Actor says ‘The Bear’ is in touch with the public

NEW YORK – FX’s new series “The Bear,” airing on Hulu, didn’t qualify for an Emmy nomination this year, but if its immediate success and popularity are any indicator, it could be a major contender this year next. FX has already announced its season two pickup.

Jeremy Allen White (“Shameless”) stars as Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto, a James Beard Award-winning chef who has worked in some of the world’s top restaurants. He returns home to Chicago to run his family’s dive sandwich, called The Beef, after his older brother Mikey commits suicide.

Viewers meet Carmy a few months after her brother’s death and are immediately confronted with the chaos and mess of the affairs and state of this kitchen – it’s a disorganized, struggling and dirty mess. Mikey was behind on supplier payments, could barely make payroll and now it’s Carmy’s problem. Carmy wants to classify The Beef, with menu changes and proper cooking protocol, much to the dismay of her employees. The show moves extremely quickly with natural dialogue that feels improvised. It’s not. The cast is just as good.

White often spoke with the show’s creator, Christopher Storer, about what they wanted viewers to feel while watching. “He connects with people in the exact way we hoped,” White said. “That’s the goal of any kind of art, but it’s rare when it happens.”

When he read the script, White said “my heart broke for Carmy” because the character has no life outside of the kitchen. “His identity is so tied to being a successful chef. The stakes seem so high for him all the time. If he fails, I believe Carmy feels like he’s going to die. That’s up to how high the stakes are in his head all the time. And I think that’s such an exciting thing for an actor to do, because you’re not allowed a casual moment.

White tells The Associated Press that he learned how to cook for the role, what he’s imagining for the second season, and what he learned working with William H. Macy on “Shameless.”

What would you like to see happen in Season 2?

Chris and I discussed some ideas extensively. We want to get into fine dining a bit more and Carmy opens more of his dream restaurant and then let’s say Carmy finds success, is that going to make him happy? Will he make it or not? I think that’s also an interesting thing to play – give a character everything they thought they wanted and then see if that makes them OK.

Talk about the training you had to take on this role.

For almost a year, I worked with different chefs in different restaurants, went to cooking school, and it was really exciting to start understanding a character by studying a skill they learned. I’ve never worked so hard on a skill for a character. It was a great way to get to know Carmy through this process.

If season two explores food, do you think you need to come back for more training?

For sure. The production has a few calls to places to see if I could do a week here or there. Then I just need to keep cooking at home. I can hang out with the best chefs in the world, but if I don’t come home and cook for myself and my family, that’s where the comfort and ease comes from. It’s just repetition, I think.

Are you worried now about following chefs who may have seen the show?

I always entered the kitchens in preparation for that first apology. It’s like “I’m a tourist. I’m not good at this. Please hold my hand through this process.” And everyone was like, “Yeah, you’re an actor. You are not a boss. And so, whatever you need, we’re here to help. But I’m nervous about stepping into the kitchens now, having people who may have seen my work on the show, and being disappointed in Jeremy’s skills up close.

What was it like going from being part of “Shameless” for 11 years (playing one of William H. Macy’s many children) to being The Guy on a show?

I guess I’m The Guy but I find our show a lot like “Shameless” where it’s a really big set. And while I might be No. 1 on the call sheet, which doesn’t seem that important, it’s such a set, so it didn’t feel that different to me. That being said, when I signed on to do it, I thought of Bill Macy because Bill was our leader. He set the tone and we’ve all admired him for 11 years, not only for his acting abilities but also for the way he behaves on set and the respect he has for the rest of the cast, whether they are there for a day or 11 years, like us, and for the crew. He never complains. He’s a nice on-set presence, so I think all of us on “Shameless” were really lucky to have him as kind of a compass for what number 1 on the call sheet should look like.

Karl M. Bailey