How to Get Cast on ‘Hacks’

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Photo Source: Jake Giles Netter/Max

When it comes to Max’s comedy-drama “Hacks,” the show’s talent is no joke. With industry vet Jean Smart at the helm and breakout star Hannah Einbinder by her side, the series is a hit with fans and critics alike. Since its debut in 2021, the series has earned six Emmys, with Smart taking home the award for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series both in 2021 and 2022. 

Now, as the curtain closes on the third season, all eyes are on what’s ahead for Season 4, especially those looking for casting opportunities. Do you have what it takes to hack it with the hacks? In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know about the show’s casting process, including acting advice from Smart and Einbinder.


What is “Hacks” about?

Despite her age, standup comic Deborah Vance (Smart) remains determined to stay fresh and relevant, lest she lose her Las Vegas residency. To liven things up, Deborah hires comedy writer Ava Daniels (Einbinder) to revamp her act. Ava also finds herself at a career crossroads, as her previous missteps and damaged reputation have left her with few prospects. Together, the two women develop a mentorship and friendship that allows them to work through their personal issues and embrace a new chapter in their lives.

“Hacks” was created by Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs, and Jen Statsky.

Who is in the cast of “Hacks”?

“Hacks” features an array of comedic icons, including:

  • Jean Smart as Deborah Vance
  • Hannah Einbinder as Ava Daniels
  • Carl Clemons-Hopkins as Marcus
  • Mark Indelicato as Damien
  • Paul W. Downs as Jimmy
  • Megan Stalter as Kayla
  • Rose Abdoo as Josefina
  • Christopher McDonald as Marty
  • Kaitlin Olson as DJ Vance
  • Poppy Liu as Kiki
  • Johnny Sibilly as Wilson
  • Angela Elayne Gibbs as Robin
  • Lorenza Izzo as Ruby
  • Jane Adams as Nina

And the show’s guest stars are some of the best in the business:

  • Luenell as Loretta
  • Helen Hunt as Winnie Landell
  • Laurie Metcalf as Weed
  • Susie Essman as Elaine
  • Ming-Na Wen as Janet
  • Devon Sawa as Jason
  • Madeline Zima as Jules
  • Linda Purl as Kathy
  • Christopher Lloyd as Larry Arbuckle
  • Hal Linden as Cliff Biff
  • Tony Goldwyn as Bob Lipka
  • Stephen Tobolowsky as Henry Weeks

Helen Hunt

Who is the casting director for “Hacks”?

Jeanne McCarthy and Nicole Abellera Hallman (“The Mindy Project,” “Silicon Valley,” “Mythic Quest”) of McCarthy/Abellera Casting are the primary casting directors behind “Hacks.”

As McCarthy told Spotlight, CDs regularly see films and plays to find new actors—but schools and even circuses are on their radar, too. However, once you make it to the audition, her advice remains the same for everyone: “It sounds very cliche—I would have people be themselves. Generally, there’s not going to be a character that’s so different than who you are. What attracts me to somebody is when I can feel them, I get an emotional connection with them, I feel who they are. Character work will happen from there, but I like to really be able to connect with somebody in a genuine way, not in an actory way.”

Hannah Einbinder

How does the casting process for “Hacks” work?

As “Hacks” co-creator Statsky told us, the idea for the show was born at a monster truck rally of all places. “We started talking about female standups and entertainers and women in the arts in general,” she explained. “We talked about how they’ve had to fight against so much and keep their heads down and pound the pavement and fight for their careers—whereas their male counterparts are much more easily given accolades and have a more seamless career path. We realized that we were really interested in telling that woman’s story. That was our jumping-off point.” 

Of course, Smart immediately came to mind. “We knew we wanted it to be really funny, but also really grounded and dramatic at moments. We knew whoever was playing [Deborah] would have to embody that tone,” she said. This made casting particularly tricky. “When you start making a list of actors who can be both so funny, and also so dramatic, so grounded, so real, it’s not a super long list. Jean was at the top of that list.”

Finding someone who could hold their own opposite Smart proved to be the biggest challenge. “It’s this incredibly exciting moment but also incredibly scary because you’re like, [who can you get] to play opposite Jean Smart…crap,” Statsky said. “Should we have cast someone not as good?”

Because much of the initial casting process took place amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the casting team watched countless self-tapes before finding someone who could deliver the chemistry. “We kept looking for someone who we felt was selling both [comedy and drama] as effectively as we wanted. Hannah really impressed us from her very first audition. She improvised a few lines, which told us that she was, in her bones, a comedian,” Statsky said. “As we moved through the process of callbacks, and then testing with Jean, their chemistry was palpable—which is insane, because they were seated, I think, 15 feet apart from each other with a plastic divider in between them.”

Of course, as Einbinder told us, auditioning with Smart was equal parts “shock” and gratitude: “I went in just happy to experience the material, to read it, to add my little spin on it and do my little extras with it. Throughout the whole process, I really did not think that I would get cast in it. It was the pandemic, and I was just like, ‘Thank God I have something, a good piece of comedy, to interact with at all.’ ”

Jean Smart

When does filming for “Hacks” Season 4 start?

According to Deadline, “Hacks” Season 4 got the greenlight right after its Season 3 finale on May 30. As of now, there’s no projected start date, but we plan to update this piece when more filming information becomes available.

Kathryn Newton

Where can you find “Hacks” casting calls and auditions?

There are currently no open casting calls for “Hacks” Season 4, but you can bookmark our main casting page for the latest updates on available auditions. 

In the meantime, check out these opportunities from streamers that are casting right now. We also suggest exploring our guide on how to audition for HBO, Max’s companion network—and these audition “hacks”—for more helpful advice.

Jean Smart

What are the best audition tips for landing a role on “Hacks”?

Embrace your unique blend of talents. “Don’t be constantly worrying about what it is that they want, because if you find out and develop what’s unique about you, that will eventually pay off,” Smart shared. “When you look at huge movie stars, they are not—with a few exceptions—typically beautiful, typically handsome, typically this, typically that. But there is something about them. There’s something about them that makes you want to watch them. And I think if you are as much your authentic self as possible, people sense that. It makes you a more interesting performer.”

Enjoy every part of the creative process. “Don’t get frustrated during periods of writer’s block,” Einbinder said. “That only makes it last longer. Embrace every element of the creative process when you are harvesting the work and when you are planting the seeds…. You cannot feel frustration or anger around it. You’ve got to let it go, and you’ve got to get another hobby. Focus your time and energy into something that has nothing to do with your work at all.”

Follow your own path for future success. “Do not let the limitations and boundaries of the past dictate the blessing that is your future,” Carl Clemons-Hopkins wrote for us. “If you’re not careful, someone else’s dream for you may overtake your focus and change the entire framework of your imagination and expression. Do not give anyone that power. If someone sees your work and wants to help you improve, excellent. If someone has something constructive to add or a new approach for you to explore, please do explore and play and adventure away! But if someone’s assessment of who you are or will be is based on the values of hate-based hierarchy and social constructs that benefit the few, get as far away from them as you possibly can—quickly.”