Oliver Platt on the Joy of Watching ‘The Bear’ Explode

The actor walks TheWrap through his journey with the FX series and why making Season 2 was a very different experience

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

When “The Bear” first premiered in 2021, it was a cast full of names that most people weren’t familiar with, save for Oliver Platt. Several seasons into “Chicago Med,” the actor was already a stalwart in the city, and in Hollywood at large with an esteemed career under his belt.

Admittedly, he didn’t know much about his castmates — though his daughter definitely knew about Ayo Edebiri — and playing a character who isn’t part of Carmy’s (Jeremy Allen White) staff, Platt said he really didn’t get to get to know them on set either. So Platt came to love them as a fan of the show.

“I remember distinctly, when I went back to start Season 2 I was so excited,” he told TheWrap. “Because I got to meet them all!”

But really, Platt’s role on “The Bear” as Jimmy “Cicero” Kalinowski, the best friend of Carmy’s late father, is as important as any of the kitchen staff. And we’ll be seeing more of him in Season 3.

The Beginning

When “The Bear” first came around, Platt was well into starring as Dr. Charles on “Chicago Med,” which ironically ended up sharing a lot with “The Bear.”

He loved working on the Dick Wolf show and being in Chicago, but Platt only had three months off per year and would spend that time taking a much-needed and well-deserved break. Eventually, he realized he wanted a bit more.

“Finally, after seven seasons, I was like, I need to remind myself that I’m a freelancer, I’ve never played a role for seven years before,” he explained. “I need to remind myself that I can still play a different role.”

Photo by: George Burns Jr/NBC

That different role ended up being Uncle Jimmy on “The Bear.” Platt was immediately taken by both the character and the “narrative tension” of the show itself — to the point that he didn’t fully trust his own instincts. The actor quickly asked to see an early cut of the pilot once he had read the script for it, just to confirm it was as good as he suspected.

“You can’t help it. When you’re reading a pilot or a script, you’re sort of making the movie or TV show in your head, so you’re making your version of it,” he explained. “And then you go, ‘OK, well, I’m just interested to see, what is the actual version of this?’ And especially for [‘The Bear’] — because it was a rough cut, you know? — and it was remarkable.”

It was an added bonus that Uncle Jimmy was so different from Dr. Charles. Platt loved, and continues to love, the fact that with Jimmy, “you don’t really know what you’re gonna get,” but you do eventually learn that he’s truly rooting for Carmy and his endeavors.

But what Platt loves more is how gradual that reveal was, teased in bits and pieces over several episodes and into Season 2. One of the actor’s favorite moments in the second season was when Uncle told Carmy point blank that he actually wants The Bear to succeed.

Each character in the show is given their own arc — something both Liza Colón-Zayas and Lionel Boyce also loved to experience as part of an ensemble — that steadily reveals itself.

“When you’re dealing with a great writer, they love and have the ability to dimensionalize all of their characters, even if it’s somebody in one scene,” Platt gushed of creator and showrunner Chris Storer. “It’s just sort of — I don’t know what it is. It’s Chris’ relationship to his own humanity.”

“But, for me, I think about it as like, it’s in the same way that as an actor, you can never judge the character you’re playing, even if he’s a bad guy,” he continued. “I think Chris thinks that — everybody’s important to him. You know what I mean? And I don’t really know how else to put it, but it’s totally tangible.”


And yes, “everybody” includes characters who only appear briefly — like most of the guest stars we meet in Season 2’s tour-de-force Christmas episode “Fishes.” The episode saw some heavy hitters come to play alongside Platt, including Jamie Lee Curtis, Sarah Paulson, John Mulaney and Bob Odenkirk.

According to Platt, Storer kept Curtis’ potential appearance close to the vest, but the showrunner told him over dinner how stunned he was at some of the calls he was getting from actors who were interested in appearing on “The Bear.” What impressed Platt, though, was how particular Storer was about bringing anyone in.

“I know for a fact that it wouldn’t matter. Like, f—ing Marlon Brando could be calling him, and if Marlon wasn’t right for whatever the role, he’d find a polite way to say, ‘I’m so flattered. I’m gonna have something else for you in the future,’” Platt said.

Getting to be a part of the eventual episode, which saw Carmy’s family basically fall apart over Christmas, Platt was awed by how masterfully Storer worked in the new faces.

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

“What gives stunt casting a bad name is that you go, ‘Oh my God!’ and it takes you out of the story, right?” he said. “Well, I thought Chris was just incredibly deft about the way he introduced them. He allowed you to get used to like, ‘Oh my God, that’s John Mulaney. Oh, my God, that’s Bob Odenkirk,’ before things got real.”

Avoiding the Sophomore Slump

Of course, “The Bear” is known for getting very real. It’s not uncommon to find your own blood pressure rising during scenes in the kitchen or with Carmy’s family. And that’s part of what makes it so fun — albeit admittedly hard at times — to watch.

What some shows are not known for is being consistent in writing from season to season. As an actor, Platt knows that pitfall firsthand.

“We’ve all experienced — I’ve just experienced it very recently, and I ain’t gonna name names — but a show that you like, getting a wow, this is great but then all of a sudden, you see things not just peter out, but literally fall off a cliff,” Platt said.

That can especially happen if a show finds something that works and tries to just stick with a formula. That was not the case with “The Bear.”

“Most writers, you’d think, would — if a little show like that all of a sudden made made contact with the public like ‘The Bear’ did in the first season, nobody would blame them for just trying to do the same thing again,” Platt said. “And that’s exactly what Chris did not do.”

More than anything, Platt was just excited to return for Season 2, both to spend time with the cast he didn’t get to hang out with on the first go-around and because of how steady and confident Storer was.

“When Season 2 started to sort of unveil itself, I sort of flashed back to when he first told me about it. And I was like, ‘Wow, he was so calm.’ You know what I mean?” Platt said. “And he’s kind of remarkable that way.”

And that remains true with Season 3, which drops on June 27. Platt is tight-lipped on any spoilers, but he promises that it’s “more of the same,” in the best, most “unexpected” way.


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