In the final moments of Hacks’ second season, Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) has revitalized her career with a smash comedy special, on which she collaborated with her Gen Z joke writer, Ava (Hannah Einbinder). But rather than going out on a celebratory note, Deborah delivers a harsh truth to Ava: She’s firing her so that Ava can focus on her own career. Hacks co-creator and co-showrunner Jen Statsky breaks down this emotional scene that closes out the finale — and suggests that the pair
will go on separate journeys during the next season.
Before Hacks was renewed for a third season on June 16, some fans worried this scene signaled a possible series finale. But Statsky and co-showrunners Lucia Aniello and Paul W. Downs always had a plan for the show beyond this moment. “We knew early on that Deborah’s special would be a big success and she would let Ava go,” explains Statsky. “Hearing that people thought this might be a series finale was nice in a way because that means the scene is emotionally gratifying and you can be at peace with where it leaves the characters. But there’s still so much story to tell.”
“Deborah and Ava’s relationship has evolved a lot. At first they hated each other and were very reluctant to work together,” says Statsky, who adds that Ava’s betrayal of Deborah in the first-season finale — she revealed personal facts about Deborah to two showrunners in an attempt to get a writing job — has motivated her throughout season two to make amends. “As the season progresses, Ava loses herself a little bit. Ava has become so much about Deborah and lost herself. Deborah sees this and realizes she has to let Ava go so that she can grow and pursue her own dreams and desires.”
In the final cut, this line appears later in the scene, right after Deborah says, “You’ve got your own mountain to climb.” Says Statsky, “We realized as we were working on the scene with Jean and Hannah that Ava is in motion, and we needed to build to the place where she’s desperate.” Although this is a breakup scene, it sees Deborah and Ava butting heads as usual, and Statsky explains that the line had more emotional power at the end of the scene. “Ava already knows at that point that she’s lost her. She knows Deborah is walking away. It’s so heartbreaking, and that line is indicative of how far these women have come and how much Ava has grown to love her.”
This line was built out based on a pitch when the scene was shot. After Ava says she’s been busy, she adds, “and my Final Draft was corrupted!” Statsky says with a laugh: “That’s a very real problem many writers can identify with.”
This breakup scene is light on jokes, and nailing the tone was a challenge. “You never want it to go too saccharine or sentimental,” says Statsky. “Luckily, we have Jean and Hannah, who are so incredibly skilled, to help us modulate that.”
This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.