Jean Smart’s Deborah Vance may be hitting the road in the sophomore season of the hit HBO Max series “Hacks,” but don’t expect her to ride around the country in your average tour bus.
“She’s taking a little bit of Vegas with her,” co-creator Jen Statsky tells Variety on the red carpet for the show’s PaleyFest panel. “She’s roughing it, but she still has her creature comforts,” she adds, revealing that Vance’s signature fountain soda machine will indeed come with her on tour.
“It’s a mansion on wheels,” co-creator Paul W. Downs says.
Smart, who has snagged an Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG Award (among others) for her portrayal of the bawdy comedian, says the new environment is a welcome change. “In a way, it’s kind of enervating to her because it takes her back to her early career, where she was working in dives and awful bars and comedy clubs. Good memories and bad memories. But there’s something about it that seems to kind of get her going. And her bus is quite fabulous.”
After an exclusive screening of the Season 2 premiere at the Dolby Theatre, the show’s cast and creatives joined Variety’s Michael Schneider for a panel discussion reflecting on the series’ success and looking ahead to the highly-anticipated new season.
When asked about filming the show during the COVID-19 pandemic, Smart requested to “embarrass” co-creator Lucia Aniello for overcoming an even greater hurdle: directing an episode while in labor.
“Lucia went into labor a week early when we were still filming,” Smart said. “She was directing the episode. They were sending her a live feed from set and she was quite literally directing us between contractions.”
A new baby (born the night Aniello won her first Directors Guild Award) isn’t the only new addition to the “Hacks” family in Season 2. Laurie Metcalf, Ming-Na Wen, Martha Kelly and Margaret Cho have previously been announced as guest stars. At PaleyFest, the creative team also revealed that Susie Essman and Devon Sawa will make appearances.
While details about the new guest actors’ roles are currently under wraps, Mark Indelicato says his character Damian spends a lot of time with Metcalf this season. “Just being able to be in proximity to that kind of talent is inspirational. It’s energetic, and it makes you feel grateful to do what it is that we do for a living,” he says.
Meanwhile, Poppy Liu, who brings infectious energy to the role of feisty blackjack dealer Kiki, says she’s grateful she’s not sharing scenes with Wen: “I feel like if I saw her person, it would be too much. The time space continuum would not be able to continue. So I think it’s good that I’m only seeing her on screen for now.”
“It’s very gratifying because obviously they’re fans of the show and really wanted to be on it,” Smart quips. “So we didn’t have to go begging.”
While the show’s critical success has helped bag big name guest stars, the creative team isn’t concerning themselves with living up to any hype. “I don’t think we thought about the awards,” Downs says of Season 2. “We were just excited to get back and be with the family that was ‘Hacks.’ We made Season 1 in the pandemic and we didn’t know if people would like the show or respond. Getting to be back together with everybody after people seemed to really like it was really great. It’s very gratifying.”