The Bear has very quickly become the surprise TV hit of the summer, and for good reason. Even if you don’t know quite how to pronounce “stage” like a restaurant industry vet, there’s a lot to love about the frenetic story of a fine dining chef trying to rescue his Chicagoland family sandwich shop.
But those hoping Jeremy Allen White’s Carmy is playing a slightly different version of his Shameless character were probably disappointed, at least initially. As White laid out in a very good GQ profile this week, Lip and Carmy do have some similarities. But they mostly start and end with Great Lakes geography. Which is why, after some hesitation upon reading the script, he took the gig in the first place.
If only so he wouldn’t hate whoever got it instead of him.
It’s for the best, then, that White talked himself out of any initial doubts about the role. He was winding down a 10-year gig playing Phillip “Lip” Gallagher on Showtime’s Shameless when the script for The Bear first came his way. There were some parallels: he’d be going from playing a gifted kid in a dysfunctional working class Chicago family to … a gifted kid in a dysfunctional working class Chicago family. “I think I was too concerned with what other people might think,” he says. Ultimately, the writing won him over. “I also knew that if I said no to this, that whoever ended up doing it, I would hate them forever,” he says. “So there was some spiteful stuff going on, too.”
With the show garnering rave reviews, White’s Carmy has become a meme of sorts for a certain kind of restaurant worker people are attracted to. But that also highlights another big difference between Carmy and Lip. Mainly just how romantically involved his Gallagher role was on Shameless, and the extreme absence of lust in the chef’s life. And Allen White makes it clear: Carmy does not f*ck.”
For the record, there is zero romance, let alone sex, onscreen. Zilch. “Carmy’s, like, the least sexual person. In playing him, I was aware that he had no room for love,” White says, bringing up one particular article that points out there might be some projection going on. “So I appreciated that she was aware that Carmy does not f*ck.”
Perhaps most interestingly, though, White said leaving a decade of playing Lip on television got him prepared for Carmy’s uneasiness and the tension he brought to the kitchen. White said he left Shameless with a lot of doubt, something Carmy could certainly relate to.
“I think that was something Carmy was really struggling with, too,” he continues. “We kind of found each other at a similar place. He knew he’s really gifted at this thing, but he could be painfully insecure about his abilities as well. I was feeling a little insecure at the end, too.”
The full profile is a must-read if you loved The Bear, as it also detailed how he prepared for the role and learned to cook like a pro. And there’s also plenty of optimism for another season of The Bear. After just eight episodes, it certainly left fans hungry for more.