Danger. That’s the crucial asset for a star. During Season 1 of Emmy-nominated Comedy Series “The Bear” (2022–present, FX/Hulu), Brooklyn-born Jeremy Allen White, now 32, broke into major stardom, even though he had toiled away for ten years in indie films and as Lip Gallagher on “Shameless” (Showtime, 2011–2021).
Stardom can hit fast. All it takes is a career-defining role: Paul Mescal and Timothée Chalamet won over audiences as sensitive lovers in “Normal People” and “Call Me By Your Name,” respectively, while Florence Pugh made her name as a heartless villainess in “Lady Macbeth.” Soon casting directors were putting them up for multiple roles in top-tier quality fare.
That’s already happening to White, who has several films hitting the festival circuit. That’s because White’s layered performance in “The Bear” as the volatile, troubled, mysterious, jittery, perfectionist, and lauded chef Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto, who returns to his hometown of Chicago in order to reboot his deceased brother’s struggling sandwich shop, not only lured viewers but scared them. They never knew what to expect: he moves from a heartfelt monologue on his late brother’s addiction at an AA meeting, to screaming at his co-workers amid the chaos in their grubby kitchen. The intensity of those scenes is electric. We can’t take our eyes off him.
When showrunner Christopher Storer and casting director Jeanie Bacharach offered White the role of the award-winning chef wrestling with family demons as well as his own inadequacies as a leader, they weren’t sure he would take it. “Jeremy was part of that initial group,” Bacharach told IndieWire. “But we all went into it thinking he’d be incredible but he’s probably not going to want to go to another series. He’s just finishing a long run, it’s Chicago, maybe too many similarities.”
Nonetheless White agreed to take the role, partly because he would have hated to watch someone else play it. White trained to play award-winning chef Carmy by studying at the Institute of Culinary Education (along with co-star Ayo Edebiri), and staged with chef Dave Beran at the Michelin-starred Pasjoli. To get into the Italian family vibe, White cooked all the recipes in the Frankies Spuntino cookbook at home.
With “The Bear,” suddenly a new audience was responding to him in a different way. White was not only a great actor able to carry the lead in a series that was the talk of Hollywood, but to many, he was a hunky sex object. He was that guy that men and women agreed at dinner parties was “hot.” His piercing blue eyes, often shot in close-up on the show, haven’t been seen since the likes of Paul Newman — an actor White admires.
You can’t take a bad picture of this guy. Trained as a dancer, the graduate of the Professional Performing Arts School in New York boasts the sculpted profile and physique of a Greek god. Adonis anyone?
So far White has been landing recognition at awards show precursors to the Emmys, which will finally air, due to the strikes, in January 2024. He was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series and won a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and a Critics’ Choice Television Award. And thus he is tapped to win the Comedy Actor Emmy, too. (The fact that Season 2 has already aired to enthusiastic response, for Emmy consideration next year, can’t hurt.)
Next up: Christos Nikou’s fall festival entry “Fingernails” (Apple TV+), produced by Cate Blanchett, and Sean Durkin’s “The Iron Claw” (December, A24), about the Von Erich wrestling dynasty. That late-year release date suggests that A24 may harbor awards hopes. Never underestimate the distributor of “Everything Everywhere All At Once.”