‘Hacks’: J. Smith-Cameron Isn’t Done Working with Jean Smart and Wants to ‘Explore the Relationship More’

“It feels to me like there’s more there.”

J. Smith-Cameron is manifesting a return to “Hacks,” hoping the showrunners Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs, and Jen Statsky find a way to bring Kathy Vance back to the show. The last time she did that, was on HBO’s “Succession” where a four-episode stint turned into a full series run.

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In “Hacks,” Smith-Cameron plays Deborah’s (Jean Smart) estranged sister. At the end of episode six, Kathy is introduced after receiving an unexpected invitation to Deborah’s Christmas Spectacular. She accepts and shows up with a gift in hand.

But how did the role happen for Smith-Cameron? While at an Emmys party, Aniello, Downs and Statsky approached her. “They reintroduced themselves and said, ‘We have you in mind for the part of the sister.’”  Smith-Cameron was wowed by the prospect. As a fan of the show, she had always wondered who would eventually be cast for the part. “I was like, ‘Wow, that’d be great. That’s my wildest dream come true.’”

However, with years of experience in the industry, she didn’t want to hold them to it. Smith-Cameron reveals she didn’t even mention it to her managers. “Everyone’s drinking, happy and excited to be running into people they admire, and you say a bunch of things,” says the actress.

And then she got the offer.

Thinking about the character, Smith-Cameron began to ponder who Kathy would be. “I thought is she going to be as Deborah describes her, or worse? There are a number of ways to go. But wouldn’t it be interesting if she was nice? Not over the top nice, but just like a regular person,” she says. “And that’s exactly what they wrote.”

Smith-Cameron even chuckles at the idea of their likeliness. “At this stage of our life, we kind of look a little like sisters. We have enough features in common and even our coloring,” she says.

Admittedly, Smith-Cameron had nerves shooting the scene when Kathy arrives at Deborah’s mansion for Christmas. “It was slightly nerve-racking because it always is to be new on a show that is in such a good groove. And then to know you have a really important role, and you normally don’t fuck it up,” she says. “I was very confident about the way the scene was written, but I kept checking with Jen, Paul and Lucia asking, ‘Is this what you meant?’ and they were like ‘That’s exactly what we meant.’”

Inevitably, there’s tension between Deborah and Kathy, with most of the hostility coming from Deborah who at one point runs off to the bathroom to vomit. It builds to a moment between the siblings where the two finally talk about Kathy stealing Deborah’s husband, Frank. Things don’t go as smoothly and escalate into a snowball fight.

“I love acting with Jean Smart,” Smith-Cameron says. “She’s so down-to-earth and easy to get along with. We both approach acting very similarly, and we fell right into a groove.” But acting with snow was challenging because it was fake. “It was a brilliant metaphor because Christmas is her favorite holiday, and everything is phony. She’s auditioned elves and everything about it is show business. And her sister shows up and she’s more of the authentic ilk.” Adds Smith-Cameron, “She’s surrounded herself with evidence of her great success, and if she can’t have snow on Christmas, she’ll make it.”

As far as that history and all the things that transpired between Deborah, Frank and Kathy, Smith-Cameron thinks it’s a classic setup. “From Kathy’s point of view, she has a very good case like it was wrong, but it was like teenage wrong. I would venture to say that Deborah has probably glossed over her hand in what happened and what led up to that.”

The next episode sees the siblings try to have a sister’s weekend, but Deborah’s quest to secure the “Late Night” spot thwarts that. Instead, the two make a sisterly trip to their parents’ mausoleum which rapidly spirals into another strained moment. Kathy learns Deborah had their parents’ interred bodies moved to Vegas, near her future gravesite. It ends with the two parting ways, with Kathy telling her older sister, “I don’t think I want this in my life. I can’t do it.”

Smith-Cameron hopes this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Kathy. “I’m just hoping it’s not because it’s a harder deal to get a sibling out of your mind.” She adds, “It feels to me like there’s more there but I hope Paul, Lucia and Jen think so too.”

For fun, she entertains the idea of Kathy returning and conjures up possible scenarios. “I’d like to see them work together on something. They have to. It could be something legal or something to do with the daughter or grandkid. I think that would be funny if I’d walked off and have to walk back in.” Smith-Cameron continues, “I would love it if I get to work with Jean more and explore the relationship more.”

Aniello, Downs, and Statsky, if you’re reading this, your move.

J. Smith-Cameron is manifesting a return for Kathy to “Hacks.”
J. Smith-Cameron is manifesting a return for Kathy to “Hacks.”

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