Carl Clemons-Hopkins and Mark Indelicato Talk Jean Smart, LGBTQ Authenticity on 'Hacks'

by Steve Duffy

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Saturday June 4, 2022
Originally published on May 25, 2022

Mark Indelicato and Carl Clemon-Hopkins on "Hacks"
Mark Indelicato and Carl Clemon-Hopkins on "Hacks"  (Source:IMDb)

Season two of "Hacks" picks up with legendary comedy superstar Deborah Vance (Emmy winner Jean Smart) paint balling a huge billboard of a performer who has replaced her at the Las Vegas resort where she has been a fixture for years. She does so before heading on the road to reinvent herself with the help of young, entitled writer Ava Daniels (Hannah Einbinder), with whom she has a complicated relationship.

"Hacks" was last season's breakout comedy hit — the only show to rival "Ted Lasso" at the Emmy Awards with Smart taking home Best Actress in a Comedy and the series winning in directing and writing categories. Additionally, Einbinder, Jane Adams, and Carl Clemons-Hopkins were all nominated in their respective categories.

Adams plays Einbinder's neurotic mom and Clemons-Hopkins gave a breakout performer as Marcus, Vance's controlling and ambitious chief operating officer of her entertainment empire. The first season had him often clashing with Vance while navigating a relationship with Wilson (Johnny Sibilly), a sexy water inspector. Hopkins embodies Marcus' exacting and remote manner that is challenged when romance enters his life. Whether he can balance career and boyfriend is one of the themes of season two, currently airing on HBO Max.

Clemons-Hopkins is also out in real life, having come out as queer and identifying as he/him. But he isn't the only out actor on the show: Sibilly is gay; Einbinder is bisexual; the hilarious Megan Stalter (who plays an airhead assistant to a powerful Hollywood agent) is also bisexual; and Poppy Liu (as a Vegas blackjack dealer) identifies as queer.

And then there's Mark Indelicato, who plays Damien, Smart's personal assistant. The 27-year-old came to fame as teenage Justin Suarez, the fashion-obsessed nephew of America Ferrera's title character in the ABC comedy†"Ugly Betty" during the series four seasons beginning in 2006. It was during the final season that Indelicato told a co-star that he was gay, telling them not to tell anyone. Then on the last day of shooting, his mother asked him if was gay because she was tired of waiting for him to come out. After he confirmed her suspicions, she asked him what he wanted for dinner.

EDGE caught up with Clemons-Hopkins and Indelicato for a conversation about working with Jean Smart, being part of LGBTQ representation on television, and when Marcus is going to loosen up.

Carl Clemon-Hopkins on "Hacks"
Carl Clemon-Hopkins on "Hacks"  (Source: IMDb)

EDGE: What is it like working with Jean Smart?

Mark Indelicato: It is absolutely treacherous. This is a question we both love answering because I just want to scream from the rooftops about how incredible it is to work with her. Not only is she a fantastic actress, but she is an amazing teacher. Just getting the opportunity to watch her become Deborah is like watching magic happen. She makes us all want to be better actors.

Carl Clemons-Hopkins: Horrible! She is also extremely funny. She is down to clown.

EDGE: Were you surprised at the success of "Hacks?"

Carl Clemons-Hopkins: It is always surprising when it does happen. I knew from the start that we were making something that was going to be special. It's different from anything that I have seen or been a part of. What I did not expect was that out of the legions of television shows that it would stand out in the way that it has. That was a welcome surprise for me.

Mark Indelicato: As actors, you are always reading a million scripts and going on as many auditions that you can and most of it is really bad stuff. As soon as I read the pilot for "Hacks," I knew that I needed to be on this show. When you read so much junk and then you read something that is so masterfully written it is a breath of fresh air and you have to be a part of it at any cost.

Carl Clemon-Hopkins and Johnny Sibilly on "Hacks"
Carl Clemon-Hopkins and Johnny Sibilly on "Hacks"  (Source: IMDb)

EDGE: Carl, are we going to see Marcus loosen up a bit in this season?

Carl Clemons-Hopkins: Yes, in one way, but not the best. In other ways, better. What I do enjoy about this season is that we get a bit more understanding into his mind and his psychology. He is starting to realize that he has that uptight quality, and that it has such a strong hold over him. He is definitely on an interesting path to loosening up. It is one that a lot of us have experienced in our own lives.

EDGE: Mark, how are you and Damien the same?

Mark Indelicato: I definitely see some similarities between the two of us. We can be quietly cutting sometimes. We both have a pretty good work ethic. I do wear better clothes than Damien.

EDGE: Carl if you were playing Damien what would you different than Mark?

Mark Indelicato: I love this question. It's so shady. What would you do?

Carl Clemons-Hopkins: I don't know how to play Damien. I am not sure what I would do. I love Damien. He is one of my favorite characters in the show. We have all seen "gay" assistant. What Mark does so beautifully is bring so much of himself to Damien. I love how he captures the intellectual process around the decision making Damien makes, no matter how small his decisions are. I don't think I would do anything different. I would just try and take the same amount of attention to detail and make it my own.

EDGE: Mark, same question for you. How would you play Marcus?

Mark Indelicato: It's so difficult to answer this question, and it's not even that I am not wanting to have some fun shade. We are shady with each other all the time. What is so crazy about this show is that these characters are so well-written. We were all selected for a very specific reason. Our essences make these characters, and I feel like we are so entwined with our own characters that it just wouldn't work playing someone else.

EDGE: How do you continue to be a force for LGBTQ representation on television?

Mark Indelicato: By existing and being authentically oneself. You must live your truth. It works, and it is powerful.

Carl Clemons-Hopkins: As long as I am my truth and I live it honestly.