‘Hacks’ Takes Its Turn Roasting Superhero Culture

We talk to Lorenza Izzo about playing Ruby, ‘manifesting’ her Wolfgirl turn and tech-assisted breakups
‘Hacks’ Takes Its Turn Roasting Superhero Culture

Warning: Contains spoilers about the first four episodes of Hacks Season Three.

Max’s Hacks, now in its third season, revolves around Deborah Vance (Jean Smart), a veteran stand-up comic who gets a late-career boost from working with Ava Daniels (Hannah Einbinder), a much younger writer who pushes Deborah to reconsider what she’s joking about, as well as how and why. In the process of their association, personal and professional lines get blurred. Is Hannah capable of committing to a relationship with anyone other than Deborah? One person who’d really like to know is Hannah’s partner Ruby.

Ahead of today’s two pivotal episodes, I spoke with Lorenza Izzo, who plays Ruby, about her arc this season. How did series creators Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs and Jen Statsky bring the role to her? What’s it like portraying an actor embarking on a (fictional) starring role in the DCEU? How about the Wolfgirl costume piece that Ava mistakes for an engagement ring? And what’s it like to end a relationship over a doorbell camera? All of this and more, below.

What first drew you to play Ruby?

There wasn’t so much drawing as there was Lucia, Paul and Jen calling and going, “Do you want to come and do this?” It only took half a millisecond for me to say yes. I’ve been a big fan of them forever, and I had read the script. Hacks was just incredible all around, such a different story that we don’t get to see, a very different type of comedy show than I had ever seen. Ruby was a no-brainer. I had originally auditioned for Ava, back when the show was first happening. Clearly, I wasn’t right for it, but they had brought me back in and I got to meet them. After I didn’t get Ava, they were like, “Would you want to do Ruby?” and I was like, “I want to be a part of whatever you guys do forever and ever.” 

As of Season Three, Ruby has joined the DCEU. What was your reaction when you found that out?

I was like, “Is this my manifestation? This is how I get my dream-come-true?” It was such a great turn. That was one of the best days on set, probably, when I got to go to work and pose for this poster of me starring in a big action project. 

I love where it went this season, where Ruby now gets to be the lead of the show. She’s a very serious actor. Ruby is a woman that I know around my world. She takes her job very seriously, this is a huge opportunity, and she and Ava are both rising. As artists, it’s famine or feast. That’s how our industry goes. Ruby and Ava, at the beginning of the season, both are in feast mode, and they’re trying to be there for each other and finding that balance. But one is truly going for her dreams, and the other one might not be so happy.

The storyline allows for a new kind of friction between Ava and Ruby, since these productions don’t tend to shoot where their stars actually live. I’m sure you have known people in your field where this has been an issue, when someone’s gone for six months.

Oh, my God, yeah, you’re gone most of the time. Home becomes such a special place, as your sanctuary. And like Ruby, I’ve been shuttled all around. That’s part of why I love this job. But the older I get, the more settled down I am in my life and my partnership and my home life. I really crave that.

One of the tiny moments that was so funny is when we see Ruby working out with her trainer, and when Ava’s walking away, the trainer says, “She has scoliosis,” and Ruby just says, “I know.”

I’m so glad you brought that moment up. I was so serious about that scene. I had told Jen and everyone, “I’m going to really work out.” I love working out, personally. I want to be ready for my action hero moment whenever it comes. I’m also a big Muay Thai fan, so I do practice some stuff, but for this, I was like, “I want to look like I’ve been really training.” I don’t think it quite translated, but it’s hilarious.

I was fully out of breath. I wanted to be completely method. I spent all of the hour and a half it took us to shoot that side of the scene doing real squats. By the end, I was doing a half-assed squat. I was truly out of breath. But that was a real moment.

In terms of the intersection of superhero media and comedy, we’ve got shows like The Boys

One of my favorite shows. That show manages to have so many different elements that I’ve rarely seen. It has the kind of comedy we see in Deadpool, yet it has the violence of a very gory horror film, but then you also see so many characters go through real things amid this absurd reality. It’s unpretentious. It’s all the things I love. Eric Kripke, the writer, is brilliant. He’s fully killing it.

It always pains me a little bit when shows like that don’t get the attention they should for the performers’ acting chops, and what it takes to build a show that huge. They’re killing it on every aspect — the stunts, the setups, the storylines, the character arcs. Also auditioned for that one, didn’t get it, but it’s okay.

The latest season of Party Down spoofed superhero culture too. Neither of those, though, gave a superhero-character ring the emotional heft that we see in Hacks. 

As an actor, you dream of that moment. It’s a huge moment when you get to lead anything. It’s a completely different thing going from a guest star or going from the sidekick or going from the best friend to going to the lead and you’re carrying a film at a superstar level. Carrying the millions of dollars at stake — it’s a responsibility.

Wolfgirl has a ring, and this ring gives her powers. And that’s how I would approach it as well. There’s the symbolism of having a superpower in this reality, and at the same time, knowing that you’re carrying a project. It means a lot to Ruby, and it meant a lot to her that Ava was willing to go with her in her hiatus. We’re growing up. We’re making grown-up decisions that respect both of our ambitions and both of our wants.

Wolfgirl’s is not the only important ring in the season: This is the first time I think I’ve seen a breakup via Ring camera. How did you prepare for that moment?

When they told me about it, I was like, “How do I do this?” I wanted to give it enough emotionality, but also what would be the reality of it? We were very lucky that we got to shoot in an actual house in Silver Lake. We got to live as a couple for two days in a row, and the last scene was the Ring camera scene. By the time we got there, it was night and we were tired, and there was also a real feeling of sadness that it was coming and it was going to be over.

Breakup scenes are so particular. Everyone breaks up in a different way, and there’s no right way to go about it. I do think Ruby carries a lot of anger, and justifiably, for having to compete with her partner’s boss. And for me, it was latching on a little bit to how unjust it felt and how tired of it she felt. By now, it’s been trial and error, we’ve been on and off, and this one was the real one. I forgot that it was a Ring camera, and I just played it as real as I could. 

You and Hannah are both queer. What conversations have you had about finding both the truth and the comedy in portraying that relationship on-screen?

When I get to portray characters that are queer, it’s always such a gift. If I, growing up, had had exposure to this representation, it would’ve made such a difference. I’m always really glad when the stories are also not about their queerness — they just get to exist. And Hannah and I just wanted to provide that — for our characters to just exist, and whatever messiness or non-messiness or whatever natural comedy came, I wanted it to be real. What the show does so well is bring incredible jokes, but also keep things grounded. I really wanted to be in that world: This is a real relationship and there’s fights and they’re funny sometimes, and you break fights with humor, as all people do. The fact that they’re queer is not centered. It’s just another fact of who they are as humans.

Especially since, in some ways, the queerest relationship on the show might be between Ava and Deborah anyway.

Correct. From day one, when I saw them on set, I was like, “These two are so hot together.” Jean is an absolute queen, goddess, everything, and with Hannah, the two of them are dynamite together. As a viewer, I’ve always been rooting for that — maybe not sexually, maybe not romantically, but there’s something platonic about them together that makes us want to see them together. Ruby has to go so that they can be together!

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