Many high-profile TV series are making a smart choice
Just call her the new queen of cable.
Over the past two years, Jean Smart has appeared in not one but three critically acclaimed HBO series: Superhero Drama 2019 Guardians, as the tormented FBI agent Laurie Blake; the currently airing crime thriller Easttown mare, as the stubborn mother of police detective Kate Winslet; and new HBO Max comedy Hacks (The first two episodes air Thursday – on Crave on Canada), as a Joan Rivers-like comedian looking for something new.
“They can just give me stock (HBO), I’ll be satisfied,” jokes Smart, 69, who first broke into the CBS sitcom of the late 1980s. Conceive women.
Fans praised the recent resurgence of Smart TV, which began in 2015 with the anthology FX Fargo and continued with roles in Netflix Big mouth, FX Legion and now several HBO projects.
“I certainly can’t deny that I have been given bigger and better opportunities,” she said. “Most actors in their entire careers have never had the chance to show what they’re capable of. So I feel incredibly lucky to have offered myself so many varied roles. And you know, I’ve always been a latecomer – I didn’t ‘I don’t know what to tell you.’
A showbiz satire with the sour tongue of Veep and heart of Lisa Kudrow The return, Hacks follows legendary Las Vegas stand-up Deborah Vance (Smart), who has said she’ll be grazed unless she reinvigorates her act.
Cue the arrival of Ava Daniels (Hannah Einbinder), an unemployed twenty-something who was “canceled” after a salacious tweet. The young comedian reluctantly takes a job as Deborah’s new joke writer, and the caustic duo swap beards about their talent, love life, and personal style. (“Jesus Christ, I was just wondering why you are dressed like Rachel Maddow’s mechanic,” Deborah greets Ava in one episode.)
“I love that they feel like skilled opponents: both heavyweight and really funny,” says Einbinder. “They share that, regardless of some of their fundamental differences and at the surface level. That’s the guideline and I love that dynamic.”
Hacks was created by Wide city producers Paul W. Downs, Lucia Aniello and Jen Statsky, although they didn’t write it with Smart in mind.
And yet, “there are almost little bits and pieces of all of my favorite characters that I’ve ever played,” says three-time Emmy winner Smart says. Frasier and Samantha who? But unlike those sitcoms, “there’s so much darkness in this show. It’s kind of like Laurie in Guardians: He’s a funny character but very sad and lonely too. ”
Deborah gradually loses her viper character and becomes more vulnerable with Ava throughout the 10-episode first season, revealing the emotional scars left by her ex-husband, who fled with his sister.
“Part of his philosophy is that ‘living well is the best revenge,’” says Smart. “She has spent a lot of her career doing exactly what she wanted to do, which is to be on stage and make people laugh. But she also wanted to show her ex-husband that she was funnier and more successful than he could ever have dreamed of, and that drove her. ”
Smart says she doesn’t share Deborah’s bitterness, nor the feeling that she has had to fight every step of her career.
“I always knew that everything was in front of me because I didn’t start out as an ingenuous,” she recalls. “I knew I would always work, even if I didn’t get the roles I thought I deserved or the roles I wanted. I had enough confidence in myself.”
She was less confident in her Delaware County (or “Delco”) accent for Mare, which takes place in a rural Pennsylvania county where several girls have gone missing or been murdered. This unique dialect is known for its scrambled consonants and stretched vowels, “which was intimidating because you didn’t want to think about it while making the lines,” says Smart. To help, “I would record my lines on my phone and listen to them over and over while I fell asleep or in the car until it got automatic.”
Smart has a much easier time learning Fruit Ninja, than her character, Helen, furiously plays on her iPad, even in the midst of heated conversations with Winslet’s Mare.
“I had never even heard of Fruit Ninja,” Smart says with a laugh. “But I did pretty well – I was getting good scores. I don’t have time right now, but if my kids put it in front of me, I will definitely play.”
– USA today