‘Hacks’ Star Jean Smart on What Deborah Vance Would Do If She Was Attacked During a Stand-Up Set: ‘Her Heels Would Come in Handy’

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 09: Jean Smart attends HBO Max's Hacks Season 2 Los Angeles Premiere at DGA Theater Complex on May 09, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic for HBO)
FilmMagic for HBO

Jean Smart and her “Hacks” co-stars are under pressure. A lot of pressure.

After an award-winning first season of the HBO Max series, they’re back for their sophomore outing.

“Season 2 for any show means you have to prove yourself,” Smart told me at the second season premiere earlier this week at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles. “It’s like, ‘You gotta now show us that wasn’t just a fluke.’”

It wasn’t long after “Hacks” became a critical darling that Smart learned the streamer was green lighting another season.

“As soon as I started getting the scripts for Season 2, I was said, ‘Oh, my god. They did it.’ Because that relationship between Ava (Hannah Einbinder) and Deborah (Smart) was such a fun part of the first season. But now they’ve been together a year so it’s different. Not that it’s not as good, it’s just different. We know each other better. So I thought, ‘Is that still going to be there. Will the audience still get a kick out of it?’ And they managed to do it.”

The new season has Ava joining Deborah Vance on the road as she tours her comedy act in hopes of her recapturing her fame in order to score another lucrative stand-up residency in Las Vegas.”

Speaking of stand-up comedy, I couldn’t not ask Smart how she thinks Deborah would handle getting slapped like Chris Rock or tackled like Dave Chapelle during one of her sets.

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“I would kind of feel sorry for that person,” Smart said, smiling. “Her heels would come in handy.”

Joking aside, Smart added, “That’s very scary. I think any performers who work on stages, not just in comedy, it crosses their minds.”

Einbinder is a real-life stand-up. While she certainly doesn’t condone violence, she’s also not nervous about being attacked by someone from the audience.

“I think when you get on stage and do material that punches down, you’re going to unfortunately be more susceptible to people having a negative reaction to that,” she said. “In no way does anyone deserve to be assaulted, but that’s not the kind of work I do so I don’t think I need to worry about that.

“I’m doing jokes about like the mycelium network,” she added. “Unless there’s a mycologist in the crowd who’s trying to fact check me, I think I’ll be OK.”