15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘Hacks’
What do you get when you take an old, fading comedian who wants to keep her residency in Las Vegas and pair her with a young millennial comedy writer who got canceled on Twitter for joking about a U.S. senator? The best possible mix of subversive and generational jokes, that’s what. Toss in Jean Smart as the rich Vegas comic, an amazing assorted mix of Laurie Metcalf, Kaitlin Olson and Christopher McDonald, and actual stand-up Hannah Einbinder, and you’ve got yourself one of the best sitcoms imaginable.
So while we’re waiting for the third season of Hacks to finally drop (again, as you’ll find out below), we’ve gathered some trivia tidbits to tide us over in the meantime...
Smart and Einbinder Had the Most Bizarre Audition Together
Smart and Einbinder (who play Deborah Vance and Ava Daniels, respectively) met for the first time after Einbinder’s second callback to do the scene above. The actors told Vogue that their audition happened on a huge, dark soundstage on the studio lot, with a single lightbulb present on set. “It was like we were doing a spy movie, and we were about to get tortured,” Smart recalls, with Einbinder adding, “It was bizarre. The producers and everyone were all in the dark, and it was just Jean and me. But we honestly got right into it. It became so clear very quickly that our dynamic felt sharp and exciting, or at least I felt really excited by it.”
It Was a Pandemic Show
Since production kicked off in the middle of That Time We Don’t Talk About Anymore, table reads had to happen via Zoom, and there were no cast parties. This resulted in some of the actors not meeting each other until their first day of filming. Carl Clemons-Hopkins (who plays Marcus and goes by they/them pronouns) said that they only met Smart at their first makeup screen test but immediately felt comfortable with the veteran actress.
“Jean, in all her wonderfulness, we get on the set, and she starts asking me a question about the episodes,” Clemons-Hopkins has said. “Like ‘What do you feel about this?’ We were just having a conversation about it, and from that instant, we were just in conversation. I think that, along with both of us having a theater background, really helped us fully, convincingly portray that these are two people who have been in each other’s lives for years and years. Their rapport is a years and years and years rapport.”
The Creators All Worked On ‘Broad City’
Hacks was created by Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs and Jen Statsky. Aniello and Downs (who are married) both produced Broad City, with Statsky acting as a staff writer. Statsky also wrote for other hits like Parks and Recreation, Lady Dynamite and The Good Place.
Einbinder Is Indeed a Stand-Up Comedian
The writer/actor/comedian made her national TV debut on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in 2020, making her the youngest stand-up to appear on the show at the time. Thankfully, she has been able to continue touring while filming Hacks.
Someone Almost Got Hurt in the Crystal Shop Scene
When Ava tells Deborah about the damning email she had sent about her, Deborah flips and starts throwing rocks at her. “I feel bad because I’m not a professional pitcher, so in trying not to hit my co-star, I bonked her more than once,” Smart admitted while discussing the blow-out scene. Luckily, Einbinder didn’t get hurt, saying that “it got me back into the moment of the scene. Anything for the shot!”
Kaitlin Olson Said It’s Nice Playing a Character with ‘Actual Emotion’
Talking about her character D.J. (Deborah’s daughter), Olson told The Hollywood Reporter that it was a total trip. “I really loved that D.J. was basically an angsty teenager and a middle-aged woman,” the actor explained. “I thought it was so funny — a stunted teenage attitude in a grown woman who’s desperately trying to push her mom’s buttons.”
When asked about any similarities between D.J. and her other two famous characters, Mickey (The Mick) and Dee (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), Olson said, “I’m really attracted to playing broken people. Mickey was very scrappy and self-sufficient; for Dee, (life is) just a giant competition. Neither of them had the little-girl quality D.J. has. I thought it was a nice opportunity to play something different and to have actual emotion. There’s a relationship there, and it’s one of the driving forces behind the whole season because D.J. is a bit in the (comedy special) that Deborah’s doing. It’s nice to play a comedic character that also has some broken, raw emotion.”
The Creators Had Tried to Get Laurie Metcalf for Several Different Parts
Apparently, the creators were adamant about getting Metcalf on the show, with Downs saying that they reached out to her with different parts on several occasions but never heard back. When the character of Weed, the tour manager, was created, they noted that she was their dream casting. It turned out that Warner Bros.’ head of casting, Linda Lowy, was the key to making it happen. “They (Metcalf and Lowy) are essentially family,” Downs said. “Lowy had her over in her backyard and was like, ‘Oh, I just read this thing. It said, ‘Think Laurie Metcalf, the character’s called Weed.’’ And I think that was enough to get her to read it.”
Season Three Has Been Stalled, Twice
The third season started production in November 2022, but a halt was called in February 2023 so Smart could recover from a heart procedure. Production picked up again in March but was shut down in May for the writers' strike.
The Reason Ava Vapes So Much
The creators told Elle that during Einbinder’s first audition, she pulled out the vape, and it just worked. “In the scene she auditioned with, she’s opposite Jimmy (Downs’ character), and complaining about this situation she’s found herself in,” Statsky explained. “After a very, kind of sad, woe is me line, she hit her vape really hard, and it made us all laugh so much. It was just something that Hannah brought to the audition. So yeah, there’s countless things that Hannah has brought to the character and the mannerisms.”
Ava Didn’t Get Canceled Because of Her Tweet
In the show’s pilot episode, we learn that Ava supposedly got canceled because she tweeted a joke about a closeted Republican senator who sent his son to a conversion therapy camp. Even though people tell her she was mean before she ever tweeted the joke, she believes it’s the reason she got proverbially canceled. The creators say that’s not so. “I think that is part of what made her so superficial, especially when we first meet her, is that she didn’t treat people super well and I think had a reputation for it,” Aniello has explained. “The reason she gets canceled for a tweet isn’t really true. She wasn’t the best person, and people didn’t really want to deal with her anymore. And so, something like that happening gave everybody an excuse to say, ‘Great, now we don’t have to work with this person anymore.’”
Smart Lost Her Husband Right Before They Started Filming Season One
Talking to Vogue, the actress said that shooting the second season felt more comfortable, especially given how the job started out for her. “Unfortunately, I had just lost my husband (Richard Gilliland) when we started filming,” the actress said about working on Season One. “So it didn’t always feel so free and easy because I was constantly worried about what was going on at home and making sure everything was being taken care of. That was always kind of in the back of my mind, which is not good when you’re working.”
How the Road Trip Idea Came About
“Season Two of Hacks is on the road, and this idea was born on a road trip between the three of us,” Statsky said, referring to her creative partners Aniello and Downs. “We were headed up to shoot something for Netflix, for Paul’s character’s sketch special, and we just started talking about women in comedy who hadn’t gotten their due, in the way their male counterparts had. I think the way you know it’s a show is that it becomes many conversations. You have the idea, something is sparked, and then you keep returning to it. That’s what happened with Hacks.”
Smart Really Wanted to Sing in the Show (Until She Didn’t)
Deborah performed “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” onboard a gay cruise ship in Season Two, which according to the creators, was her idea. “Jean said, ‘I really wanna sing. If we get a Season One, I really wanna sing,’” Statsky remembers the actress telling them prior to the show getting the greenlight. “And we were like, ‘Great! That sounds awesome. No problem. We’ll write that in.’ And then, we wrote it in, and it was happening, and she came to us and said, ‘Don’t listen to me. Don’t take my suggestions. I don’t wanna sing.’”
“It was torture,” Smart later said. “I mean, it was sort of fun, but it was torture.”
The Show Has Won a Ton of Awards
Some of the show’s biggest wins include Golden Globes for Best TV Series (Musical or Comedy) and Best Actress in the same category (for Smart) in 2022, as well as a Peabody Award in Entertainment that same year. Smart also won two Emmys for her character, and just about every crew member working on the show has either been nominated or has won an award, too.
Female Comedians Have Embraced the Show
Given that the idea behind the show was to show the struggles of — and celebrate — women in comedy, Statsky told NPR: “One of the greatest things about the show is that we have heard from these female comedians and artists who are, you know, massive, massive influences to us. You know, people like Rosie O’Donnell or Wanda Sykes or, you know, Susie Essman. We wanted to make the show for women like that. We wanted to honor women who have been doing what they do so well for so long and maybe haven’t been celebrated or certainly haven’t been celebrated as much as they should. And then we were very touched by the idea of how many women coming up in comedy or the arts, because it was such an unwelcoming place for them, didn’t get to tell their story, didn’t keep going because the path was so difficult and made so much harder for them.”