July 23rd, 2024

Matty Matheson on ‘wild’ ride from actor to screenwriter for season 3 of ‘The Bear’

By Alex Nino Gheciu, The Canadian Press on June 26, 2024.

Ricky Staffieri, left to right, Jeremy Allen White and Matty Matheson are shown in this handout image courtesy of FX in season 3 of Disney Plus' "The Bear." Matheson says it's been a 'wild' ride going from actor to screenwriter this season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Courtesy of FX *MANDATORY CREDIT *

When Matty Matheson was a student at Humber College’s culinary program in Toronto, one of his teachers told him a story that made a lasting impression.

The Canadian celebrity chef-turned-actor says it was top of mind as he headed into a third season of “The Bear,” where he returns as hapless-but-lovable handyman Neil Fak.

“(The teacher) told me he was, like, 30 chefs. He was a chef, but he was also the cooks he cooked beside, and it really stuck with me how the many people that you’ve worked beside, you draw from,” Matheson says on a virtual call from Los Angeles alongside co-stars Ebon Moss-Bachrach and Ricky Staffieri.

Besides starring in the Emmy-winning series, Matheson also serves as its executive producer and consultant, drawing on his years of expertise running restaurants in Toronto, from Parts & Labour to Prime Seafood Palace.

Now, his role expands to include screenwriting, as he helped pen the premiere of the Disney Plus hit dramedy, which debuts Wednesday.

“It kind of came from the idea of “˜What makes a chef?'” says Matheson, adding that he worked on the episode’s storyline with creator Chris Storer and co-showrunner Joanna Calo.

The series follows Carmy, played by Jeremy Allen White, as he returns to Chicago to run his family’s sandwich shop after the tragic death of his brother.

Last season, he transformed the restaurant into a fine dining establishment called The Bear, with the help of ambitious sous chef Sydney Adamu, played by Ayo Edebiri, and his friends and family, including Moss-Bachrach’s sardonic cousin Richard “Richie” Jerimovich.

In season 3, Carmy pushes himself and his crew even harder towards earning a Michelin star. As the team grows in size, so does the pressure.

“You work under all of these chefs over the years, and we wanted to tell the story of who made Carmy, good or bad – the life that he’s lived and how he’s gotten to where he’s gotten,” says Matheson.

Staffieri says the third season will see the characters continue to juggle professional challenges and personal dilemmas. Carmy’s sister Natalie Berzatto, played by Abby Elliott, will balance her role as the restaurant’s project manager with welcoming a baby into the world.

“This season, everyone’s stepping up while stepping into something else, whether it be Nat with new motherhood, or Matty and Ebon running the front of house while also dealing with stuff at home. There’s something to pull from all these characters that’s so real.”

“The Bear” is coming off a successful awards season that saw it tie HBO’s “Succession” for the most Emmy wins with six in January and three Golden Globes statues that same month.

While accepting the Emmy for best comedy series, Matheson and Moss-Bachrach stole the show by sharing a long, passionate onstage kiss.

“Those ceremonies are really long and Matty was up there speaking. He had some shrimp cocktail in his moustache and some crudités. I was kind of hungry, so I just went in to get a bite,” Moss-Bachrach quips while reaching over to squeeze Matheson’s cheeks.

“Look at this. How can you not kiss this face?”

“It’s tough to sit here and not (kiss him),” adds Staffieri, who plays Neil’s brother Theodore Fak.

Matheson’s co-stars sometimes josh him for being a novice to acting. Moss-Bachrach calls his acting technique “the Mathod school of acting.”

While he has plenty of experience hosting cooking shows like Vice’s “Dead Set on Life,” “The Bear” marks his first acting role.

Matheson says he was initially recruited as a producer and consultant, but Storer and Calo convinced him to appear onscreen.

“It’s not even a dream come true. I never even thought this could happen. It’s just a different path and it’s pretty wild,” he says.

Moss-Bachrach says Fak, who Matheson helped create in collaboration with the writing team, has been a “valuable ingredient” in the show.

“What he created was so unique and beautiful that they just wanted to keep him there,” he says.

Moss-Bachrach attributes the show’s breakout success to “serendipity,” saying the pandemic played a big role.

“Our lives were so separate from each other and this show is really the opposite of that, with everybody in this tiny little kitchen together on top of each other. Everyone’s breathing in the same air, sweating on each other,” he says.

“I was so starved for that kind of intimacy that I really responded to that, and I think a lot of other people might have had a similar experience.”

Matheson says “The Bear” is ultimately a love letter to the “high-intensity” world of restaurants.

“There are things that happen in restaurants constantly that you’re powerless over. Your fridge goes down, your grease trap blows up, people don’t show up for work, somebody throws a brick through your window. To pull it off every day is a miracle,” he says.

“We’re all going to work no matter what, trying to take care of other people, trying to feed people, trying to allow them to have a moment of serenity or joy or have a drink to relax, to escape. I think that’s a very honourable career.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 26, 2024.

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