The Bear Star Ebon Moss-Bachrach Loves Richie as Much as You Do

The actor on his character’s transformation and if there’s any bouncing back from that season finale fight scene.

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Ebon Moss-Bachrach
Yelena Yemchuk

Warning: spoilers ahead for season two of The Bear.

It’s the rare show that can come back swinging after a surprise hit first season, and expectations were high for the second installment of FX’s The Bear, which dropped in full on Hulu this week. But the second season has done just that, raising the stakes with multiple high-profile cameos (including a tour de force performance by Jamie Lee Curtis and a Will Poulter appearance as a tattooed English chef), and by diving into the deep backstory of each character, not least of all Cousin Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), who emerged as a fan favorite. Moss-Bachrach, who before The Bear was best known for roles like Desi in Girls and David Lieberman in The Punisher, infuses the self-sabotaging, everyman character with a surprising tenderness that wins everyone over—from the other characters to fans of the show—alike.

When the heartfelt drama about a scrappy Chicago beef stand first debuted last summer—two years into a pandemic—it was a joy to root for the motley crew of genuine, complicated characters doing their best to survive in a restaurant on the brink of financial ruin. Anchored by Jeremy Allen White’s portrayal of prodigal son Carmy (who is based on creator Christopher Storer’s real-life childhood friend), and his platonic creative soulmate and chef de cuisine, Syd (Ayo Edebiri), the show’s charismatic cast and tense but sweet pacing made it an easy but memorable watch. People were calling each other chef and yelling “corner” and “behind,” and while seemingly every performance in the ensemble was praised for its authenticity and charm (White took home the Golden Globe for Best Actor), Moss-Bachrach held his own as Richie, the dirtbag dad of the bunch who, though appealing in his own way, is frustratingly stuck in the past, prone to cursing and never misses an opportunity to say the wrong thing.

When W caught up with the 46-year-old Brooklyn father of two, who also plays Jennifer Lawrence’s ex in this summer’s blockbuster comedy No Hard Feelings, he was on vacation in Greece with his family, soaking up the “overwhelming” love for The Bear’s second season. Below, Moss-Bachrach on Richie’s transformative season and what he thinks will happen next:

Going into season two, what did you expect for Richie?

I had a good understanding of his trajectory. Somewhere in the middle of season one, Chris [Storer] casually walked me through his idea of the whole life of the entire series, and specifically Richie's journey, through the first season, the second season, and even beyond if we do more. I knew that he was going to have a big change and some victories.

It’s so rare to have an idea of where the story is going.

Matthew Weiner famously would hold back everything from his cast on Mad Men, and I remember when I was working on The Punisher, they were very secretive about everything. So it does feel luxurious. But also, it makes a lot of sense to me to just share these things with actors.

Bob Odenkirk and Ebon Moss-Bachrach in “Fishes”

Chuck Hodes/FX

In the midst of the chaotic Christmas “Fishes” episode, we see Richie on the cusp of a really hopeful time. It was heartbreaking to see that things were once really great for him, compared to where he’s ended up.

That's an amazing episode, because we do get to see what could have been for Richie. It's a really exciting moment in his life. He's going to be a father. We see him trying to leave the restaurant. It just really underlines how far he's fallen, how much things have changed. That night for Richie, it's Christmas. He's surrounded by people that he loves who love him. Of all the people at that party, he's enjoying himself the most. It's really revelatory for the audience to see what could have been. It's really smart storytelling.

That episode was so well-coordinated. But I also loved “Forks,” where he’s staging at the Alinea-style restaurant—it really captures the loneliness of being the new person at a restaurant, or anywhere really. What was it like filming that episode compared to the more frenetic scenes The Bear is known for?

It was lonely. I didn't like being in that restaurant. It was so antithetical to everything—Richie's so driven by his heart. That was such an intellectual arena, and so rarefied and elite and constructed in a way that's diametrically opposed to everything that he loves. From an acting point of view, it gave me so much to work through. Even the visual look—it's cold, the lighting is completely different. It's so clean. That restaurant looks like a science lab. It's sexless in a way. It comes right after “Fishes,” and you just couldn't get more of a contrast.

Moss-Bachrach as Richie at an Alinea-style restaurant in “Forks”

Chuck Hodes/FX

His transformation is kind of complete once he starts wearing suits—I thought the all-black was a nice touch.

The costume designers [Courtney Wheeler and Christina Spiridakis] and I always see very eye to eye. In season one and the beginning of season two, he’s preserved in this '90s look. Richie's a real Michael Mann guy. I thought that he might take his fashion cues from Al Pacino in Heat, so he chooses this dark suit, dark shirt, dark tie. There's a little bit of a samurai element in a way, or a ninja element to that, that I think is very appealing to him. Personally, it’s not really what I want out of a suit, although, I kind of got into it. These things have a way of leaching into your personal style.

The season ends with a really vicious verbal fight between Carmy and Richie. Do you think there’s any coming back from that?

To be perfectly honest, I haven't seen that episode yet. When we were doing it, there were many different takes. There were takes where Richie was screaming through the wall, like, "I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you." But Carmy is such a mystery to Richie. He's so closed off and inexpressive in a way that Richie is not. When Richie feels something, he says something. Carmy's the opposite. That is left in a big question, even for somebody like me, who has an idea of where everything is going. Richie's definitely capable of amends and has a certain resilience and versatility and loyalty with his love. It's maybe more on Carmy.

Jeremy Allen White as Carmy and Moss-Bachrach as Richie in the season finale

Chuck Hodes/FX

You also have No Hard Feelings out right now. What are you looking forward to next?

No Hard Feelings is a really funny movie, but most of my energy is about The Bear right now. The feedback from the people that have been watching it is so overwhelming. I'm just deeply grateful for all this love from people. When you make something no one's ever heard of and it becomes a surprise hit, that's really exciting. But then, for the second season, there's expectations. That really made me nervous. It's definitely a departure tonally from the first season, and I'm a pretty insecure person, so I wasn't sure. I'm blissfully surprised. Not that I thought it was bad or anything. But I'm just, I guess, basically overwhelmed with the season two Bear love. It's beyond my wildest dreams.

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