‘The Bear’ Star Lionel Boyce on Marcus’ Eulogy Scene, Season 3 Cliffhanger and Whether Anyone on the Show Is OK

[This story contains major spoilers from season three of The Bear].

When Lionel Boyce sat for his recent profile with The Hollywood Reporter, he had just returned home to Los Angeles from Chicago, where he and the rest of The Bear cast had just wrapped filming on the third season. His memories from the set were fresh, but the restrictions — both on what he was allowed to say, and what was allowed to be written — about the plot were plentiful.

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Since that day, all 10 episodes have dropped on Hulu, and fans now know that Marcus’ mother indeed passed away during The Bear’s friends and family night; the staff at the restaurant is struggling to stay in sync; Carmy’s determination and rigidity are starting to erode his relationships and his grasp on reality; Sydney is considering a competitive job offer; and the restaurant’s entire future hinges on a review that publishes just as the finale’s end credits roll.

Below, Boyce opens up about all this and more.

First things first, the premiere party for season three featured food cooked by all sorts of famous chefs — what was the best part?

I wish I had gotten a head start and started eating before the actual screening. That was foolish of me. I think Jeremy [Allen White], Ayo [Edebiri] and Ebon [Moss-Bachrach] ducked out of the theater at the right time when it was dark but before the episode started. We’d all already seen it. But they skirted out, and I looked back and the lights came on and I was like, “OK, I’m locked in.” But Night + Market did a play on a Crunchwrap Supreme — I used to love Taco Bell growing up. [Pastry chef and The Bear consultant] Malcolm Livingston had this vegan and dairy-free ice cream, I had a strawberry-vanilla flavor that was incredible. And I did finally get to try the chocolate cake from season one. Sarah Mispagel, who made it, was there, and she had the cake.

When we spoke the first time, you mentioned that there was another episode you thought could resonate with fans in the same way that “Honeydew” did in season two. Can you tell us about it?

Yes, it’s Liza [Colón-Zayas’] big episode, the Tina standalone. I think that’s probably everyone’s favorite episode. Liza’s a great actress, and that character is beloved, and what she’s going through — that she found her way to her second life. She felt her world was ending, and there’s this sliver of hope in this dark place. We’ve all had that feeling of being at a crossroads, you’re lost, wondering what am I going to do? And then you find something unexpected.

Were you able to watch Ayo direct that episode?

I think I went home that week, so I didn’t really get to go by the set. Ayo would joke that she banned me from the set. I would have loved to watch her do that, but I also loved to watch it as a fan. Since season one, we don’t get to see The Beef in the way it was originally. In that episode, you’re seeing the glory days [of the restaurant] that Richie dreams about.

Do you think Marcus is actually OK, or just saying that he’s OK?

I think he’s OK, but he’s still in the part of grief that feels like after you hurt yourself and get up real quick, and you’re like, “Yep I can walk.” The adrenaline is still there, and you haven’t processed everything. It’s the truth and a lie at the same time. I think he’s coping. He’s going to bury himself in work, but the more I talk about it the more I realize that he is not OK in the way that he thinks he is. It’s a long journey, and over the course of the season, only a few months have gone by. The grief has layers, and it finds different ways to puncture and pierce you, and you add on new armor until you’re fully covered.

How much did you know, ahead of time, about what was going to happen with Marcus and his mom?

I just knew his mom was going to die. I figured that was going to happen even before talking to Chris [Storer]. And I had my ideas of how I thought it would affect Marcus, but I didn’t know how exactly that would show up, and I didn’t know how that grief would fold into his arc.

You’ve also talked to me about feeling sort of in awe of the way that Chris trusts you as an actor. “There are things this season that I wouldn’t trust me to do, but Chris did,” were your exact words. I imagine that when you read the script for episode three, “Doors,” you felt that.

Oh, you know it. I was like: a monologue. Alright, alright. But I think it felt reassuring. It’s like jumping off a cliff, but he believes in me. He wouldn’t have written it if he didn’t think I could do it. The writers are trying to steer the ship in a certain direction, and they want this in there, so my job is to uphold that and do my best to deliver it as close as possible to the way they want it. And we don’t do many takes. Duccio Fabbri, our First AD, directed that episode, and he had us do a couple of takes, and then when we felt like we had it, he had us play with it a couple different ways. The cool thing about this show is that we move on before your feet ever become cemented on the ground, before you ever feel in control of what you’re doing. Chris really wants everything to feel natural.

Are you a Succession fan? I wonder if you thought about where this eulogy scene would sit among this genre of similar work in recent shows.

I love Succession. That’s such a nice thing to even put my scene anywhere near that scene. I did think about [Roman’s eulogy]. [Kieran Culkin] knocked it out of the park, and you think that maybe just by proxy people are going to then think about Marcus’. But then my brain would shut off, and I would make myself stop thinking about that comparison.

As a viewer, that scene also felt like a way to get to know Marcus more — his monologue was really personal.

I think that was a cool way of showing that side of him because he never really spoke about his mom. In season two, he tells you about his journey and how he got to The Bear, but he only mentions that his mom got sick, nothing more. I think it showed that he always felt love around him and also informs that conversation between Carmy and Marcus in episode two, and the line where I say, “She wanted me to be here.” That sounds a bit cold, but I think he’s come to the conclusion that she wants to see him happy, and this is what she would dream of. This is my chosen family, so I still have family around me. I’m not alone. This is how she would want things.

God, this show is so sad sometimes. Do you feel sad when you watch it?

I watch these episodes, and I feel all the same feelings as you. I read all the scripts and feel the emotions, and then we’re on set and go through it again. You think you’ll be numb to it at some point, but you’re not. And also I’m surprised by what I see onscreen. I don’t know how it’s all going to look, there’s moments that I’m not there for. Like Abby [Elliott’s] standalone episode, I wasn’t there for any of that so when I saw it I was just like…whoa.

Carmy obsesses over his list of “non-negotiables” this season; what are yours?

I don’t ever put them into words or a list. (Laughs) But I do have things that qualify someone as a person I would or would not want to be around. I try my best to treat everyone equally — no one’s better than me; no one’s worse than me. So that’s something that I’ve always felt strongly about in others. I have a hard time with, let’s say someone who is mean to someone in the service industry. I see you for who you are. I won’t necessarily call you out, but I will keep you at arms’ length.

Lionel Boyce as Marcus, Jeremy Allen White as Carmen ‘Carmy’ Berzatto in ‘The Bear’ season three, episode nine.
Lionel Boyce as Marcus, Jeremy Allen White as Carmen ‘Carmy’ Berzatto in ‘The Bear’ season three, episode nine.

Do you think Carmy is OK?

Is anyone OK? (Laughs)

Eva — Richie and Tiffany’s little girl — seems great.

Yeah. They’re doing a good job of letting her feel the love that no one else on the show is feeling. But I think Carmy is closing himself off. He knows he’s not OK and still actively trying to fight against it. He’s running away from things. Being aware of your problems is one thing and not changing is another thing. He’s like, “It’s raining outside, but I’m not going to grab an umbrella.”

What’s your theory about Sydney’s job offer? Do you think she wants to take it?

The thing with this show is every season I’d be having theories, and without fail what actually happens is different. I don’t know where they’re going to steer this ship, but I think they do a good job of subverting expectations. I can ask Chris, or I’ll just wait until I get to read the scripts.

It’s hard to tell what expectation they’re going to subvert with the way they ended the season; for example, are we supposed to think the review was bad but then actually it’s good?

That part, with all the missed calls and text messages, wasn’t in the script. The only thing the script said was that Carmy walks off and the review pops up. So then when I saw the missed calls and texts on his phone screen, I was like, “OK interesting. Where is this going?”

Ayo Edebiri as Sydney and Lionel Boyce as Marcus in ‘The Bear’ season three, episode five.
Ayo Edebiri as Sydney and Lionel Boyce as Marcus in ‘The Bear’ season three, episode five.

There were some moments this season that felt like a reaction to audience feedback on last season. People really loved the dynamic between the Fak brothers in “Fishes,” and then we got way more of that. Do you notice that?

I think about that, too. I think about in season one, there was no romance. People were like, “Oh what about Marcus and Sydney?” And it was just like, “Nope.” Then, in season two, there was a little bit of that, but Chris cut it off. I do wonder if the audience plays into that at all. But Chris is really in his own world, in a good way, so I don’t know how much he’s reading. Sometimes it can come off like he’s teaching us a lesson for having a theory, but I think as far as people reading into romance on the show, we just have those instincts because we see so much of it on TV. So we’re impressing that onto the show even though it’s not there.

I can’t remember if you’ve ever worked in a restaurant, but there usually is a lot of sleeping around among the staff…

That’s what I’ve heard from people who’ve had that work experience. I think that’s normal with any job, with people working in close proximity. Those things happen, and it’s human, but this show is exploring different things. That’s not what this show is. Of course, I don’t know what’s in store for the future.

Finally, what was your favorite day on set?

I had a lot of fun filming the party in the finale. We made that a real party environment. Even though we were still in the middle of filming, it felt like the last day of school. There was a relief and release. It was late at night, and it was very loose, and there was music playing. I didn’t even know that song [“Laid” by James]. They told us, “OK, yell out the song and everyone starts singing,” and I’m like, “What is this song that everyone knows except me?”

The Bear season three is now streaming on Hulu.

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