Is Oliver Platt’s Uncle Jimmy Secretly the MVP of ‘The Bear’?

TheWrap magazine: “It was just different from other good scripts—there was something so specific and incredibly personal about it,” the fan-favorite and Emmy nominee says of his ace role

Oliver Platt in "The Bear" (FX)
Oliver Platt in "The Bear" (FX)

This story about Oliver Platt first appeared in the Down to the Wire: Comedy issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine. All actor interviews in that issue were conducted before the SAG-AFTRA strike began.

This will be the first time at the Emmys for “The Bear” star Jeremy Allen White and for fellow nominees Ayo Edebiri, Ebon Moss-Bachrach and Jon Bernthal. But it’s old hat for Oliver Platt, who was nominated in the Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series category for his fan-favorite character Uncle Jimmy “Cicero” Kalinowski, the alternately menacing and menschy familial support for the Berzatto bunch. Platt was nominated for Emmys for “The West Wing,” “Huff” and “Nip/Tuck” but shockingly has never won despite being a staple in viewers’ primetime lives for decades.

(His presence in “The Bear” is also a shrewd in-joke for Platt’s fans, as his brother Adam is famously the senior food critic for New York Magazine.)

Taking the role that brought him his fifth Emmy nomination was an easy decision. “”The Bear’ was so good on the page,” Platt said. “It was just different from other good scripts—there was something so specific and incredibly personal about it. I actually asked them to send me the pilot, because I needed to make sure that it was truly as good as I thought it was. And the rough cut of the pilot was, frankly, frickin’ mesmerizing.”

Platt appreciates creator Christopher Storer’s playful, unprecious approach to letting the actors fly, as evidenced by the hard-charging, often improvised exchanges amongst the ever-growing cast. “Chris loves and is very comfortable with improv,” he said. “The first time I met him, I was hoping to ask a question, trying to figure out exactly what it is he meant (in the script). And I couldn’t even get the question out, and he was like, ‘Dude, say whatever you want.’ It’s really sort of like a dream, knowing that you’re also going to get to mess around.”

But if he enjoys the opportunity to improvise, Platt is particularly eager to give credit to the show’s writers. “Let’s just remember that the only reason you and I are talking right now is because a writer sat down some time ago and started writing this extraordinary piece of work,” he said. “I’m just kind of astonished that we find ourselves in this situation where this (WGA) strike is literally about the future of screenwriting. It’s astonishing to me, but that’s kind of where we’re at. Without writers, man, there is no show business for me. Any actor that I know is just looking for a script where you take a quick look at your pulse, and it makes you go ‘Wait, what?’ You immediately want to read it again. I just feel really lucky and grateful.”

Read more from the Comedy/Variety/Reality/Nonfiction issue here.

Bill Hader Wrap magazine cover

Photo by Jeff Vespa for TheWrap