Burns, grazing knives and sliced nails.
Jeremy Allen White’s minor injuries, sustained while training for his role as a young celebrity chef in The Bear (which begins airing on Disney+ on August 31), provided a sense of satisfaction.
White, 31, follows an 11-season run as Phillip “Lip” Gallagher on the US version of Shameless.
Chefs “take a lot of pride in their battle scars and these different burns and cuts they can get,” he says. “So it felt good. I felt like I was on track if I was hurting, in a way, which is weird to say. Early on, obviously with the knife work, I’m shaving a little bit of skin here and there, but nothing too bad .”
Bear focuses on the life and times of Carmy Berzatto.
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The eight-episode debut season of The Bear, created by Christopher Storer, centers on White’s Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto, a culinary artist and the James Beard Foundation’s choice for Rising Chef of the Year. After his brother’s death by suicide, Carmy trades fine dining for fast casual at his family’s Italian sandwich place, The Original Beef of Chicagoland.
But organizing the kitchen is a challenge with an erratic staff, led by a defiant manager, “Cousin” Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach). Carmy is assisted by his right-hand man Sydney Adamu (Ayo Edebiri). Seeing her brother at the restaurant is hard for his older sister, Natalie “Sugar” Berzatto (Abby Elliott), to accept.
White says the series lends itself to the fate of a drama.
“It’s certainly funny at times,” he says. “We’re trying to make it like real life. Sad things can be funny. Funny things can make you sad, and there are all those moments in it.”
Before signing on for the role, White’s “interest level in cooking was almost non-existent,” he says.
He completed a two-week “crash course” at the Culinary Education Institute in Pasadena, California, and worked at two restaurants in Los Angeles and with chef David Waltuck. Now, White says his knife skills are “very good” and he has a dozen dishes he’s “very comfortable” with, including filet au poivre and short ribs. “That Sunday roast comfort food, that’s what I like to cook the most.”
Before working on The Original Beef alongside amateur chefs, Carmy was employed at a high-end New York restaurant where a condescending chef, played by Joel McHale, verbally tore his staff to shreds.
Carmy tells his sister in the second episode that he started having trouble breathing while in New York. “I did blood work every day before work,” he says.
The culinary world where “chefs have become pop icons” drew White to the role of Carmy, whom he finds a charming character.
“My heart breaks for him,” says White. “You’re meeting him at this incredibly traumatic time in his life, and he’s also a young man whose identity is so wrapped up in being a chef and being successful, where everything really seems so life and death all the time.”
White felt he could easily tap into the all-or-nothing feeling, as someone who once felt his acting career had the same stakes.
“I’m a little older now, my life is a little more full, but certainly as a younger man and a younger actor, my identity was very much wrapped up in my acting and my performance and my success as an actor,” he says. “And that’s a really scary place to be when you’re so wrapped up in one thing as a person.”
White is married to actress Addison Timlin, and the couple has two young daughters: Ezer, 3, and Dolores, 1.
“I was a lot harder on myself when I was younger,” says White, who has spent most of his adult life in a role interspersed with indie films and guest spots. When he was cast in Shameless at 18 and moved to Los Angeles from Brooklyn. “I really expected the world to come to me faster and I really expected to get all the jobs I wanted. I was treating this whole thing and my career as a sprint and not a marathon. Today I aim more for longevity. At the time, I really wanted as much success as I could get, as quickly as I could get it.”
The staying power of Shameless, a drama centered on a large, dysfunctional family headed by eldest child Fiona Gallagher (Emmy Rossum) and their alcoholic and manipulative father Frank (William H. Macy), surprised White.
“In the beginning, like any show, we knew we had a good time and we knew it was something special, but you really never know what’s going to happen,” he says. “In those early seasons, we were waiting for a take every year. We never really knew.”
White says she felt a difference when the show arrived on Netflix, expanding its audience.
“There was a little bit more comfort in knowing how long we were going to do it, but I don’t think you ever start a show and think you’re going to last this long and I don’t think it ever will. for me again. I love it The Bear and I want to do it for a long time. But 11 seasons in, it just doesn’t really happen anymore.”
The Bear premieres on Disney+ on the evening of August 31.