Smart: The audition scene was the scene from the pilot episode where Ava and Deborah meet for the first time, which is such a great scene, and it says so much about those characters. It’s kind of all there on the page for you, so it was a really wonderful audition scene to do. We just had a lot of fun. Through a pane of plexiglass, by the way.
Hannah, your background is in stand-up, and Jean, you obviously have an incredibly storied career as an actor. In a sense, when you started working on the show, you were both taking on each other’s roles there. Did you swap notes at all?
Smart: Yeah, I mean, I definitely wanted to impress Hannah. That was my biggest fear going to the show, that people wouldn’t believe that I was actually a stand-up. When you’re working with somebody who does it professionally, it’s a little intimidating. Paul Downs, our producer, who plays my manager Jimmy so brilliantly, he also does stand-up. But they were very kind and gentle.
Einbinder: I mean, the truth is that Jean has so much of what makes a stand-up comedian anyway. She honed Deborah Vance as a unique character and a unique voice because she’s able to pull from a lot of her really natural comedic urges—because at the end of the day, she is a brilliant comedic actress and one of the strongest we have.
Smart: Oh, well, thank you, Hannah.
Einbinder: It’s true! I never once was thinking about that. It just came so naturally to you. But I was looking to Jean for the acting stuff, of course. Just to be like, How on earth do we do this?
Smart: The thing is, though, Hannah’s not giving herself enough credit because to be a good stand-up, you have to be able to act. It’s the same way really, really good singers have to be actors as well, if you want to deliver and perform a song well. So even though Hannah wasn’t technically an actress when we first met, I think the style of Hannah’s comedy, where she tells these quirky stories, they’re totally acted out. It’s fantastic. I watched her online before I ever even spoke to her, and I was just really impressed.