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Ayo Edebiri is calling me from New York City, where she and the cast of The Bear spent the earlier part of the week premiering two episodes of the new FX series at the Tribeca Film Festival. It’s the day after Edebiri appeared on The Daily Show With Trevor Noah wearing a show-stopping pink suit, an outfit she modestly describes as a “something that wasn’t a big T-shirt—my uniform.”
The 26-year-old actor and comedian is perhaps best known for taking on the role of Missy in the animated series Big Mouth in 2020 following Jenny Slate’s departure from the role, as well as for her stint on the Apple TV+ series Dickinson, where she went from being in the writers’ room to being cast on screen as Hattie, an employee in the Dickinson household.
But The Bear, which premieres on Hulu on June 23, showcases her talent on a whole new level. The FX/Hulu show sees Edebiri starring alongside Jeremy Allen White and Ebon Moss-Bachrach as Sydney, a talented chef who joins a chaotic kitchen restaurant staff after an unsuccessful attempt at a catering company. As Sydney rises up the kitchen ranks, it’s Edebiri who takes on the role of audience surrogate, a gentle hand leading us through the (sometimes literal) fires of working in a restaurant.
To get into character, Edebiri built out Sydney’s motivations and backstory with the show’s director, Chris Storer, and executive producer, Joanna Calo. Storer’s sister, Courtney, a renowned chef, also helped Edebiri craft a perspective as a woman in the restaurant industry.
“I got to work with her and train with her. Just being with her, talking with her, hearing her stories from working in the industry for so many years was really cool and really eye opening,” she tells Glamour. “Before that, I’d been training and working in kitchens that had a lot of guys in them. So it was really cool getting to work with a woman and seeing her approach to things. And how strong and fast and precise she was, because it’s an industry that can be so dominated by men. It was really cool to see the places where she would figure out where her pockets were. I was able to think about that when I was thinking about Sydney too.”
Part of what makes Edebiri’s performance so magnetic is the down-to-earth appeal that she brings to the character, an easy charm that comes through during our conversation. Talking to her feels like talking to your best friend—if your best friend was a cool, personable multihyphenate taking Hollywood by storm. It’s no wonder, then, that Edebiri took on Glamour’s Inappropriate Questions with wit and ardor.
Glamour: With The Bear taking place in a restaurant kitchen, what kind of preparation did you do for the role?
Ayo Edebiri: We got to do some cool stuff. Jeremy and I went to the Institute of Culinary Education, a cooking school in Pasadena, for a few weeks, and just kind of got our bearings a little bit. And then after that, we went off to different restaurants and did training there and worked shifts and did a stage, which, like in the show, is basically an interview but at a restaurant. You cook and you’re sort of like an intern, and then you get told at the end if you’re good or not.
Have you ever worked in a kitchen or restaurant before?
I have, but everything else except for cooking, basically. I’ve done reservations, hosted, waited tables, and was a barista, the whole thing—there were memories.
As a newcomer in the kitchen, Sydney has to deal with a lot of ego and initially some hazing rituals from her colleagues. Have you ever had to deal with any of that in your career?
No, luckily not. [Laughs.] I have not been hazed. The people I’ve worked with have been the cool, nice kind who haven’t hazed me.
Good, good. I read that you once studied to become a teacher. Do you think it’s scarier to teach teenagers, or to work in a restaurant kitchen?
Teaching teenagers. Easily.
With Big Mouth and Dickinson under your belt, you’ve been a part of so many people’s binge-watch sessions at this point. When you have a full day to binge-watch whatever you want, what do you pick?
Honestly, I really like a British murder mystery series. I have a very gentle, slow heart; I can’t take much. I love the routine of “What’s going to happen?” Like, the detective is going to, I don’t know, deal with some nosy busybodies around town. I love it if it’s dark Luther vibes; I love it if it’s like Miss Marple. I watched so many of those shows, it’s sad. I’ve watched Midsomer Murders, I’ve watched Morse, I’ve watched all of them.
Tell me about the most interesting person to slide into your DMs.
I mean, I don’t really get the slides. My mom will message me. [Laughs.] I think this isn’t what you’re looking for, but my mom does send crazy responses to things. She’s an active responder.
What’s the weirdest thing you do in your alone time?
Watch British mystery series. Maybe that? I’ve also really gotten into scrapbooking. Oh yes, that’s weird. It’s something I started doing on sets to not use my phone. When I’m cutting and gluing and going through stickers that I bought on, like, Etsy and random Korean stationery websites, people are like, “What’s going on?” And I’m like, “Really good question. You are right.”
What’s the sexiest thing about you?
I think I have like an…I work hard. That’s good. My voice immediately got quiet. [Laughs.] I have my original teeth? I think that’s fun. Ever since I moved to L.A., my dentist—who I love and will die for—is always like, “When are we getting Invisalign?” And I’m like, “Girl, they’re staying jacked up. You got to keep the shape. We got to keep them au naturale, jagged.”
Well, that’s like every person in British murder mysteries, isn’t it? Their teeth are all theirs.
Exactly, exactly. That is why representation matters to me. [Laughs.]
What is a dating “rule” that you think is B.S.?
I don’t know, I feel like there’s always rules about responding. When you first start dating, where it’s like, “I don’t want to respond too soon,” or, “I don’t want to seem too eager,” or whatever. I feel like it’s nice to try.
What’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever done?
I mean, well, okay. I think it was romantic, but it wasn’t romantic for me. I got my parents a couple’s massage for Christmas. I think that counts. But now I’m like, “Was it weird that I said that that’s romantic?”
No, gift giving is a love language!
My love language is gift giving. I like thinking of specific gifts for people.
Who was your first celebrity crush?
Oh, man, I had a bunch that were pretty serious. Leonardo DiCaprio was a big one.
What was the first thing you saw him in?
I think Titanic, maybe. I had a friend who had a bunch of movies that he was in, just the DVDs and VHS tapes at her house, so you didn’t even have to rent them. We could just watch Titanic and Romeo and Juliet, over and over again. It’s kind of a basic. I also had a crush on my piano teacher, but he wasn’t a celebrity.
He was a celebrity to you, and that counts.
He was, absolutely, he played the piano and he had dreads. I thought that was so cool. And another was just a girl who worked at Dunkin Donuts near my school. I begged my mom to get a donut everyday so I could just talk to her.
What’s your go-to hangover cure?
You know, I don’t really get hungover often, but if I feel like it’s gonna happen, I drink a bottle of water and then Tylenol before I go to bed. I like preventative care.
Are you an astrology person?
I’m a Libra.
Do you identify with that?
I do. I like balance and I like aesthetics, pleasing things. Yeah. And I am a Cancer moon and Aquarius rising.
You’re lying in bed about to fall asleep. What’s on your mind?
What am I going to do the next day…. Tony Shalhoub was another one of my big crushes, so sometimes Tony Shalhoub. Sometimes tap-dancing. And Dulé Hill, that was another big crush.
All your crushes are doing very well for themselves right now; you’ve got great taste.
I was a child with vision, that’s what I’ll say. I value skill, I value hard work ethic. I love the whole package.
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done on a date?
Well, I think this is bad. But I showed up on a date—and I didn't realize this has actually happened to me twice—I didn’t realize that it was the person’s birthday. Like it was like a first date. I mean, that’s not actually the worst thing I’ve done. That sounds like the worst thing that both of those people have done. [Laughs.]
Have you ever ghosted someone?
I think I didn’t follow up with either of those guys whose birthdays it was.
Kim Truong is a writer, editor, and brand marketing consultant with work featured at Netflix, New York Magazine, InStyle, Refinery29, Real Simple, Vice, and more.
Originally Appeared on Glamour