SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details from the entire first season of HBO Max’s Hacks.
On Saturday, the creators and stars of HBO Max’s hit comedy Hacks appeared virtually at the ATX TV Festival to unpack Season 1 and tease Season 2. Given the fact that the conversation was pre-recorded prior to news that the show was renewed, the latter part of the conversation was framed as what the creatives would like to see on Hacks going forward, if it were to be picked up for another go-round.
“I think ultimately, while we don’t know the specifics, what we set out to do in this story is to set Ava, Deborah and everyone in their ecosystem on a road to redemption and emotional happiness,” said co-creator, co-showrunner, EP, writer and star Paul W. Downs. “So, I think we want to continue down that path. As you’ve seen in the show, it’s typically one step forward, two steps back, but that’s where the fun and games are.”
Debuting in May, the darkly comedic two-hander, co-created by Lucia Aniello and Jen Statsky, centers on the odd couple dynamic between legendary Las Vegas comedian Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) and Ava (Hannah Einbinder), the entitled 25-year-old comedian she takes under her wing.
At the end of Season 1, we see that an impulsively sent email may cause friction, once again, in the relationship between the two. Still, Einbinder hopes that the pair will continue to “bring out the best in each other,” as they head out on the road for a stand-up tour. “I guess I want [Ava and Deborah] to really take on the world together. If there is any sort of force of evil, I want them to be the force of good fighting it, side by side,” the actress said. “I want [Ava] to grow, and I want her to do whatever Paul and Jen and Lucia want her to do—and I’ll be there to do it, baby.”
At the end of Season 1, Carl Clemons-Hopkins’s Marcus has doubled down on his work with Deborah, continuing to put his relationships and his personal life to the side, when she names him to CEO of her company. During the ATX chat, the actor said he hopes to have more interaction with Paul Felder, whose character just recently married Deborah’s daughter, DJ (Kaitlin Olson), because he knows the retired MMA fighter in real life. In Season 2, he also hopes we’ll see Marcus have “either [an] insane post-breakup…or his own private [version] of a traumatic breakdown,” following his decision to cut things off with water maintenance worker, Wilson (Johnny Sibilly). At the same time, he hopes Marcus will finally be “getting out of the office” more.
“I don’t know if that’s in ‘D’Club’ or ‘D’Street,’” he joked. “Maybe he starts taking over [the D’Jewelry line created by DJ], and it’s its own painful, hateful collaboration. Who knows?”
Then, there’s Olson, who joked that she wants “nothing to do with what [Carl] just said.”
What the actress hopes for, for her aspiring entrepreneur character, is more business ideas. “I think there was a lot of great stuff floating around in there. Maybe some jewelry for animals or something really smart,” she deadpanned. “Whatever it is, I want her to really just go for it.”
Today’s panel moderated by Vanity Fair’s Joanna Robinson also featured co-creator, co-showrunner, EP, writer and director Lucia Aniello, who helped set a visual template for the series, as well as co-creator, co-showrunner, EP and writer Jen Statsky.
While discussing the genesis of Hacks with Aniello and Statsky, Downs said he was inspired to pay tribute, through the show, to “anybody on the fringes in the arts,” including those from the LGBTQ and BIPOC communities, and particularly women in comedy. “We wanted, through the eyes of Ava, [to look at] someone who gains appreciation of all that women of a certain of age went through, and the trail they blazed,” he said.
Aniello called the comedy a “love letter to women who have had to f***ing grind and do it all,” while Statsky observed that the show is “revolutionary,” in its focus on two female characters, who are “primarily work partners,” and prioritize their careers above all else.
The team behind Hacks stressed that at the end of the day, their show is a “love story” not commonly seen on TV. “We joked in the room that it was an erotic thriller, early on,” said Downs, “but it is really about these two women who really need each other, who haven’t let anyone in for so long.”
While on the subject of the show being a “literal rom-com,” Einbinder shared her experience of a kiss she shared with Smart, as part of a dream sequence. “I’ll just say the kiss changed everything, just in my life,” she said. “I started really living after that day. That was sort of my birthday, in a sense.”
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