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‘People yell ‘Cousin!’ at me all day’: Ebon Moss-Bachrach on thirsty fans, food porn and The Bear
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‘People yell ‘Cousin!’ at me all day’: Ebon Moss-Bachrach on thirsty fans, food porn and The Bear

The prevailing school of thought around Ebon Moss-Bachrach is that mainstream culture slept on him for too long. For the best part of 25 years he was a jobbing actor, grafting away, acclaim, fame and big money roles eluding him. There were moments of broader recognition, but for the most part he was underutilised and underappreciated. Then, in 2022, enter The Bear, FX’s phenomenally successful TV show about a dysfunctional found family of chefs struggling to keep a rundown sandwich joint afloat. As the disruptive, loudmouth “cousin” Richie, he stole pretty much every scene he was in, walking away with an Emmy in the process. Finally, Moss-Bachrach had arrived.

That’s the trope anyway: struggling artist finally comes good. But the 47-year-old actor doesn’t see it that way. “There’s a convenient narrative I find myself trying to resist that people often like to imprint, that’s like, I’ve been waiting in the wings or something,” he says. “And that’s just kind of romantic and stupid and oversimplified. I mean, I’ve been, in my mind, pretty successful. I don’t know what percentage of my union works, but it’s very small. And yeah, I’ve never had anything connect like The Bear, but I’ve been fine.”

We’re speaking over a video call, with Moss-Bachrach in his car, fulfilling the weekly “sexy, glamorous duty” of moving it out of the way of New York’s street cleaners. It’s a relief, he says, to have returned home just last week to his artist wife Yelena Yemchuk, their two teenage daughters and the comfort of domestic routine. He’d been in Chicago since February, braving the freezing temperatures to shoot the upcoming third season of The Bear.

The show’s reach has blown him away. “I was on top of a little mountain outside Kyoto and a Korean couple came up to me and were saying how much they love the show,” he says. Navigating fan interactions is now a daily, surreal occurrence. “I get a lot of comments. People yell ‘Cousin!’ at me all day.” Which gets tiring, I imagine. “Sometimes, you know, you’re just not having a great day. And it’s just like: I’m sorry, man, I don’t have much for you.”

Cousin! … Moss Bachrach as Richie with Jeremy Allen White, left, and Lionel Boyce in The Bear.View image in fullscreen

So far, he’s been spared the fate of his co-star, Jeremy Allen White, who has been dubbed the latest “internet boyfriend”, regularly the subject of social media thirst. Does he harbour any jealousy there? “No! I’m OK with it,” he says, choking back laughter. “I mean, I’m not even sure I can say I’m happy for him. Because he thinks it’s all quite ridiculous. So, no, I try to support him. And I basically try to protect him when the fans get really excited.”

Has his role in the show at least endeared him to restaurant staff, and inspired the odd complimentary dish or drink?

“Sometimes. But I’m such a creature of habit, I go to the same restaurants, and the first couple of times after the first season came out, maybe they sent something out. But now it’s just business as usual. It’s kind of like, going on Resy, trying to get that table,” he says, with feigned exasperation. “I don’t know what it’s like in London [where I’m calling from], but in New York it’s very hard to find a reservation these days.”

I tell him it usually depends if the restaurant is Instagram-famous or not. “In New York, it feels like everything has been Instagrammed. There’s not a slice of pizza in the city that hasn’t been fetishised and exoticised and put on some kind of social media platform,” he says. “I’m eager for this pendulum to swing a little bit back from food as culture, as the end-all, be-all. I’m excited to have a little bit more focus on music and theatre and that kind of stuff, because right now it feels like [there’s] a full gastronomical zeitgeist thing happening.”

Of which The Bear is a contributing factor, right? “I think The Bear is a small part of it,” he says. “I don’t find The Bear to be like food porn or anything. I thought a lot of the food looked pretty nasty the first season, to be honest. I put more of that stuff on TikTok and Chef’s Table. I point my fingers at them.”

And when the reservations aren’t forthcoming, Moss-Bachrach does at least have the consolation of cooking at home. “I find cooking deeply relaxing. I think it probably goes with my desire to take care of the people around me.” He learned to cook when his wife (then girlfriend) was pregnant – “a way to take care of her and provide for her” – and started by reading The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters. “A lot of essays, thoughts about soups, thoughts about roasting chicken … I’m not like a cheffy chef. I’m like, grandma vibes, nonna-style.”

Who’s the best cook out of him and his co-stars?

“I’ve definitely put in way more hours than they do!” he says. “Is that diplomatic?”


Moss-Bachrach was born in New York and grew up in Massachusetts. As a kid he was “nerdy” – Dungeons & Dragons, sci-fi books, magic tricks. “I was a real escapist,” he says. “I longed for fantasy and magic. It broke my heart that there wasn’t real magic like in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, that there weren’t talking lions and witches and wizards. I wanted more than anything for that stuff to exist.”

He didn’t realise acting was a viable career option until he was 19, at a summer theatre festival. “It dawned on me that actually the people that I’m working with – these actors I’m around, these directors, these set designers – this is actually their job. They don’t just do this in the summertime. And that kind of blew my mind.”

Irresistible … as Desi in Girls, 2012, with Allison Williams.View image in fullscreen

His early career is a mix of smaller parts in movies, one-off episodes in shows such as Law & Order, and theatre work. His role as Desi in HBO’s Girls was only meant to last a few episodes, but showrunners Jenni Konner and Lena Dunham found him irresistible to write for and kept the character around. More high-profile work followed: Marvel’s The Punisher; the Star Wars spin-off series Andor; the Elizabeth Holmes/Theranos series The Dropout. And then, with a bit of overlap, The Bear.

There’s very little he can reveal about the upcoming season of the show, which has now reached that level of cultural significance where even the smallest spoilers are treated like state secrets. But he is able to say, with extreme caution, that by the end of season two Richie was in a place of growth and frustration, and that if previous seasons were about destruction and reflection, the latest is about creation.

Changing tack then, how is he similar to Richie? “I think he’s a really good dad. I think being a father is very important to him in the same way for me, it’s kind of one of the main definitions of my life, one of my main identifiers.” And how does he differ? “I think one of his greatest strengths is how fully expressed he is, you know? When he feels something, he says it for the most part; he doesn’t really self-censor. He’s working on it. Maybe because I’m from New England or because I work in a very collaborative medium and I’m always around people, I feel overly socialised. I would like to be maybe a little bit less self-censoring and polite, you know.”

Perhaps the biggest showcase of Moss-Bachrach’s acting skills came in season two’s critically acclaimed episode, Forks. Over the course of a week, Richie trains at a high-end Chicago restaurant and transforms from chip-on-his-shoulder loser, angry that he’s stuck polishing forks, to a man who finally feels some semblance of self-worth. The endorphin-inducing climax comes with Richie speeding in his car, belting out Taylor Swift’s Love Story, buzzing from a job well done. “That took some rehearsal.” I assumed the father of teenage girls would know all the lyrics already? “My daughters aren’t really Swifties, for whatever reason. I think she’s probably a great songwriter, she’s a cat lover, I think she likes Rhode Island, so in my book, she’s great. I did have to have some of the lyrics right next to me, but now they’re burned into my heart and burned into my head. I don’t think I’ll ever get those lyrics out of me.”

Andor … with Diego Luna in the Star Wars spin-off series.View image in fullscreen

In January this year, Moss-Bachrach won the Emmy for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series. He describes it as “one of the most joyful nights of my life … but beyond that it just kind of stressed me out, because then we go back to make season three and we’ve won a bunch of awards, you start to feel like: ‘Oh, fuck.’ I mean, then you really don’t want to be discovered to be a fraud. And then there’s pressure …”

I tell him he sounds a lot like White’s character Carmy, in season two of The Bear, when he describes the moment he was told his restaurant had retained its third star: a brief flash of joy followed by panic at the thought of losing it.

“I think that’s right,” Moss-Bachrach says. “Not that I feel like I need to win another Emmy or anything, but I just feel like it means so much to people, you know, so much more than I ever thought it would. And I just want people to not feel let down by the thing. I’ve had so many beautiful interactions with people that have been really moved in a way that it sort of inspired me about the power of telling a story or the power of making a show or making a piece of art. It’s really invigorated me and renewed my faith in my job.”

Had he lost a bit of faith in what he was doing?

“Maybe so. I mean, I wasn’t walking around with my head in my hands or anything like that. But like any job, at a certain point, it becomes routine. I’ve been an actor for, like, 25 years and there’s a reality that, for most actors and probably most people in the world, you’re doing a job because you need to feed your family.” Which is why when he reflects on the success of The Bear, his overarching emotion is gratitude. “I feel very fortunate in a time where work is really tight in my business. I just feel very privileged.”

If there are comparisons to be drawn between the career arcs of Moss-Bachrach and Richie – both family men, struggling creatives, grafting away in the background, finally finding their way in the world, finally gaining recognition for it – he doesn’t want to hear them.

“Yeah, that’s lazy,” he says, laughing. “I mean, you know, I play the guy, so I bring my own experiences to him. And we look a lot alike and sound a lot alike. But I think journalists gotta work a little bit harder!”

And though Moss-Bachrach will always, inevitably, be associated with the character, he hopes Richie doesn’t go down as the role of his lifetime. His next big role looks like a departure, at least: he’s playing the Thing in Marvel’s reboot of The Fantastic Four.

“I love my job and I want to do it to the day I die. I would love to, you know, keel over on set. That’d be fun,” he says. “I feel like I’ve just gotten started in experiencing things. I have more opportunities now than I’ve ever had before and I want to maximise them, and I want to work with all kinds of people all over the world, and just keep growing and having different experiences. I guess just keeping my hands dirty.”

But there’s a simple ask for his next gig. “I’d love for the next thing to be someplace maybe a little warmer than Chicago! Maybe a place that has some coastline.”

Source: theguardian.com