Ayo Edebiri Does Not Think ‘The Bear’ Is Sexy – The Cut

Posted By on August 4, 2022

Photo: Frazer Harrison/WireImage

If you were anywhere near a screen this summer, you may have developed a crush on a certain artfully tattooed chef who captured the hearts and loins of every straight woman with a Hulu account. While FXs The Bear introduced us to Carmy (Jeremy Allen White), a discourse-laden collection of red flags, it also introduced us to Sydney, his ambitious new sous-chef played by comedian Ayo Edebiri. The only employee readily willing to abide by Carmys new rule that everyone call each other chef as a sign of respect, Sydney comes to his newly inherited sandwich shop out of reverence for his work which quickly becomes mixed with barely contained rage at his stubborn insistence that the staff do everything his way.

Edebiri was not someone I expected to see in The Bear. Shes spent the past few years circulating the alt-comedy stand-up scene, and I first knew her as the co-host of Iconography, a podcast where she and writer Olivia Craighead used their extensive movie knowledge to examine whether various Hollywood figures were indeed iconic. She made her official entre into television as Hattie in the second season of Dickinson, and then last year, she took over the role of Big Mouths Missy, a terminally horny tween who writes fanfiction about Nathan Fillion. (Missy, who is Black and Jewish, was recast in 2020 amid backlash at the fact that she was voiced by white actor Jenny Slate.)

On paper, The Bears premise is ripe for darkly comedic moments that Edebiri could nail as a comedian, but she plays her arc mostly straight. Instead of adding levity, she fills The Bear with emotionally charged moments of genuine connection that stand out between its rapid-fire cuts of kitchen chaos. In some ways, Sydney is a stand-in for the audience, demonstrating what it would actually be like to witness this shitshow of a kitchen, and Edebiris frequent how the fuck did I end up here? face nails that feeling. But shes just as much a part of that dysfunction as an observer of it, and, like Carmy, she zigzags between being entirely insufferable and worthy of rooting for. The Cut spoke to Edebiri about prepping for the show, Boston cuisine, and having strong feelings about the new Elvis movie.

It was exciting to see you move into a more straightforward drama than Ive seen you do before. Were you looking to make that pivot when you joined the show?

I dont think intentionally there was any thought of, Im at X place in my career and I need to do Y. It was more that I really responded to the script and the writing, and thought it would be exciting and challenging. I didnt necessarily feel the challenge of, Oh, Ive never done anything serious. In comedy theres a lot of drama, and in drama theres a lot of comedy. The two meet more than the word genre might indicate.

You and your co-star, Jeremy Allen White, trained at the Institute of Culinary Education and a handful of high-end restaurant kitchens after filming the pilot. What was the hardest thing to nail?

When we first started, I was more confident and more versed than Jeremy because Ive cooked for myself. I can throw down, but on a day-to-day basis its more like, were adding peas and a little bacon to the Annies mac and cheese. Thats where I shine. In the pilot, I had to cut a cartouche really quickly, which is a circular piece of wax paper thats used to trap steam, and I wasted so much wax paper trying to get it into a perfect circle. The biggest focus [of our] training was knife skills.

I was really worried for your fingers all season long, so Im glad you had those mastered.

Yeah, one of my best friends moms was like, Tell Ayo I dont think this is safe.

Im sorry, but we do have to talk about how Jeremy Allen Whites presence in this show spawned lots of horny tweets. Not to put you on the spot, but what did you think of all that?

Hes got those blue eyes! I dont know. People on the internet are into it, Im happy for him, and its good for us. I dont think I evoke that, where just a picture of his face causes somebody to divulge a very jarring memory. Or fantasy. Its hard to say which. But hes handling it like a champ.

Theres also some debate on whether your character, Sydney, and Carmy should get together. What are your thoughts on their dynamic?

Sydney really looks up to Carmy. She comes to the restaurant for him, she wants to work for him and learn from him because she was so moved by the food he made and wants to be able to do that one day. They have a complicated relationship. Theres a lot of places where they understand each other and where they meet, especially in terms of their background and their focus. But obviously they have very different personality types and are from very different schools of thought. As an actor its really fun getting to see where those tensions meet and play with Jeremy in that way.

I dont personally think theres anything romantic there! I dont think the show is a sexual one. These people dont have very robust personal lives. Theyre devoted to their jobs. If anything happened between Sydney and Carmy, nobody would be happy. It would be disappointing and jarring and weird. I dont think people actually want that.

You are famously from Boston. What is the most Boston food?

I dont know if the city of Boston would agree, but thank you. I have a theory that Dunkin Donuts tastes better in Boston. I have nothing to base this off of besides my own emotions. Ill go to a Dunkin anywhere, but when people say, Eh, Dunkin is okay, Im, like, You just gotta go to Boston. Let me show you how good it is. In my heart of hearts, the America that I love still runs on Dunkin. Boston also has really good Jamaican and Vietnamese food.

I know from your former podcast, Iconography, that you have a wealth of movie knowledge. Anything youve seen recently that you havent been able to get out of your head?

I think Austin Butler should win an Oscar for Elvis. You dont have to see it, all you need to know is Im correct. Its one of the craziest movies Ive ever seen and one of the most transcendent performances thats ever been captured on film. He really gave it his all. I wanted to listen to Hard Rock Caf or whatever I dont know a single Elvis song. But he did the damn thing. I dont need to read any critical piece on Elvis because Ive done all the thinking that needs to be done. I dont know the man, and I have nothing to gain. He is just very good in Elvis.

Duly noted!

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Ayo Edebiri Does Not Think 'The Bear' Is Sexy - The Cut

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