'Hacks' Showrunners Reveal How 'Amazing Race' Influenced Season 2 (Exclusive)

Hacks Season 2 feels a bit like a scripted reality show, as comedian Deborah Vance and writer Ava Daniels leave Las Vegas to hit the road. That's because co-showrunner Lucia Aniello let her love of The Amazing Race and Road Rules influence the direction of the hilarious HBO Max series. In a new interview with PopCulture.com, Aniello and co-showrunner Jen Statsky teased the surprising direction Hacks is going now that Deborah (Jean Smart) and Ava (Hannah Einbinder) have left Sin City.

There "very much" was a desire to see how Deborah and Ava would handle life outside Las Vegas, Aniello said. "I love Amazing Race and I love Road Rules. So, these are two seminal, at least for me, pieces of culture that we felt were an interesting way to see Deborah and Ava's relationship evolve," Aniello noted.

Deborah loved staying in Las Vegas because it was a safe haven, a place where she could "do her thing" and be "free of judgment" outside the showbusiness centers in New York City and Los Angeles, Aniello said. At the end of Season 1 though, Deborah is left without her anchor in Vegas, so she reluctantly agrees to tour the country to try out new material she and Ava wrote. The road trip also brings up "a lot of insecurities" for Deborah, so the road was a "really interesting place to anchor" Season 2, Aniello said.

Aniello, Statsky, and co-creator Paul W. Downs, who also plays Deborah and Ava's manager Jimmy, built Hacks on unlikely character pairs. There is "just naturally so much comedy and conflict to be mined" from putting two very different people in the same room, Statsky said. In Season 2, Ava and Deborah have to live together in the cramped spaces of a touring bus.

Laurie Metcalf also creates havoc when she joins as the new tour manager. "Laurie is someone, that the three of us Lucia, Paul, and I have been fans [of] forever. She's just so incredible," Statsky said. "And so we wrote that character for her hoping that she would do it and we just absolutely lucked out that she wanted to do it and is so wonderful and fun."


Hacks can also look like a very "inside baseball" showbusiness series from afar, but Statsky and Aniello are confident that the show's story of outsiders can resonate with anyone. Ava and Deborah have both been pushed to the fringes of the industry they love, and both characters are fighting to overcome their faults like anyone. This leaves Jimmy's story with the inept assistant Kayla (Megan Stalter) in Los Angeles the "traditional" entertainment story of the show, Aniello noted.

Deborah and Ava have both been "cast out" of the entertainment work at times and given chances to return. Aniello, Statsky, and Downs are interested in seeing what their decisions will be. If the doors open again for Ava, for example, will she just jump at the chance and ignore her work with Deborah? "Part of [Ava's] biggest flaw is her insatiable need for acceptance from her peers and from the industry," Aniello said. "That, I think, is something that she is reckoning with, Season 1 and in Season 2." Fans will get to see what's next for Deborah and Ava on HBO Max Thursdays when new Hacks episodes are released.