How Wayne Newton Got HBO’s ‘Hacks’ Bosses to Give Him Season 2 Guest Spot

“I’m going to go on record and say Wayne Newton has a great sense of humor,” co-showrunner Paul W. Downs tells Los Angeles magazine
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Hacks is taking the show on the road, but not before the Queen of Sin City, Deborah Vance, meets Mr. Las Vegas, Wayne Newton, at a UFC fight in the upcoming season of the HBOMax series. 

Confirming that the rumors are true, co-showrunner Lucia Aniello told Los Angeles magazine at Paleyfest in Hollywood that they actually wrote the part for Newton after he expressed how much he adored their freshman season. 

“We heard that Wayne had seen the show and we thought it was a good representation of Las Vegas and loved it so we said, ‘Okay hunny, you want to be on?’” Aniello said. “Wayne was such a fun sport and it was such a blast to have him on set.” 

Newton unexpectedly made it into the first season when the title character, Deborah Vance, played by Jean Smart, joked to the water department to stop harassing her because “Wayne Newton has five fountains.” According to the showrunners, they never discussed the joke with Newton, but assumed he wasn’t offended since he still wanted to be a part of the project. 

“I’m going to go on record and say Wayne Newton has a great sense of humor,” co-showrunner, Paul W. Downs said. 

“He was totally willing to run with the punches, and we had a really fun time with him,” Aniello added.

Alongside Newton, Hacks will see plenty of new faces including Laurie Metcalf, Martha Kelly and Margaret Cho. For Poppy Liu, who plays Kiki in the series, Ming-Na Wen was a dream come true, even though they didn’t have any scenes together. 

“The one I was most emotional about was Ming-Na Wen because that is so close to my childhood,” Liu said. “She’s so influential and how I shape my own identity as a Chinese-American kid growing up.” 

“I didn’t get to [work with her] because I wasn’t in the same scenes as her so I feel like I’m watching the show more as a fan at this point because Deborah is on tour and they bring Kiki in later to do some emergency best friending and stuff,” Liu added. 

Now that season two and all of their secrets are being released, Hacks showrunners reflected on the project and are ultimately just proud to have given opportunities to new actors and old Vegas acts a job during a global pandemic. 

“I’m really proud that we have given a lot of stand up comedians who during the pandemic weren’t able to tour and work roles on the show and we’ve been able to highlight the talents of really incredible actors including people like Jean Smart who we’ve loved for years, the woman works, but it’s really exciting for us and cool that she really gets to stretch and show that she can do dramatic stuff and comedic stuff in the same role and really be a sexy, powerful, cool woman all in one,” Downs said. 

Speaking of Smart, the 70-year-old actress actually took on the role of Deborah Vance in the HBOMax series because she has always dreamt of being a standup comedian. Now that she’s playing one on TV, her co-star Mark Indelicato, who plays Damien, says the door is definitely open for her if she wants to walk through it. 

“I think Jean Smart can do whatever Jean Smart wants to do,” Indelicato said. “To watch her play Deborah Vance one would say yes, I believe Jean Smart has a career in standup comedy. Maybe she could just take Deborah Vance cosplay on the road when all of this is over.” 

Watch Hacks on HBOMax.

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