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Jean Smart Wins Emmy for ‘Hacks’ as Best Actress in a Comedy Series

Television Academy voters swooned for Jean Smart's commanding performance in HBO Max's "Hacks."

Hacks Jean Smart HBO Max

Jean Smart in “Hacks”

Courtesy of HBO Max

Jean Smart’s performance as a legendary stand-up comic in HBO Max’s “Hacks” made for one of 2021’s best television characters. That’s a sentiment that was widely shared by Television Academy voters, who awarded the actress the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series on Sunday evening.

Smart competed with Aidy Byrant (“Shrill”), Kaley Cuoco (“The Flight Attendant”), Allison Janney (“Mom”), and Tracee Ellis Ross (“Black-ish”) for the Emmy.

HBO Max’s synopsis for “Hacks” reads: “Hacks” explores “a dark mentorship that forms between Deborah Vance (Smart), a legendary Las Vegas comedian, and an entitled outcast, 25-year-old (Hannah Einbinder).” The series received strong reviews following its May premiere and HBO Max has renewed the show for a second season.

Smart’s performance in “Hacks” received widespread acclaim from critics. IndieWire’s Ben Travers lauded her work on “Hacks” argued that she was the best part of the series in his grade A- review of the show in May.

“Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Smart is on fire throughout. Anyone enamored with her magnificent prop work and prickly retorts on HBO’s “Mare of Easttown” will be in seventh heaven watching her run the gamut in ‘Hacks,’ Travers said in his review. “Her line delivery, physical comedy, and character work are all second-to-none, as she easily slides into the cadence and command of a comedian who hasn’t had a day, hour, or minute off in the last four decades. Smart is such a believable stand-up I’d give her a late-night show right now if I could, but it’s her moments off-stage that really stand out. Her patient, all-knowing, and largely quiet approach to motherhood (Kaitlin Olson is perfectly cast as her spoiled, jewelry-making daughter) isn’t without Deborah’s snappy wit when pushed, and the way Smart takes an extra beat to process information (like learning about Wikifeet or what a diva cup is) allows her to separate each glorious reaction so the audience can appreciate every beat.”

The 73rd Primetime Emmys aired Sunday, September 19 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS. The three-hour event was hosted by Cedric the Entertainer and, for the first time, available to stream on Paramount+. Follow IndieWire on Twitter and Facebook for all the latest Emmys news, including live updates, as the virtual awards ceremony airs Sunday night.

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