. The actress embodies Deborah Vance, an aging comedian who finds herself in a precarious position to hold onto the power she has as a longtime residency act.

Sarcastic and impatient, Deborah is pushed towards comedy writer Ava (Hannah Einbinder) by their shared agent Jimmy (played by co-creator Paul W. Downs). “Jean Smart is so incredible and I really feel that she just elevated our vision for this character so much,” Downs gushes. Smart’s been on quite a roll with parts in HBO’s other series of late including Watchmen and Mare of Easttown.

Set against the Vegas landscape, Hacks tells a story of two women who have been ousted by an unforgiving industry but are still holding onto their comedy genius. “It’s a kind of place where people go to get lost and go to have a lot of fun,” Downs says of Vegas, “but when you’re sequestered there and you live there, [Deborah]’s kind of the queen of nowhere… Hopefully, it also echoes the themes of women who have been easily cast aside.”

“It was a bit up in the air… we were like, ‘Oh, if we could ever get Jean Smart, can you imagine?'” co-creator Lucia Aniello recalls. “It was kind of a dream once she [was] attached to the pilot, we were able to write the season with her in mind. So to be able to write for somebody who you know can deliver the jokes, but you know also has the gravitas of an incredible actor gave us the freedom to write whatever we wanted.”

Hacks Jean Smart HBO Max

(Credit: HBO Max)

“If you think about everything Jean had been in, the only criticism anyone ever has is ‘I wish there were more of her,'” fellow co-creator Jen Statsky adds. “Truly she just steals these parts for years and years now. We’re just so excited that now she is leading the show.”

Downs, Aniello, and Statsky have quite a resume between the three of them with ties to titles like Broad City, Parks and Recreation, and The Good Place. But for Hacks, this trio is tackling more than just laughter, it’s also a story interwoven with plenty of drama and both Smart and Einbinder deliver on that front.

Hacks Hannah Einbinder HBO Max

(Credit: HBO Max)

“They’re both quite stubborn, but in the end, because they have this love and talent for comedy,” Aniello says, “they are able to have enough of a bond that keeps them returning to each other.” You’ll come for the laughs, but it’s the bond between Deborah and Ava that’s the beating heart of this fresh series.

Hacks, Streaming now, HBO Max