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Hacks stars discuss big changes between Deborah Vance & her staff

Hacks stars discuss big changes between Deborah Vance & her staff

Hannah Einbinder and Jean Smart; Carl Clemons-Hopkins and Mark Indelicato on Hacks season 3
Max

(L-R) Hannah Einbinder; Jean Smart; Carl Clemons-Hopkins; Mark Indelicato

Hannah Einbinder, Carl Clemons-Hopkins, and Mark Indelicato discuss Hacks season 3 in an interview with Out.

We got even more shenanigans from Jean Smart as the Max original series Hacks returned for its third season — and we're already dying to watch season 4!

Filled with laughs, twists, turns, and glamorous moments, the Emmy Award-winning comedy doesn't fail to keep its audience entertained and attract new die-hard fans.

Season 3 picks up a year after Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) fires Ava Daniels (Hannah Einbinder) to follow her passion as a comedy writer. After managing to keep afloat with their successes separately, things start to shift throughout the season. This leads Deborah and Ava to come back into each other's lives — ushering in change that could be very good (or very bad!) for both characters.

In a conversation with Out, series regulars Einbinder, Carl Clemons-Hopkins, and Mark Indelicato discuss the season, the rarity and hopes of more series like this to be greenlit, what they are vying for in their lives right now, and how will things get tougher for their characters this season.

Out: Deborah Vance finally achieves a goal she's wanted for years. Leading up to her debut, she sees her younger self in the mirror and clearly has a moment. If the character of Damien from season 3 were to look at Damien from season 1, what would he say? And if older Mark [Indelicato] were to look at younger Mark, what would he say?

Mark Indelicato: Well, Damien keeps his head down, and so I think Damien wouldn't really have much to say to Damien in season 3. But I think that I'd [personally] say to younger Mark that exists that I never thought that my career would extend beyond Ugly Betty. I never really had such aspirations to be an actor… it kind of just happened. I would just say that you get to do what you love to do. It turns out you don't have to work a 9-5 after all.

Marcus is honestly such a great representation for a lot of people, especially queer people. How does it feel to know that the audience resonates with Marcus so much?

Carl Clemons-Hopkins: It's such a blessing. I'm really grateful that these writers, and this creative team, brought to life characters and then cast them… as opposed to just writing archetypes or writing hashtags or identity-politics markers. I think that's one of the reasons why Marcus is so resonant with audience members and why it's really nice to see a real, fleshed-out, three-dimensional person in this ridiculous world. I also think it balances some of the other characters out really well.

[To Hopkins] On the show, you have Luenell as your aunt and Angela Elayne Gibbs as your mother. How does it feel to work with acting royalty, and what was it like to develop your chemistry with them?

Hopkins: It's essential and it's amazing; I'm being challenged every day. I'm really grateful that this is such an early part of my career. I get to have such an amazingly affirming experience and learn from these greats. These people who, you know, are so phenomenal in their own right. They're so giving and so funny.

What would Marcus from season 1 say to Marcus from season 3?

Hopkins: 'Thank you for getting me out of the house and teaching me about boundaries.' I think Marcus in season 3 is living a bold dream of Marcus from season 1. When Hacks started, Marcus didn't have the best work-life balance. He was hyper focused on Deborah, the business, and whatnot. It's not a bad thing, but I don't think Marcus had let himself live in season 1. In the second season, Marcus got some hard knocks from that living.

I think Marcus would be very thrilled about where he is in season 3. You try to do what you can to serve your higher self; to make sure that you can look out for yourself in the future. I'm really proud that those past iterations of Marcus were able to kind of commit to that journey to self, reap the benefits of it. In season 3, we also see the new challenges that arise when Marcus starts that journey.

When it comes to Damien, what exciting developments can we anticipate for Damien in season 3 that will propel him into the spotlight and highlight his character in a more prominent way?

Indelicato: There was such a big shake-up in Team Vance the writers did such an incredible job of, like, you know, dedicating so much of their time to elaborating on the ensemble, not just Deborah and Ava. I think that the first two seasons set up the audience into getting to know these characters, and season 3 just kind of flips everything on its head. Certain things that happen to Damien in season 3… I don't think the audience was really expecting that at all.

There's a bit of foreshadowing in the first episode of what's to come between Deborah and Marcus' relationship in season 3. How did you see their dynamics play out in this season?

Hopkins: Their dynamic has new beginnings, like a major shift, this season. It's a beautiful thing to see. And it's not necessarily a neat resolution. Marcus is not in the entertainment industry. Marcus is very much about the DVI brand and working that business and that company.

With Deborah's focus going kind of away from just the company, we really get to see how that conflict arises and where they evolve to.

If you had your own late night talk show, who would be your first guest and what would you ask them?

Einbinder: My first guest would be Greta Thunberg and I would ask her what she thinks people can do in their everyday lives to be more vocal about and affect change as it pertains to climate change.

What's one achievement you're bursting with pride about and eager to shout from the rooftops?

Indelicato: I think that, essentially after being outed when I was younger on Ugly Betty, I think that one of the things I'm proudest to scream out is that I'm a big homosexual man. It's just something that I feel like was spoken for me for so many years… or, you know, when there's any speculation about something that is private, something that is your own. That's your own thing, your own business, and really isn't anyone else's. So that's something that I'm really proud [of]: to be able to be completely situated in and fully proud of and have relinquished any shame.

Imagine you're gearing up for a whirlwind press tour. If you could handpick a media training writer from any celebrity's team to coach you through interviews with journalists, whose expertise would you enlist?

Hopkins: Chelsea Handler. My other thought would have been: whoever's the opposite of Roseanne's team [laughs].

Einbinder: Bernie Sanders because I perceive him as one of the coolest guys. And, of course, saying that as a joke because he doesn't really have a press media training team. I would like to give Bernie whenever I can because he doesn't give a f*ck, and he's right about sh*t.

Indelicato: I would say Hannah Einbinder. She's so funny. And, to be honest, I read her down every day of her life, and she reads me down every day of my life. The thing is that the people that write the best jokes for you are the people that read you down the most. If not her, I would hire my best friend and stylist, James Gallagher.

In one of the scenes, Ava shares advice with a fan during a panel discussion and shares how things don't get easier… they get harder. How did things get "harder" for your character this season? And what are some challenges that you anticipate as you grown as an actor?

Hopkins: What I love about that is that it's a direct quote from season 1, I believe, in episode 2… when Deborah says that to Ava in the helicopter. For Marcus, they have to define and hold their boundaries together. For Marcus in this season, I would also say it was just committing to balance. I think one thing that happens with Marcus this season is there are stressors and triggers that kind of lead him more to more unbalanced behavior.

For me, as an actor, one thing that does get harder — which I've been very honest about — is the realization that shows like this are rare in the sense of active representation and not just 'hashtag representation.' There's actual expansion of characters. What I'm experiencing is that it's getting a little bit harder to find [more shows like Hacks], and what I pray is that those creatives and writers and executives and producers continue to want that level of material, of quality, of character development in the pieces that are being made.

Something else that I think gets a lot harder, especially if you have the nerve to have any adjective that's not a straight white man, is reckoning with your desire to make art and have fun and commit to truth and beauty in a business and a country that doesn't really value that. It's definitely a challenge to keep one's joy and keep one's peace of mind, but it's infinitely worth it.

Einbinder: As we meet Ava in the second season, there's so much more for her to lose. In season 1, she lost everything. She had nothing left to lose… but now she's had a job and a girlfriend and a life in LA. I imagine she has a lot of friends, so there's a lot at stake for her. I guess, for myself, I try not to think of it in that way. I just try to stay true to my values and the very real people around me. I just try to do good work. My motto is 'quality over quantity.'

Indelicato: It's uncertain, what we do for a living. I've had a very long career, but I'm surely not a big movie star like that. People aren't banging on my door

Not yet!

Indelicato: Right. I think that it's just completely uncertain, and it makes you feel really insecure. There are peaks and valleys in what we do for a living. It's kind of a get with it or get out kind of thing.

In season 3, Deborah's vying for a former goal that could be in her hands now. What is your character vying for this season, and what are you vying for right now?

Indelicato: [My character is] vying for job security, as myself. And I will say, Damien is vying for the same exact f*cking thing [laughs].

Hacks is such a unique show. You don't really see many shows with leads like yourselves. Shows telling unique, dynamic stories on screen like this. One of your co stars was telling me that they feel that shows like this are so rare, so you have to enjoy it at least while it lasts. Does it make you feel a little bit on edge that there won't be as many shows like this in the future? Or do you feel that because you're all in this position, there will be more shows like this in the future?

Einbinder: I do hope the show is something that people in our industry can look to as proof of why it is important to invest in stories about queer people and women and to make original comedies and original programming. Like, that's my sincerest wish. I can only stay in the mindset of being hopeful of that. I hope people take a page out of the book, the Hacks book on this one, and just know that original stories are worth investing in.

How did the relationship between Ava and Deborah challenge and affect not only her relationship with her girlfriend, but also Ava herself, in season 3?

Einbinder: Well, you know, to me, this season is the last straw. Deborah slapped her across the face in the first season, and then berated and fired her in the second season. Now Deborah's asking Ava to leave everything behind and come work for her. If Deborah is disrespecting her or not investing in her in a way that feels mutual and equal, it's kind of the last straw.

Hacks season 3 is streaming on Max.

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