The series is nominated for 17 Emmys, including writing for this episode, which shocked many fans with its final scene between Deborah and Ava.
Advertisement

Hannah Einbinder didn't know that Jean Smart's Deborah Vance was going to be letting go of her character, Ava, in the season 2 finale of Hacks until she got the script. Her initial thought went beyond concern for the characters.

"She was upset," Smart reveals — nodding her head toward her costar sitting next to her — chatting with EW backstage after the pair, along with more of the cast and the show's creators, performed a live script read of that episode. "She thought she was being fired."

"That's 'cause my brain is broken," Einbinder dryly replies, acknowledging she thought Ava's fate was also her own.

Hacks FYC
'Hacks' stars Hannah Einbinder and Jean Smart perform a live script read of the season 2 finale.
| Credit: Courtesy of HBO Max and Universal Television / Photographed by David Jon

Fortunately for her, the two-time Emmy nominee still has a job as they go into season 3 of the HBO Max comedy. Series co-creators Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs, and Jen Statsky are hard at work on the next installment — "Deborah's had this great success, so you're gonna see more eyes on her," teases Statsky; adds Downs, "Her world is much bigger" — but part of their focus is still on season 2 and celebrating their 17 Emmy nominations, including writing for the season 2 finale, titled "The One, the Only," which they performed Thursday night in front of a packed and enthusiastic crowd at the historic Avalon Hollywood. The event moved Aniello to tears.

"There's something really magical about all these people," she says of the cast, "being back with them after not [seeing them] for a couple months and having them read a script that we worked really hard on and we really believe in and we really love. Having them perform it with as much love as we have for it is, I think, what really moved me. I love this season and what we made, and, yeah, it just got to me."

Hacks FYC
The cast and creators of 'Hacks' were joined by some special guests for a live script read of the season 2 finale.
| Credit: Courtesy of HBO Max and Universal Television / Photographed by David Jon

The event was the first time so far in the series' two seasons that the cast has done a script read in person rather than over Zoom. Smart and Einbinder felt the energy experiencing the show this way for the first time.

"I kind of forgot how much emotional stuff was in the finale," Smart says. "It was great, too, because the audience, I'm sure all of them saw it when it aired, but they were still so into it. It was great."

Adds Einbinder: "Hearing the work with a crowd is such a rewarding experience. Being able to bounce off of their energy, play off the silence, using all of the moments in person to sort of influence the material itself is such a treat. And it's really nice to all be in the same place. When we shoot these episodes, four of us, maximum, are together at a time. So a lot of our cast being here was certainly the highlight."

Hacks FYC
Paul W. Downs, Hannah Einbinder, Jean Smart, and Christopher McDonald at a live script read of the 'Hacks' season 2 finale
| Credit: Courtesy of HBO Max and Universal Television / Photographed by David Jon

For final Emmy voting, actors submit one episode. Smart admits it was a tough choice for her between episode 4, "The Captain's Wife" — in which Deborah ends up on a lesbian cruise, first winning the passengers over, then humiliating herself on stage and getting kicked off the boat ship — and episode 6, "The Click," in which she realizes what her new set should be.

"I loved, I loved, I loved the stand-up routine where [Deborah] suddenly shifts and you see Hannah in the wings going, 'Oh no, what is she doing? What is she doing?' And it works," Smart explains. "She leans into it and it's fun. You see her just kind of joyously realize that this is a whole new feeling."

Einbinder, however, did submit the cruise episode, for one very simple reason.

"The first three episodes, Ava's fully submerged in the depths of the doghouse. She's been a very bad dog," she says, referring to the drunken email she sent to producers of a show detailing some of Deborah's less-than-stellar behavior. "Episode 4 is the first time in the [season] that Ava's able to let off a little steam. Their dynamic goes back to what it was. It's also filled with so much comedy. Last year my selection was the finale, which was episode 10, which was a really heavy, funeral-oriented episode. I felt like this year, I wanted to just remember that this is the comedy category and this is my favorite fun, comedic episode. It just was my favorite episode overall."

Hacks FYC
Paul W. Downs and Hannah Einbinder perform a script read of the 'Hacks' season 2 finale.
| Credit: Courtesy of HBO Max and Universal Television / Photographed by David Jon

The second season, like its first, was a critical darling (it has a 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) — and the creators admit they felt the pressure to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump. By all accounts, they did.

"The pressure wasn't so much from external people — it was really from ourselves," says Aniello, who won an Emmy last year for directing and is nominated again this year. "We feel like we learned a lot from season 1. We learned, I think, how to write better, how to direct better, how to just produce better. And I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make a season that surpassed the first one. And so the pressure was from us on us."

Which they're taking into season 3. The trio say they know how it ends and begins, and they're filling in the middle — and one of the big things, which they left hanging in the season 2 finale, is Deborah and Ava's relationship.

"How and when," is the big question, they say, about when the two women will see each other again. "And in what context," adds Downs. 

"I've never felt so well taken care of [by show creators]," Smart says. "They told me the day they met me, 'We pretty much have five years of this show in our heads. If you ask us a question about this story, we've got it right now.'"

While Einbinder leaves the ideas to the writers, she does admit to having one playful request. "Occasionally we'll joke about, like, when we find Ava again, she's dating a gorgeous actress or something. My pitch is: Ava has a gorgeous girlfriend."

Smart interjects quickly, referring to her one-night stand in "The Click": "Or maybe Devon [Sawa] comes back 'cause Debra needs more inspiration."

Watch clips from the script read above and below, and keep scrolling for more photos from the event.

Courtesy of HBO Max and Universal Television
Hacks FYC
The cast and creators of 'Hacks,' along with some specials guests, at a script read for the season 2 finale
| Credit: Courtesy of HBO Max and Universal Television / Photographed by David Jon
Hacks FYC
'Hacks' co-creator Lucia Aniello, stars Hanna Einbinder and Jean Smart, co-creator and star Paul W. Downs, and star Christopher McDonald
| Credit: Courtesy of HBO Max and Universal Television / Photographed by David Jon
Hacks FYC
'Hacks' creators Jen Statsky, Lucia Aniello, and Paul W. Downs at a live script read of the season 2 finale
| Credit: Courtesy of HBO Max and Universal Television / Photographed by David Jon
Hacks FYC
'Hacks' stars Jean Smart and Christopher McDonald at a live script read of the season 2 finale
| Credit: Courtesy of HBO Max and Universal Television / Photographed by David Jon

Check out more from EW's The Awardistfeaturing exclusive interviews, analysis, and our podcast diving into all the highlights from the year's best in TV.

Related content:

Hacks (TV series)
type
  • TV Show
rating
genre
network

Comments