Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder on Hitting the Road in Hacks Season 2

"Please love us," Einbinder asks. The stars of the HBO Max comedy reveal what to expect when the series returns.

by | May 11, 2022 | Comments

Comedy legend Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) and her Gen Z joke writer Ava Daniels (Hannah Einbinder) ended the 100% Certified Fresh first season of Hacks on their best terms yet. Deborah, feeling her star fading as she played to thinner and thinner crowds at her Las Vegas residency, had begrudgingly hired 25-year-old Ava to spruce up her act under the urging of their shared manager. Although the women didn’t get along at first, when Ava’s dad died at the end of the season Deborah showed up to usher her protege through her grief.

Unfortunately, that was after Ava, thinking she was about to be fired, had spilled some of Deborah’s most private information. As the second season begins, the women are getting along splendidly as they set out on the road to hone Deborah’s new stand-up act. There’s one problem: Deborah doesn’t know that Ava betrayed her, and Ava is terrified her intimidating boss will find out. That dynamic plays out over the first few episodes of season 2, despite the fact that their professional relationship is better than ever.

You’ll have to watch to find out exactly how that all plays out, but Smart and Einbinder spoke to Rotten Tomatoes to tease what’s in store for Deborah and Ava’s cross-country journey.

Smart and Einbinder Had High Hopes for the Second Season, Too

Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder in Hacks Season 2 (HBO Max)

(Photo by HBO Max)

After such a well-received debut, there is always a risk that critics and audiences won’t necessarily like the direction new episodes would take. It’s something both Smart and Einbinder felt deeply.

Said Smart, “My one big fear, besides the fact that maybe people wouldn’t embrace the show as much as they did in the first season, was that we would lose the fun of that relationship between Ava and Deborah. But the writer came back like gangbusters and I thought created something even deeper and just as funny.”

Einbinder explained that despite the betrayal of Ava’s email spilling so many secrets, she and Deborah will find a path forward. It’ll be a tough one and potentially mean one, but it’ll be a way through that pain nonetheless. After all, the deepest relationships have a strong enough foundation to weather even the most destructive of storms.

Everything’s More Difficult on the Road

Hannah Einbinder and Jean Smart in Hacks Season 2 (HBO Max)

(Photo by HBO Max)

If Ava and Deborah’s relationship wasn’t rocky enough in the glitz and glamor of Las Vegas, wait until the duo are stuck in the closest quarters possible.

“Everything becomes much more intimate when you’re on the road with someone, living in a tour bus, and your guards completely go down,” Einbinder said.

Their relationship has always been more complicated than just colleagues: Ava has a less-than-ideal relationship with her mother, and does look up to Deborah (no matter how much trash she talks about her). And Deborah’s own daughter hasn’t necessarily lived up to her expectations, so she sees a kindred spirit in Ava. They’re not exactly mentor and mentee, but the women learn a great deal about themselves and each other through their relationship.

Ultimately, they know they are more alike than different, and come to realize they can learn a lot through each other.

“When they’re joking, they’re equals,” Einbinder said. “They have this language through comedy where whatever the joke, if they’re riffing, whatever it calls for they give it. It’s nice to see that. It’s nice to get a little more of that level playing field, because that’s just the true love expression.”

There Are Guest Stars Galore

Megan Stalter and Paul Downs in Hacks Season 2 (HBO Max)

(Photo by HBO Max)

Among the most memorable guest appearances in the second season of Hacks: Ming-Na Wen as a big-shot Hollywood rival to Ava and Deborah’s manager, Jimmy (Paul W. Downs); Laurie Metcalf as an eccentric tour manager in charge of getting Deborah and the gang to their gigs in as expedient a manner as possible; Martha Kelly as a human resources rep who tries to help Jimmy work with his incompetent assistant, Kayla (Megan Stalter); Margaret Cho as herself; and Devon Sawa as a man whom Deborah memorably encounters in a bar.

Also back are Carl Clemons-Hopkins as Deborah’s CEO, Marcus; Kaitlin Olson as Deborah’s daughter, DJ; Mark Indelicato as Deborah’s personal assistant, Damien; and Poppy Liu as Deborah’s personal blackjack dealer (and maybe Ava’s only friend), Kiki.

Even Superstars Need Love Every Now and Again

Jean Smart in Hacks season 1

(Photo by HBO Max)

As the first season made clear, just because someone is adored by many doesn’t mean they actually have their life together. They also experience disappointing love lives, career stalls, tense interpersonal relationships, and more. They might be ultra-famous, but they still need an ego boost every now and again.

In season 2, Deborah gets that and more when she’s picked up by a sexy younger man in a bar. That’s right: Deborah gets her groove back.

“I think that she’s been humiliated so much by Las Vegas,” Smart said, “by the newspaper, by getting basically kicked out of her residency, by being replaced with a young hip guy, being humiliated by her off-again on-again boyfriend, and then to go on the road and it just doesn’t seem to be working, that when she’s confronted with letting herself get picked up in a bar, she just goes, ‘What the hell?’ and I hope that the audience goes, ‘Yeah, you go girl.'”

They’re Not Sick of the Accolades

Hacks season 2 key art

(Photo by HBO Max)

It’s always a relief when something you’ve worked so hard on is received rapturously by audiences, but Einbinder and Smart both said the response to Hacks’ debut was more than they ever expected — or could have hoped for. The first season even made Rotten Tomatoes’ elite list of TV seasons with 100% Certified Fresh Tomatometer scores, an accomplishment Einbinder called “sick” and one that Smart bragged about “so many times.”

“We are performers. We are sensitive artists. I am insecure myself,” said Einbinder. “I will speak for myself and I wish I didn’t need external validation, but sorry, that’s kind of the ticket for me still.”

Added Smart, “And I was a middle child, so I never got enough attention, obviously.”

Joked her costar, “Yeah. So we’re like, ‘Please love us.'”

New episodes of Hacks air Thursdays on HBO Max.

On an Apple device? Follow Rotten Tomatoes on Apple News.

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