'Hacks' Star Carl Clemons-Hopkins on the Third Season's Plot Twists

carl clemons hopkns hacks max
'Hacks' Star Carl Clemons-Hopkins Tells AllEddy Chen/Max


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There's an often repeated (albeit possibly apocryphal) quote attributed to Saint Teresa of Avila that says, “more tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.” It’s also a sentiment that’s at the heart of the new season of the Max hit series Hacks.

In this third season, stand-up legend Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) has seemingly everything she could want—until, that is, a chance to fulfill her longtime dream of becoming a late-night TV host seems once again possible. It’s a chance that upends Deborah’s world, sending her staff into a frenzy, dropping her hapless agents into shark-infested water, and leaving Marcus (Carl Clemons-Hopkins), her longtime consigliere and the chief executive of her booming business at loose ends. After all, if Deborah’s wish does come true, what will that mean for Marcus and the empire the two have built together?

carl clemons hopkins hacks max
Carl Clemons-Hopkins plays Marcus on the Max series Hacks. The third season of the series is streaming now. Chollette

Here, Clemons-Hopkins, who has been nominated for both an Emmy and a SAG Award for the role, tells T&C about the third season of Hacks and what its changes might mean for a character who’s often the only grown up in the room.

So much of this season is about these characters coming to terms with what they want and whether it’s a good thing to get it, Marcus included.

In the beginning of the season, a lot of Marcus’s dreams are coming true, and a lot of the needs we saw in the first two seasons are being met. He's been going to therapy, and he’s finding more balance. He's handling it all well and spinning it into gold. It's not until the Hollywood distractions start taking Deborah's focus that Marcus begins to see how they conflict with what they've been doing. The beginning of the season had a lot of hope, promise, and joy for Marcus, and then there are some challenges to his focus and how it differs from Debra's focus. What he's going to do about it?

As so many of the other characters find themselves unable to break out of sometimes-destructive relationships, he seems to be discovering that he can stand on his own.

That's a very real thing. Some of the other characters need a lot from Deborah, and what Marcus needs from her is pretty much met—until she stops up holding her end of the bargain. Their relationship was not based on building her career as an entertainer per se, but on building her brand. What’s so interesting is seeing the people in her orbit handling this new phase. Her conflict with Marcus might be a bit delayed, but it’s very real; it’s not just affecting their relationship, but it’s affecting his money and wasting his time.

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Clemons-Hopkins has been nominated for an Emmy and a SAG Award for playing Marcus, the CEO of a comedy legend’s big business, on Hacks.Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Max

What’s it like for you to see these characters heading toward this kind of an impasse?

I have yelled at scripts. It's an interesting blessing because these are the type of character developments that you want, these are the types of relationships that are the most interesting and satisfying. They are also the kind that can, if you're not careful, drive you crazy because you can see all the things right in front of them and they don't see it. For me, the challenge is not judging your character and making sure that you are as open as possible to inhabit this person. It would be very boring if they just lived happily ever after.

Marcus is also a stabilizing force in the Hacks world, and if that changes it could be tricky for a lot of people.

The balance of Marcus the CEO and Marcus the fan is handled so beautifully this season. It calls into question the intention of his passions. What do you want? Do you want your business partner who you idolize to be successful in the plan you have for her? Do you want a life? you want to be able to sleep at night? These are very hard decisions to make. And it’s exciting that we don’t fully know what decisions he’s going to make.

There has been great coverage of Deborah's art collection and how carefully the works that hang in her homes have been selected, what that says about her. What are some of the choices that go into telling us who Marcus is?

Jon Carlos, who does our set design, is meticulous and brilliant. My favorite piece is a painting of a matador on the way to her bedroom in the mansion—it’s great. For Marcus specifically, the craft is subtlety. He's wearing a lot more suits and jackets, we get to see him running meetings and enjoying his family as opposed to being annoyed by them. There are all these little moments that are leading to a maturation that’s necessary.

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There’s a plotline this season about unsanctioned Deborah Vance merchandise being sold online. Have you checked Etsy for Marcus merch?

I hope there’s not. I didn't even think to look that up. And if there is, my lawyers will be very interested in finding out because that's not approved. I'm sure there's plenty of Jean merch out there, though, given her body of work.

You could buy Jean Smart things online and start leaving them around for her to find.

She’s got a birthday coming up, so we just might.

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