In March 2020 — as “Hacks” star Hannah Einbinder wryly calls it, a “really chill month” — the actress was out of work, much like the rest of the nation. As a comic looking to break through into Hollywood, she wasn’t receiving any parts that resonated with her.
“I kept being like, ‘Am I bad at acting?’” she recalled in an interview with TheWrap. But when the role of Ava landed in her inbox, described as an unemployed 25-year-old bisexual comedian, Einbinder — who is the daughter of original “Saturday Night Live” cast member Laraine Newman and actor Chad Einbinder — knew she had found what she was looking for.
“Then it was like, ‘Oh no, I was just waiting for a vivid, real, fully-fleshed out human being who I could conceivably know or encounter in the world,” she said.
What followed was a whirlwind year: Einbinder made her television debut with a six-minute set on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” at the onset of the pandemic, becoming the youngest comic to do so. In 2021, as a breakout favorite in “Hacks,” she landed her first Emmy nomination.
Since then, “Hacks” Season 2 — which premiered on HBO Max May 12 — has only propelled her forward, defying the notion of the sophomore slump. Although, this is perhaps not surprising, given that the series stars Emmy winner Jean Smart as the exacting comic icon Deborah Vance, reunites “Broad City” alum Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs and Jen Statsky (who created the show and serve as executive producers), and swept the 2021 Emmy nominations with 15 nods, winning three of them. The upcoming Emmys are sure to deliver more of the same, with TheWrap’s review calling Einbinder “riveting” in her second-year performance.
In unpacking Ava’s new dynamic with Deborah, Einbinder likens the hot-and-cold pair to two friends who have suddenly transformed into roommates, where “all bets are off.” While journeying cross-country in an RV with Ava, Deborah becomes increasingly hostile to her writer following her confession of the less-than-flattering tell-all email she sent to TV producers at the end of Season 1 — each passive-aggressive snub somehow more comical than the last as it trends toward aggressive-aggressive territory.
“You see them for who they truly are,” Einbinder said. “And you just get that much more comfortable or uncomfortable depending on if they take out the trash or not…They’ve also been through, now, a death together. They’ve been through so much at this point with trust issues and betrayal and resolution, so they’re in it. They’re deep in that friendship-working relationship.”
But as much as Season 2 continues to test the comedians’ limited patience with each other, it also expands on the bounds of their compassion. Ava, while still an “impulsive, immature person,” has grown out of her self-involvement.
“I really try to give Ava as much charm as I can,” Einbinder said of her approach to her character, “Because I think that’s kind of the only way a person who does the things she does can get away with it. She’s also not a bad person…I think it was important for me to just give her as much grace as I possibly could because I do believe that she deserves it.”
Ultimately, she said she’s gracious for Ava’s existence and the authenticity the character brings to the oft-underrepresented (or stereotyped) portrayal of bisexual people.
“This is the greatest gift of art because I know how weird it feels to have this identity that is often hard to categorize or explain and then never see anyone attempt to do it,” she said. “I think it probably would have helped me to come out sooner if I saw things like this, so it’s really cool. I’m so happy that Ava exists, even if she is chaotic, which like, you know, is certainly real. I think chaotic bisexual representation is also very valid.”