Hacks Stars Hannah Einbinder And Megan Stalter Get Messy In Our Fall Cover Story

by Marie Lodi

One of the wittiest, grittiest, and most feminist shows on TV, Hacks catapulted its young stars, Hannah Einbinder and Megan Stalter, from standup stages to global fame. Here, the two IRL pals reveal their belief in aliens, retell their friendship’s origin story, and explain how as teens, they didn’t know whether they wanted to be cheerleaders or just kiss them

A food fight is about to commence. Not in a high school cafeteria scene in a 1980s movie, but in a beautiful French château on an unassuming street in the Koreatown neighborhood of Los Angeles. Hannah Einbinder, 28, and Megan Stalter, 32, are getting ready for the last shot of their BUST cover story photo shoot, which is inspired by Daisies, the once-banned Czechoslovakian film from 1966 about two girls who decide that since the world is “spoiled,” they’ll commit to a life of chaotic, anarchic indulgence. 

Einbinder’s stylist puts her in a white Sandy Liang dress with a ruffled hem and a satin sash that’s equal parts beauty pageant and First Communion, compelling Einbinder, who is Jewish, to joke that it’s “the first time in her life she’s ever felt Catholic.” In contrast, Stalter wears a black vintage DKNY minidress and a pair of DÔEN Mary Jane shoes. In just a few minutes, the two Hacks costars, and their designer dresses, will be covered in cake from head to toe. 


On Hacks—which has garnered Emmys, Golden Globes, and a devoted following since it debuted on the network now known as Max in 2021—Einbinder and Stalter don’t share much screen time as their characters, Ava and Kayla, respectively, are too busy dealing with their superiors. Einbinder plays Ava, a comedy writer who helps revitalize the career of standup comic diva Deborah Vance (played brilliantly by Jean Smart). Stalter is Kayla, the hilariously incompetent assistant to talent agent Jimmy LuSaque (played by series co-creator Paul W. Downs). But even without much on-screen bonding, the two women are thick as thieves, and their affection for one another is evident in real life. 

When I point out their friendship chemistry during our Zoom interview the next morning, they bring up the milk bath, another Daisies-inspired scenario from the shoot. “I think we like each other. We were together yesterday in a bathtub full of milk,” Stalter says, laughing. “There’s not many people I feel comfortable with in a milk bath, and I felt so comfortable with you.” 

 “Yeah, from the past nine milk baths that you’ve taken,” Einbinder dryly replies, “this one felt right. Same for me, same for me.”

I’m secretly wishing I was still hanging out with this duo in person as we effortlessly slip into a discussion of my favorite subjects: beauty and the supernatural. Einbinder considers skincare to be one of her hobbies and has an impressive routine consisting of many K-beauty products, while Stalter enthuses both about eyeliner and about experiencing “ghost activity.” Extraterrestrials? They’re both on board. “We cannot even fathom the vastness of the ocean on our own planet,” Einbinder declares. “You want to talk about aliens? OK, cool. They’re in there. Of course there are other worlds, duh.”

Stalter then brings up the possibility of other dimensions. “Have you ever heard the stories that are like, ‘We hiked up this big mountain and by the time we got down, it’s been two days?’” she asks. “What about that?” Total slumber-party energy. 


Contrary to what one might think, Einbinder and Stalter didn’t meet for the first time on the Hacks set. Their meet-cute happened in 2018, at a tiny improv theater in an L.A. strip mall next to a Jons Fresh Marketplace, a grocery store Einbinder describes as an “off-brand Vons, but with a J,” where they were both performing. “I remember never having seen anyone perform like her,” recalls Einbinder of Stalter. “I saw her energy as totally original, new, and authentic and I was so blown away by Her Power, capital H, capital P.” When Stalter got offstage, Einbinder says she walked up to her and said, “Wow, you were amazing up there,” re-enacting the moment in a fawning, breathy voice, which Stalter laughs at. “And she was so sweet, the way she is.” (One observation about Einbinder is that even when she’s talking about something serious or sincere, she does charmingly funny voices.) 

Stalter, who was visiting from Chicago during that time, says she was “so taken” by Einbinder. “I’m sounding dramatic, but there are certain people where you see them and you’re like, ‘What is this connection? Who is that?’ We definitely had instant chemistry.” 

Growing up, their lives couldn’t have been more different. Einbinder, born on May 21, 1995, in Los Angeles, was raised Jewish. She was also more or less destined for comedy since her mother, Laraine Newman, was part of the original Saturday Night Live cast and a founding member of legendary sketch comedy troupe the Groundlings. Her father, Chad Einbinder, is a comedy writer and director, and her brother, Spike, is also a comedian and actor who has appeared in shows like The Other Two and Los Espookys. Einbinder, who says she was “relentlessly bullied” from ages 4 to 14, recalls that when she was a teenager at Beverly Hills High School, she drove a bright green Honda Element, which her BMW-driving classmates made fun of, so she enlisted her older, already-graduated boyfriend (“red flag!”) to Plasti Dip her car matte black. “I’ve always been really sensitive and malleable,” she says. 

As a teen, Einbinder was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and prescribed Adderall, but taking the stimulant and smoking weed every day caused her to be creatively closed off. “I lost a lot of my high school years. I don’t have a lot of vivid memories,” she says. “But my school had a public access channel, and I did interviews on the news station.” Einbinder is also a Gemini, which she says gives her chameleon-like abilities. “I was friends with the athletes and the popular kids and the druggies and the bad kids,” she says. “I was like a floater, chillin’ with everybody.” However, Einbinder was also the captain of her high school cheerleading squad, which may sound surprising. But one glance at the photo she’s posted on her Instagram of this era—the sassy pose with her cheermates, hand on hip (and what look like flat-ironed bangs)—and you can see there lies a cheerleader within. 

Over 2,000 miles away, in Cleveland, OH, Stalter entered the world on September 15, 1990. The eldest of three, she was raised by a nurse mom and a tattoo artist dad. In middle school, Stalter was shy and nerdy but loved musical theater, and she ended up becoming “the queen” of her school’s drama club. “Theater kids are so corny,” she says. “For some reason, your parents are letting you have a sleepover and you’re all watching Chicago and, like, rubbing each other, but not kissing.” 

Stalter also has her own secret cheerleading past. For two years in middle school, she was a cheerleader, but the other girls were mean to her because she was shy, and they convinced a boy who wanted to ask Stalter to the school dance not to. “I worked really hard to get my back handspring, but someone had to flip me over, and I never got it because it’s scary,” says Stalter. 


Like a good friend, Einbinder offers to spot her if she ever wants to get into adult gymnastics. “We’ll get that back handspring, girl,” she says, reassuringly.

The impetus behind both Einbinder and Stalter’s cheerleading aspirations was the 2000 movie Bring It On, which starred Kirsten Dunst and Gabrielle Union. Einbinder says it changed her life, while Stalter describes it as “just so hot.” Stalter, who is bisexual, as is Einbinder, says that she was “obviously in love with all the girls in it,” though she didn’t fully realize it at the time. “I thought I wanted to be like them,” she says, “but I just wanted to kiss girls.” 

As we chat, Stalter is holding two crystals in what could be perceived to be a stereotypically L.A., Goop-esque fashion. But she’s also a self-proclaimed “God’s girl,” and got “really obsessed” with going to church in her youth. While she’s still very much into her faith, Stalter hasn’t yet found a church to attend as an adult. “I love God, but I’m also, you know, a bisexual woman,” she says. “So many gay people love God, but the church makes it feel like sometimes we’re not accepted.” 

Like other good Christian girls, Stalter was saving herself for marriage, so she was a late bloomer when it came to sex. Looking back, she realizes all the women celebs she admired were actually crushes. “I thought Cameron Diaz was so hot, but I didn’t know what I really wanted was to be kissing her” she says. When she found herself making out with her “ex-boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend,” she realized that she was more into women and nonbinary people than men, even though that particular relationship didn’t pan out.


Einbinder had early gay experiences (“post-Hebrew-school grinding”) but tucked away those urges until she was 19 or 20. This was partly because she didn’t have any teenage classmates who were out. “I always wonder what high school would have been like had I known,” she muses. In college, she and her longtime best friend came out to each other, but neither had suspected the other to be queer prior to that. “I think once I came to terms with it, I just sort of embarked on the road of bisexuality, which is a winding and confusing and frustrating and devastating and joyous—and great one,” she adds. 

Aside from being fellow “bicons” and Bring It On cheer-protégés, Stalter and Einbinder have also experienced parallel career trajectories. Before they had their own Emmy-winning TV show, both had been doing stand-up for years and were beginning to reach new levels of success. Stalter was gaining a viral following for her social media skits (though her famous “Hi gay!” video came later, in 2021). And Einbinder’s segment as the youngest comic ever to perform on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert aired just before the lockdown.

Then came Hacks, which debuted in May 2021. The series was both Einbinder and Stalter’s first foray into professional acting, which was intimidating. “I was so filled with fear, and had such an inferiority complex, and was just so panicked—afraid every day that I would get fired—so fatalistic,” admits Einbinder. But the cast and crew made them feel safe, which both she and Stalter are grateful for. 

“Once we got there, it was like, ‘Oh, just do what you’ve been doing all this time.’ I was doing comedy for so long before I got hired to do anything else. I started in 2013,” says Stalter, who knew that Hacks was “going to be special” because of its creators, Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs, and Jen Statsky. “I think if my first job was extremely toxic and scary, I would just be doing plays out of my house.”

It wasn’t a bad first gig, especially when you have comedy icon Jean Smart showing you the ropes. “Jean is the best teacher,” says Einbinder. “She leads by example and watching her on screen and off brought me so much ease. I was able to really grow into a level of confidence that I had yet to feel in my life in any way.” I mention that Harry Styles is also taken by Smart and sent her a bouquet of flowers along with a fancy salt shaker, as a reference to a particular episode. “You know, he checked into a hotel under the alias Deborah Vance,” says Einbinder. “He’s obsessed!” 


Then Stalter jumps in, adding, “He’s trying to lock it down with Jean, and I can’t blame him. He’s trying to steal our girl.”

By the end of Hacks Season Two, which aired in June of 2022, it’s evident how both Einbinder and Stalter’s characters are coming into their own in the entertainment industry, something that mirrors the experiences of their real-life counterparts. “I think both Hannah and Meg have evolved into really self-confident actresses since the show started,” Smart tells BUST via email. “They were both very popular and accomplished comedians, but I don’t think they had as much self-confidence as they do now that they have turned into scene-stealing divas,” she writes wryly. “I adore them both and the cast as a whole has become very close. In fact, those who were in town gathered at my house for the Fourth of July. It was wonderful to see everybody; we have missed working together because of the strike. Hannah and Meg constantly make everybody laugh and happen to be incredibly smart and affectionate human beings. I am eternally grateful for both of them and fully expect to see spin-offs with each of their characters as they rip off all my material.”

Filming for Hacks’ third season was halted twice this year, first when Smart underwent a heart procedure, and then for the Writers Guild of America strike (which was still happening at the time of this interview). Einbinder and Stalter say they wish they could give me details about Season Three, but they have to remain tight-lipped to appease Max (formerly HBO). What Einbinder can say is that the show “continues to top itself” as a “result of the decades-long friendship of our creators, the flow of their connection, and the way they were able to transmute their love of each other, and of comedy, into this show.” 

Stalter says she loves that the characters’ relationships continue to deepen. “Kayla and Jimmy find new ways to try to show up for each other,” she says. “And everyone’s character has some challenges this season, but it’s really funny and cool to see the way they come together.”

Meanwhile, the two are keeping busy during this hiatus from Hacks. Both regularly perform stand-up live, Einbinder is touring in September, and Stalter has had multiple films premiere this year, including Cora Bora, First Time Female Director, and Problemista.

For Stalter, there’s also love (she has a girlfriend who is “not a comedian but really, really funny”), plus spending time with her family in Ohio and her new rescue dog, Bunny. Her beloved 17-year-old dog, Izzy, passed away earlier this year, and Stalter’s mom believes that she sent Bunny to her. “It’s really sweet to think about it like that,” she says. 

For Einbinder, there’s mushrooms. Not the psychedelic kind, but mycology. She’s into identifying and foraging edible mushrooms, as well as researching the very real possibility that fungi can fight climate change. She’s also enjoying some quality solo time. Einbinder says she is currently single and “doing a lot of reflection and self-work and not looking for love.” I tell her that we’ve all been there, and you usually can get a lot done during a break. “Yeah, I’m like, ‘Let’s clean up shop,’” she says. “‘Let’s fucking sweep up the cobwebs, because shit is setting.’ I’m out of the oven. I am cooling off. It’s time to make a couple of fucking fundamental corrections before it’s time to pop me out of the loaf pan. You know what I mean?” Then she holds up a copy of Prozac Nation, which she says she’s re-reading. “A little peek into where my mental state is,” she jokes. “I’m doing really well.” 

Photos by Elisabeth Caren

PROP STYLIST: Rian Calhoun; PRODUCER: Annee Elliot


TEAM HANNAH: STYLIST: Kevin Ericson ; HAIR: Florido Basallo, MAKEUP: Molly Greenwald 

TEAM MEG: STYLIST: Kat Typaldos; HAIR: Clayton Hawkins; MAKEUP: Nina Marie Mahon


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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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