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‘Hacks’: Jean Smart is looking for ‘revenge’ in season 2 — and fans will ‘flip out’

At the "Hacks" PaleyFest panel on Thursday night, the cast teased what fans can expect from the upcoming second season.
Poppy Liu, Jean Smart, Mark Indelicato, Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs, and Jen Statsky at the "Hacks" PaleyFest event on April 7.
Poppy Liu, Jean Smart, Mark Indelicato, Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs, and Jen Statsky at the "Hacks" PaleyFest event on April 7.Rob Latour / The Paley Center

(Warning, spoilers ahead!)

What does Deborah Vance dream about?

“Revenge,” Jean Smart — star of the HBO Max comedy “Hacks” —casually replied as she pretended to take a drag from an invisible cigarette and blow the smoke out.

The Emmy-winning actor, Mark Indelicato and Poppy Liu were joined by creators Paul W. Downs, Lucia Aniello and Jen Statsky at the “Hacks” PaleyFest panel at Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on Thursday night, where they teased what fans can expect from the upcoming second season.

Before the stars spilled all the details, attendees first got a sneak peek at the hilarious first episode of season two, which picks up immediately after the events of the season one finale.

PaleyFest : Hacks held on April 7, 2022 at The Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, California
The cast and creators dished on what fans can expect from season two of "Hacks."Rob Latour / Shutterstock / Pale

The Emmy award-winning series follows Smart as the legendary Las Vegas comedian who is struggling to stay relevant. Reluctantly, she teams up with Ava (Hannah Einbinder), a young, down-on-her luck and entitled writer. While their relationship is a volatile one, the two form an unlikely mentorship.

After a major fight, where intense words were exchanged between the two, the comedians reconnected after Ava’s father died and Deborah bombed her new routine during her final Las Vegas set. In a cliffhanging move, Ava then got a call from her agent Jimmy (Downs), who asked why she emailed the British "Bitter End" writers personal and potentially damaging notes about Deborah’s life.

Fans will have to wait until May to see what happens when they begin touring and perfecting Deborah's new set. In the meantime, here is what the cast and creators had to say.

Deborah and Ava's dynamic relationship continues

“I’m so happy with it, the scripts for this season," Smart told the crowd and moderator, Variety’s Michael Schneider, about her thoughts on the new episodes. "You’re always nervous about the second time around ...But there's a couple episodes in particular but that I think people will really flip out over."

"I was fearful that because the relationship between Ava and Deborah is so much, I think, a part of what made season one so fun to watch, I thought, 'Well, will that bring them closer? Is that going to be watered down? Is that going to be something now that the audience is going to miss?'" she continued. "But somehow they made it work equally as well."

Smart added that fans will still get that explosive chemistry between the characters, noting that because "they know each other well, they can push each other’s buttons."

Smart and Einbinder in a scene from "Hacks."
Smart and Einbinder in a scene from "Hacks."HBO Max

Downs added that there will be a "sort of reset" with the two women after they realized they need each other over the course of the first season.

However, their love-hate relationship will have "something that causes tension," noting "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger and whatever kills you makes you come back better. We wanted to use this season to both give the audience more of what they came to love about the characters, and also really evolve (them) as they go out on the road together."

"Wait til you see the tour bus!" Smart quipped, adding that Deborah gets her Diet Coke machine.

Deborah has some life-changing thoughts

As for Deborah’s mindset throughout it all? Smart explained that she thinks her character is “suddenly in a position she just hasn’t felt in so many years.”

“She’s kind of back to the days when she was working dive comedy clubs and bars, and things like that,” she continued, adding that while it brings up good and bad memories, Deborah finds it “energizing and exciting.”

“It makes her kind of rethink a lot of things in her life.”

Jean SMart in a multicolored shirt and orange tank sits on a dark stage, looking off to the right with a serious expression
Smart in character as Deborah Vance in a season one episode of "Hacks."Courtesy of HBO Max

Related: Jean Smart, star of ‘Mare of Easttown’ and ‘Hacks,’ says latest act may be her greatest

As a parent, Smart also noted how poignant it was that Deborah believed that taking her daughter, DJ (Kaitlin Olson) on the road when she was younger was the right thing to do.

“She thought she was doing that out of love, taking her with her on the road, you know, even though her daughter was in seedy green rooms of awful places when she was young and impressionable. But then, of course, her daughter sees it as sort of abusive,” she explained. “And that’s the complexity of being a parent is that you never feel you get it right. You think you’re doing something for the right reasons and it turns out to be not the right thing to do.”

When asked if Deborah will finally confront her sister Kathy (Linda Purl) in season two, Downs replied, “You do have to wait a little bit…"

"Hacks" hits the road with special guests

The show’s creators confirmed that as Deborah goes on tour, they have a number of different location changes like the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Altadena and Long Beach.

They also filmed on a ship in international waters.

HBO Max previously announced that Laurie Metcalf, Martha Kelly and Ming-Na Wen were joining the second season as recurring guest stars and Margaret Cho as a guest star.

During the panel, the creators confirmed that aside actors Devon Sawa and Susie Essman were making appearances.

Creator Lucia Aniello directed an episode "between contractions"

Smart recalled how Aniello went into labor early while they were still filming and she was directing an episode.

"And we were sending her a live feed," she continued. "And she was quite literally directing us between contractions."

Downs, who is Aniello's husband and portrays agent Jimmy, noted that he was acting while his wife was in labor.

"There’s a very specific scene later in the season where Jimmy is supposed to be terrified, but also Lucia was in labor so it worked out,” Statsky added.

They credit the success of their show to their viewers

The first season earned Smart an Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG Awards, among others. The creators also won the Emmy for outstanding writing for a comedy series, Aniello also nabbed the outstanding directing for a comedy series trophy, among a slew of other accolades.

“It’s surprising and humbling,” Smart said of all the awards she’s received.

Aniella added, “The reason that we’ve been able to have that success is because it takes people who have seen the show and told people about it and they show other people. They say to us, 'Oh, I watched it and then I watched it again with my husband, or whatever. They also said that winning all these awards is a creative collaboration.

"Hacks" season two will premiere in May 2022 on HBO Max.