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Jean Smart has the Emmy golden touch, nominated for both ‘Mare of Easttown,’ ‘Hacks’

Jean Smart stands wearing a sequined outfit with three makeup and hair artists around her in a scene from "Hacks."
Jean Smart in “Hacks” on HBO Max.
(Jake Giles Netter / HBO Max)

There were a couple of Smart contenders among the list of 2021 Emmy nominees.

The talents of Jean Smart have been celebrated before with Emmy nominations and wins throughout her long career. But her stellar performances this year in two back-to-back hits, “Mare of Easttown” and “Hacks,” have helped the 69-year-old actress earn her first Emmy nominations double.

Smart’s portrayal of fading Las Vegas comedy legend Deborah Vance, who reluctantly hires a disgraced twentysomething comedian (played by Hannah Einbinder) to punch up her stale material in HBO’s “Hacks,” landed her a spot in the category for lead actress in a comedy. Smart’s performance, buoyed by razor-sharp comedic delivery and moments of endearing vulnerability, charmed critics, including our own Robert Lloyd: “Even when she is playing someone hard-edged, on edge or energetic, there is a languorous quality to Smart’s work; she leaves a viewer feeling good, even when her character might be bad.”

And before that, Smart’s layered performance in HBO’s grim crime drama, “Mare of Easttown,” in which she skillfully toggled between morose and humorous as the live-in mother of a fictional small town’s jaded detective (Kate Winslet) investigating the murder of a teenage girl, scored Smart placement in the supporting actress in a limited series category.

In its eighth episode, “Hacks” memorably addresses the comedy scene’s #MeToo moment. The series’ co-creators explain how it came together.

Smart’s Emmy haul continues an illustrious second act on TV, following a string of recent memorable performances in “Fargo,” “Legion” and “Watchmen.”

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Known for playing kind-hearted Charlene Frazier in the ’80s sitcom “Designing Women,” Smart has delivered a wide range of roles in the years since — regularly garnering the attention of the TV Academy. She first won back-to-back Emmys for guest actress in a comedy series in 2000 and 2001 for her turn as Lana “Legs” Lynley on “Frasier.” She took home her third Emmy in 2008 for supporting actress in a comedy for her performance in the short-lived ABC sitcom “Samantha Who?” She’s also received nominations for her roles in “24,” “The District,” “Harry’s Law,” “Fargo” and “Watchmen.”


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