‘The Bear’ Ensemble Serves a Tasty TV Treat

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Photo Source: FX

As we prepare for the 29th Screen Actors Guild Awards, Backstage is breaking down this year’s film and television ensemble nominees for your consideration.

Main Cast: Lionel Boyce, Liza Colón-Zayas, Ayo Edebiri, Abby Elliott, Edwin Lee Gibson, Corey Hendrix, Matty Matheson, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Jeremy Allen White, Chris Witaske 
Casting by: Jeanie Bacharach 
Created by: Christopher Storer 
Distributed by: FX on Hulu

For anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant—or struggled with grief—watching “The Bear” can feel both stressful and cathartic. Christopher Storer’s Hulu series has become the surprise breakout of the season, an underdog hit that wears its heart on its grease-stained sleeve. That success is certainly due to the show’s brutally honest writing, as well as its fast-paced, expressionistic directing. But most of all, it’s thanks to the work of the wildly talented ensemble, all of whom deliver performances that are so vulnerable, you may be tempted to look away and give these people some privacy. 

“Shameless” alum Jeremy Allen White stars as Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto, a Michelin-starred chef who leaves fine dining to run his brother’s Chicago sandwich shop after the latter dies by suicide. White is anxious energy personified in the role: running his fingers through his messy hair, pacing the kitchen and slicing vegetables with carefully controlled violence, working himself to exhaustion to stave off despair. White inhabits Carmy body and soul; he’s a white-hot meteor of a man with a crack running all the way through. It’s hard to decide whether you want to shove him into a wall or wrap him in a hug.

The BearCredit: Matt Dinerstein/FX

But if you’ve ever spent time in the back of a restaurant, you know that it takes a whole brigade (de cuisine) to keep the machine running—and the same is true of “The Bear” itself. Ayo Edebiri (who, in addition to acting, has written for the likes of “Dickinson” and “What We Do in the Shadows”) is the water to Carmy’s fire as Sydney Adamu, a talented chef who becomes his second in command. With her fine-dining background, she has to fight tooth and nail to earn the respect of the Original Beef lifers. Edebiri masterfully evokes the ways society all too easily dismisses ambitious young women: Sydney must both act demure and throw her weight around in order to gain the respect of the men who work under her.

On the opposite side of the spectrum is Richie Jerimovich, Carmy’s hot-tempered cousin who opposes any small change to the restaurant. As portrayed by Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Richie is the kind of guy you love to hate—and hate to love. He’s hilarious when he’s manhandling a giant, inflatable hot dog, terrifying when he’s blowing up at his coworkers, and heartbreaking when he lets his raw grief shine through the hard shell of his anger.

Rounding out Carmy’s Original Beef family—as well as his actual family—are Tina, played by Liza Colón-Zayas with a brittle rage that barely disguises a profound kindness; Marcus, whom newcomer Lionel Boyce infuses with gentle determination as patiently as his character fills doughnuts with berry cream; and others played by Edwin Lee Gibson, Matty Matheson, Corey Hendrix, Abby Elliott, and Chris Witaske, who each bring their own unique tang to the show’s dish. A few bigger names—Joel McHale, Oliver Platt, Jon Bernthal—make memorable cameos without overwhelming the flavor profile; it’s the stalwarts that keep this kitchen running.

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