When “The Bear” made its first casting call for season two, casting director Jeanie Bacherach’s phone blew up.
The role was Claire (Molly Gordon), an old crush from Carmy’s (Jeremy Allan White) past who reappears and eventually becomes his girlfriend – but all everyone in town knew was that “The Bear” was casting.
“I honestly don’t think my phone or emails have ever exploded like that — for what it was a recurring role!” Bacherach told IndieWire. “People didn’t even know it was a potential love interest, we kept it quiet. He was just someone new to “The Bear,” and I mean, agents and managers and actors were losing their minds. It’s such a lucky and lucky place to be able to work from.
Bacherach didn’t care one bit; the active interest of other members of the industry makes her job easier. The role of her went to Gordon after a long search, but series creator Christopher Storer had an eye on her from the beginning. While Storer, Bacherach, and executive producer Joanna Calo continued work on season 2, other notable roles included Carmy’s mother Donna (Jamie Lee Curtis), Uncle Lee (Bob Odenkirk), and everyone else in the cataclysmic family dinner. ‘episode 6.
Everything from personal connections to Chicago ties have been factored in — and it always helps when an Oscar winner is a huge fan. Below, Bacherach talks about the challenges and joys of casting “The Bear” season 2 and his working relationship with the showrunners.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
IndieWire: How has your job changed between Seasons 1 and 2?
Jeanie Bacherach: I would say the difference this season was that we had our established cast, so we were adding that — to use the food reference, adding the additional spice to the season. It’s great when you already have your main cast because you know what you’re working on and it can help you compose a little bit easier because you know the characters and the qualities and all those things that the actors are bringing. So how do you complement or contrast that with the new people you’re adding? But the great thing[is]both seasons, Chris and Joanna had scripts, we had almost all the scripts at the start and that makes casting so much easier because they have a general sense of the character arcs; I get that, it helps me when I’m talking to agents or actors, it’s enormously helpful, and that’s not usually the case with a series.
Was Jeremy your discovery?
I can’t say it was a discovery because he was in “Shameless,” but before the show got picked up for the pilot I got on board with Chris, Joanna and other producers to put together almost like a book of looks, a tone to get over the line of FX to keep them going. It was about helping them see what this ensemble could be and who these characters were, so we put together sort of five ideas for each of the roles with pictures, actor résumés, and character descriptions. Jeremy was part of that initial group, but we all went into it thinking he was going to be incredible but he probably wouldn’t want to go on another series, he’s just finishing a long run, it’s Chicago, maybe too many similarities. So we kept talking about people with Jeremy always being the little angel right on your shoulder, because we didn’t want to fall in love with Jeremy too soon because we weren’t sure if he was going to work. There were other people who were talked about and explored, but Jeremy was the one. I can’t imagine otherwise.
Watching the Carmy specific fixation online was really, really…
Wild. Well, it’s funny because… I’ve been doing this for a long time, and you go back with your plans and you go, “Dude, we were talking about this person,” and you can’t even imagine that with that other person. It seems that everything lines up when it works. You’re like, “Yeah, that was absolutely the right thing.”
Molly is incredible in that role, she has such a magnetism. Tell me more about casting specifically for her.
Chris’ story has been around for years because they were originally trying to make it into a movie, so Molly was someone they (he and Calo) had in mind very early on. We wanted to explore, we wanted to see people, but she was kind of a bar. Is there anyone who could potentially match or go beyond what we thought Molly could bring? There were many qualities: to believe her as a doctor, to believe her especially in this Chicago neighborhood and in Carmy’s world. She had to empathize and also be able to give Carmy a bit of a run for it. You had to believe he kept this flashlight for her. We wanted someone approachable, attractive, but we didn’t want to pull you out of the show. In terms of recognition factors, someone the audience might be familiar with, but not someone as recognizable as we have in some of the other roles this season. We’ve actually read a lot of amazing and gorgeous actresses, but we kept coming back to Molly. Chris really had such a strong sense of her that that’s how it happened. She didn’t finish reading, we ended up offering it to her. He had become so crystal clear at that point; She was.
Let’s talk about the casting of episode 6. What a task! Where did that conversation start? Was it with the script or was it before the writing?
It was a little early for the start of the season, but we worked hard. Certainly Donna we started talking about earlier. That episode was so heightened to one side, yet it has to be so believable. We’ve heard of these characters, especially Donna (Jamie Lee Curtis), a little bit of Uncle Lee (Bob Odenkirk). So it wasn’t “let’s go get a bunch of famous people,” it just fell into place that way because we just needed these characters to look this big and understand who Carmy is, why Carmy is, why Michael is (Jon Bernthal ). Jamie Lee was someone on our initial list again, but there were a lot of people we talked about and yes, she would have been amazing, but the woman is about to win an Oscar.
We scouted a few other people, but it finally came back to her, and then when we talked to her agent she’s just a huge, huge fan of the show — going back to when a show is successful. The heart of this show is really the people in these characters, and the ideas about love and family and healing and forgiveness and grief touched people so, so deeply. We scouted for a bunch of different people, but eventually we got to Jamie Lee, and then with Bob Odenkirk was somebody — Chris had been talking to somebody who was a friend to come and do that and it didn’t seem like it was working out. So I thought, “Well, what about Bob? Bob is from Chicago; for Chris, having people who really encapsulate that world has been important from the beginning. So I threw Bob’s name out and, Chris and Joanna are so clear who these people are, so when it lands I’m like, “Yeah that’s it, come on, done. It has to be.” Episode 6 is really a mix of ideas and people that Chris knows, that he might call up and say, “Hey, are you gonna come play with us?”
For that I guess you had to test people together, right?
No, nobody has read. Chris and Joanna, understanding so much about who these people are and who fits in…it’s just the feeling that people you know come to do the show for the right reasons. This wasn’t a big salary for anyone, it wasn’t about anyone’s money. It was really about wanting to be a part of this show. So I think you’re just taking a leap of faith knowing what you know about these actors and how they’re going to arrive and land in this world. Chris and Joanna were both talking about how even just the first couple days of shooting that episode, like, it was just magical, they were there to serve the piece, they were excited to be there and ready to work. It wasn’t about, “I need my moment. I need to shine. I need the scene to be about me. I think it’s just people with hearts coming to tell the story.
This might be an obvious question, but what is it that people don’t understand about your work and casting for a show like this?
Oh boy. Having a show become popular makes my job a lot easier, but at the same time you feel that pressure that I know everyone on the show felt going into season two, like, “How do we keep the quality and the heart at the heart of it How do we stay true but also expand? So I think the fact that we’ve really gotten to develop the other characters this season has been great, but you feel this pressure like, “Wow, we really need to bring that back. When you bid, run.” the risk of the chemistry working. But I think the essence of everyone involved in our show is a love and true joy for art. And the art of acting carries over into the art of cooking. The world of this show corresponds to many other worlds.
It is collaborative work. You have to find the balance between how you see things and what you want to bring to the show while also listening to and serving Chris and Joanna’s vision. I feel like we’ve gotten along from the very beginning in terms of that collaboration, of listening to each other, discussing, really thoughtful examining, and then one of us pulled the trigger of, “No, I really think this is, this is the person right.And that’s why I think as you feel really passionate This person, they don’t quite fit. So real trust and mutual respect. This is the best place you can be as a casting director, have it with the creators.
Both seasons of ‘The Bear’ are available to stream on FX via Hulu.