Post Mortems

Hacks' Jean Smart Talks Deborah's Spirited Singing Scene: 'It Was Fun, but It Was Torture' — Watch Video

Deborah Vance is used to being on stage with a mic in her hand, but Jean Smart wasn’t quite ready for the different type of performance that awaited her in Hacks‘ fourth episode.

“I used to sing quite well,” the actress tells TVLine. “I haven’t sung in many, many years and my voice is in terrible shape, so it was kind of embarrassing.” (Her co-star Hannah Einbinder begs to differ. Watch them break the scene down in the video embedded above.)

In the episode released Thursday on HBO Max, Deborah’s new comedy tour brought her and Ava aboard a lesbian cruise ship. Despite her initial trepidations about performing her act for an audience of gay women (gay men are more her scene), a mix of alcohol and the right kind of attention from an attractive woman caused Deborah to loosen up and rush the stage to accompany the on-board pianist. Smart beamed on screen as the slightly lubricated Deborah let loose on the mic, serenading the boat’s passengers with a lovely rendition of the Aretha Franklin classic, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”

“It was torture,” Smart adds. “I mean, it was sort of fun, but it was torture.”

The show’s co-creators join Einbinder in praising Smart’s gusto for what turned out to be quite the magical on-set moment for everyone involved. (Well, at least for everyone who wasn’t singing.)

Hacks Season 2 Episode 4“Jean said to us last season, ‘I’d really like to sing,'” recalls executive producer and co-star Paul W. Downs, “and we were like, ‘This is such a great opportunity!’ When we were shooting, she said, ‘Don’t listen to me when I want to sing!’ Once you’re there and you’re doing it live for a huge group of people, it can become a little intimidating. But Jean is a constant performer and committed to everything she does, and she is so great in that scene. It’s such a special performance, and the audience was lit up. The background actors — we were so lucky because those women were so good. They were all involved, they were all singing along. It was one of the most fun scenes we got to shoot this year.”

EP and director Lucia Aniello agrees. “We’re always up against the clock every day that we shoot, but that was one day that the time and how quickly we had to move just melted away,” she says. “I only remember how fun it was. That whole crew, every single woman there was amazing.”

Deborah was riding high from her big night out, and when it came time for her actual comedy set, she frolicked onto stage without a care in the world, and even had a pep to her step! (“Oh no, she’s doing Ellen,” Ava noted from her seat.) But when a bit of crowd work went horribly wrong and caused her to bomb, the entire ship turned on her, prompting Deborah and Ava’s swift dinghy ejection the following morning. Unfortunately for Ava, they were booted right after she popped a molly and was about to hook up with her hot new friends.

Watch the clip of Smart and Einbinder above, then be sure to drop some comments below.