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‘You find laughter in grief’: A conversation with the cast of ‘The Bear’ Season 3

Jason Tan Liwag

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‘You find laughter in grief’: A conversation with the cast of ‘The Bear’ Season 3

THE BEAR. Jeremy Allen White and Ayo Edebiri lead the cast for the show's third season.


Ahead of its season three premiere, the cast of ‘The Bear’ talk about the show’s success and the boundaries that might be crossed in its latest season

Equal parts kitchen nightmare turned dark comedy turned familial drama, The Bear is in a rare class of its own that manages to juggle both tears and chuckles, letting people know what happens behind restaurant doors while also unpacking generational traumas.

Few shows have captured the attention of the zeitgeist as quickly, smoothly, and consistently as FX’s The Bear. It’s not difficult to understand why. 

In the two years since its release, the show has launched its cast and creative team into international stardom. During a press conference on June 24, the ensemble of actors—including Ricky Staffieri, Matty Matheson, Liza Colón-Zayas, Lionel Boyce, Abby Elliot, Ayo Edebiri, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, and Jeremy Allen White—opened up about the new season, especially as the third season of the show arrives hot off its multiple wins at this year’s Emmys and is propped up to be one of the most anticipated television returns of the year.

“I don’t think I’d worked between Season 2 and Season 3. And we’d just kind of come off the success of awards season and stuff, and so yeah, I was very anxious,” says White, who stars as the troubled chef Carmy.

“I knew the scripts were so strong, and we have great opportunities, like we always do. But yeah, the pressure is very real. But then, I don’t know, after a couple weeks of kind of getting back around these guys and our beautiful crew, I don’t know, everything kind of falls back into place. And it feels fun again, and it all feels possible again.“

The new season of The Bear involves several elevations, especially as the homegrown beef joint finally opens to the public as a high-end restaurant and is under pressure to return profits lest they foreclose. Matheson, who serves as the show’s executive producer and as handyman turned server Neil Fak, attributes much of the menu development to producer Courtney Storer.

“I work with her and her team on the ideation stuff of what Carmy and Syd would be thinking about, how to execute those types of dishes and create those types of menus, who they are, and how they would present themselves through a culinary lens,” says Matheson, hinting at new dishes and desserts that reflect the characters’ evolving ambitions and skill sets. “Overall, I think it’s just trying to make beautiful and thoughtful food and pushing the envelope.”

Matheson, also a restauranteur, had served as a minor character in the first season but consistently earned more screen time, giving the audience some of the show’s funniest moments. This season, he also writes the script for “Tomorrow,” the first episode of the third season, which centers around the chefs that influenced Carmy for better or worse.

“In culinary school, I had this chef that told us this story about how 30 chefs made who he was,” says Matheson. “And so, I think picking up these little skills along the way—and you never stop learning—is who you are made of, you know? The people around you. And we kind of wanted to tell a story of what and how Carmy was kind of built in that way.”

More and more, The Bear has become a love letter to Chicago’s culinary scene. Throughout the filming process, cast members would expand their palettes by visiting food places together, briefly mentioning the bakery and modern Filipino restaurant Kasama, and giving big recommendations for places like Duck Duck Goat, Viaggio, Birrieria Zaragoza, Margie’s Candies, Gene & Jude’s, and Doma. “Chris loves Chicago very much, and we’ve all fallen in love with it dearly,” says Matheson. “And I think showing and shining light on a lot of amazing things about Chicago in a positive way are definitely things that we love doing.”

Others see it as a way to honor how the community has sustained and influenced the project. “I think especially because so many restaurants and people who work there have been so beneficial to our show and to helping us make it,” says Edebiri, who plays the anxious yet ambitious cook Sydney. “Be that actual chefs coming in from amazing spots in Chicago and helping us and teaching us, or letting them use their locations, it’s a very… I don’t know, it’s a beautiful relationship we’re all very grateful for.”

Beyond just being called “chef” or “cousin” on the street, The Bear has even changed the way the cast eats at restaurants. Apart from enjoying the occasional complimentary appetizer from the restaurants, knowledge of the process has made them more cognizant of the dine-in experience. “I definitely am [more stressed knowing what’s going on behind the pass],” says Abby Elliot, who plays Natalie, Carmy’s sister, who is reeling from her brother’s death and her upcoming pregnancy. “I have two little kids, and now when I go to restaurants, I’m constantly thinking about cleaning up after them. And if they drop anything on the floor, it’s kind of a stressful thing because you just know how hard restaurant workers work.”

Matheson is not the only cast member to become more involved behind the scenes. Edebiri steps up as a director of the show’s sixth episode, “Napkins,” which puts a spotlight on actress Liza Colón-Zayas’ character Tina, with whom Edebiri’s character grows to have a beautiful friendship. Edebiri chose to direct this episode after a back-and-forth with showrunner Christopher Storer. “We had a conversation, and he was like, ‘Which scripts are you responding to? ’ And I was like, ‘I would literally give you my firstborn child, who does not exist yet, if I could do the Liza episode, because I would love to work with Liza in that way.’ And then, he was like, ‘Well, we have nice little parallel thinking.’ So, yeah.”

A significant source of fan attention in the last year has been whether Carmy and Sydney’s relationship will progress from a professional one to a romantic one. When asked about this, Edebiri and White quickly shot the idea down. “No, there is no talk in the room about any romantic implications,” says White as Edebiri laughs. 

However, the new season’s hint at a partnership agreement could mean a blurring of boundaries, especially for Edebiri’s Sydney, who might need to strike Carmy off the pedestal she’s put him on in favor of the efficiency of being equals. “It’s, I think, a lot more chaotic than she might have idealized before they really started working together.”

But for White’s Carmy, the challenge of the new season centers around unlearning destructive patterns that used to work but now don’t. “He’s not the best communicator, but he will often make a sort of grand gesture like that to try and communicate with Syd, the kitchen, or whomever. And I think that’s his way of kind of reaching out,” says White. “I think Carmen’s trying to welcome her in a little bit was the point of the partnership agreement.”

Despite developments outside of production, characters within the show still wrestle with the same demons. At the end of season two, Carmy is trapped in the walk-in freezer, which he’s procrastinated fixing all season. Locked out of his restaurant’s success, the comfort of the team he’s built up, and unable to use work as a distraction from his thoughts, he spirals, sabotaging his relationship with the kitchen staff and with his girlfriend Claire. “I do get out of the walk-in refrigerator, and that’s good,” says White. “[But] I think Carmy does what he does, which is he sort of buries himself back into his work and really tries to challenge himself, and in doing so, he really challenges everybody around him, which I think becomes quite challenging to be around as well.”

Grief continues to be the spine of the work, and its slow and painful absolution through manual labor is key to the show’s appeal, even after the pandemic. “It’s one of the strengths of the show and one of the reasons it’s connected with so many people,” says Moss-Bachrach. “Grief is the river that runs through all of us and maybe one of the only common things we all share in the human experience. Everyone deals with it in their own way. Or not.”

Despite these pressures and the darkness of the material’s subject, the cast insists that levity is key to its success on and offscreen, allowing its actors to shake off any of the heaviness and intensity of the four-month shoot that could easily be internalized and taken home. “It’s almost impossible at times to take that stuff home, but the set is such a joyful place,” says White. “Everybody cares for each other so much. Everybody laughs so frequently that even if you have to go to sort of a dark place in the morning, two hours later you’ll be hanging out and watching a scene and really laughing and enjoying the company.”

“You find laughter in grief. And I think that this show deals with—like, has all of that; it sort of overflows with all of these kinds of spectrums of behavior. And it also doesn’t behoove us to sort of live in that kind of heaviness, because it’s a very intense shoot,” says Moss-Bachrach, who insists that the friendships between the cast and crew have allowed the show to reach new heights this season.

“For me, the workplace feels very safe and warm. And when you feel supported that way and taken care of, I feel entitled to dig deeper, share more personal things, and take risks. And I think it creates a far more dynamic story to tell,” says Moss-Bachrach. “I probably speak for everyone up here and probably for a lot of our crew; everyone has agency, I think, on our set. Everyone feels entitled to say how they feel, to collaborate, and to contribute. And it makes for, yeah, a really exciting place to make a TV show.” –


The new season of FX’s ‘The Bear’ is now available on Hulu.

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Jason Tan Liwag

Jason Tan Liwag is an openly gay scientist, actor, and writer. As a film critic, he is an alumnus of the IFFR Young Critics Programme 2021, the FEFF Film Campus 2021, the Yamagata Film Criticism Workshop 2021, and the CINELAB Workshop 2020 and has served as a jury member for film festivals locally and internationally.