interview by JANA LETONJA

Actor Carl Clemons-Hopkins is best known for their role in the Max comedy-drama series ‘Hacks’, which just returned for its third season on 2nd May.

Carl, how has ‘Hacks’ changed your life?
‘Hacks’ has changed my life in many ways, but primarily it has given me access to and a higher sense of respect for all it takes to make a television show. This process has had so many hurdles and challenges in its way and we have been able to clear them so beautifully and deliver such a brilliant piece of work. I am grateful to be both a participant and witness to this achievement.

What can the fans expect from the upcoming episodes of Season 3?
In Season 3, fans can expect to get deeper insight into the characters that make up this ensemble, as well as some creative points of view around difficult social and cultural conversations. This season is truly a celebration of comedy, but it also challenges and elevates the role and responsibility of comedy in a unique way. 

What is your favourite storyline of your character Marcus in this new season?
My favourite storyline for Marcus in this season is the exploration of boundaries. This has been a struggle for Marcus up until this point, the crux of his work and life imbalance, and the prioritisation of Deborah’s life and well-being over his own. In this season, while progress has definitely been made, Marcus is forced to make some very real decisions about how he wants to continue in his growth journey, and a lot of that depends on how well he is able to define and uphold his own boundaries.

Since starting to work on ‘Hacks’, what have you always loved most about the series and your character?
What I have loved most about this series is the balance of different types of personalities in this comedic setting. And with Marcus, it has been a joy to be the ‘straight man’ amidst such a lively bunch of characters. There have been many scenes where I am barely holding it together because of the seriously funny people I’m surrounded by. No matter how difficult the day may be, it’s always a joy to know that I will be laughing, or most decidedly trying not to laugh, my way through it.

The series has received critical acclaim and won Emmy and Golden Globe awards. What contributed to this success of the series in your opinion?
The critical success of this show is a blessing and all of its accolades are a reflection of the amount of work from extremely talented individuals that goes into making this show. Additionally, we have the good fortune of being the right show in the right time when people are in very serious need of comedy. The gift of laughter is so very important right now and there is a real dedication from everyone involved to make sure that we are giving audiences our best.

You yourself received an Emmy nomination back in 2021, making you the first non-binary actor to be nominated in the 73-year history of Emmy award ceremony. How did this accomplishment feel and what did and still does represent in the industry?
Receiving an Emmy nomination in 2021 was such a surprise gift. And my hope as a non-binary, genderqueer individual is that my presence marks the beginning of the end of our society leaning on constructs and divisions that are not only detrimental to humanity, but do not serve the advancement of art. 

Life is not-binary. The binary separation of people is not inclusive of all humans. And while trophies for television are hardly the barometer for global progress, anything that can break us free from the chains of western classification, the foundation of white supremacy and oppression is a step forward. I am proud to be part of that step forward and my prayer is that these steps continue so we as a society can make some real progress in our lifetime.

How do you also deal with all hardships for the LGBTQ community in the country?
There are many, they are tragic and unspeakably unjust. And I’ve been black this entire time. I do not divorce my adjectives, because it is physically impossible. I am a black and queer individual who was born into a country that has always and continues to disrespect both. But, to give an answer, I deal with the hardships facing me and my communities one moment at a time. Finding joy is essential. Maintaining my peace when I can is my medicine. Cultivating strength and support within my communities is a helpful reminder that I am never alone. Additionally, I fight back whenever possible. A victim mentality is of no service to me and I operate with the mindset that we are already victorious, even when it doesn’t feel like it. 

Furthermore, I challenge you and everyone to start asking this questions also to white folk. How are they dealing with their problem of racism? How are straight people dealing with their oppression of queer folk? This is not a problem of our making, nor are we responsible for finding the solution. 

Besides acting, what are some of your other biggest passions in life?
Outside of acting, one of my biggest passions is music. Specifically jazz, soul and R&B bands. I love hearing instrumentalists making music together. I’m also a bit of a nerd around certain eras of music, 70s and 80s R&B specifically. And gospel. Also, Beyoncé forever.

What can you tell us about your upcoming projects that you’re currently working on?
Sadly, I can’t tell you anything about upcoming projects, but I can say that I am excited to continue exploring the world of comedy and focusing on projects that excite my spirit.

all photography by LINDSEY BYRNES