Cheers to Jeremy Allen White’s big year!
After breaking out on Shameless, starring for 11 seasons as fan-favorite Lip Gallagher, the actor officially entered his leading man era with The Bear in 2022. Continuing his run as a Chicago staple, White stayed in the Midwestern city to play talented chef Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto on the breakout FX hit, which quickly went from an under-the-radar must-watch to an outright phenomenon. Suddenly White was sweeping the awards circuit, he and Carmy were a sex symbol, and everyone in your life was calling each other “chef.”
The Bear’s success has led to an eagerly-anticipated second season, out this summer, as well White, now 32, finding himself with countless opportunities he never expected, whether that be teaming up with Zac Efron for A24’s wrestling biopic The Iron Claw or being a part of an A-list beer commercial.
In Stella Artois’s new “Let’s Do Dinner” campaign, White joins Matt Damon, Zoe Saldaña, and Ludacris, as they discuss the age-old topic, if you could invite anyone to dinner, who would it be? The latest ad invites fans to support Water.org and have the chance to score an invite to the “World’s Most Fascinating Dinner,” set to be in New York City later this year, with White and company serving as hosts.
To discuss hanging with Ludacris, being expected to cook dinner, and returning for The Bear Season Two, we cracked open a cool conversation with White.
ESQUIRE: As a longtime Shameless viewer, I have to start here: What would Lip think, seeing you drinking Stella and hanging out with a bunch of celebrities?
JEREMY ALLEN WHITE: To be honest, I don’t know if he’d be into it. [Laughs.] Probably against it.
Because of Lip, are people always trying to buy you a beer? Or, maybe because of Lip and Carmy, do they learn more towards wanting to bum a cigarette?
It’s cigarette-based. I just wrapped Season Two of The Bear in Chicago, and it’s shocking how many people will recognize me for Lip or Carmy, and they insist on having a square, which, in Chicago, is what they call bumming a cigarette. They always want to have a smoke. But, man, Chicago’s been very, very good to me; Chicago’s kept me employed for 14 years.
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You’ve been working in this industry for well over a decade, but is it still surreal when you find yourself starring in a commercial with the likes of Matt Damon, Zoe Saldana, and Ludacris?
Yes, very weird. The first thing I did with Stella was with Ludacris, and I’ve been a big fan of his music since I was a kid, and getting to meet him is wild. It’s been amazing so far. The talent around it was a big draw.
I know how strong the Shameless fandom was, but The Bear reached a whole different audience—and you’ve now reached this new level of fame. So how wild has the last year been?
I’m so grateful for Shameless, and it was a very gradual kind of thing. We were popular enough to keep going, and then the show went on to Netflix and everybody became more recognizable. I started Shameless when I was 18, and I feel like if the show was a huge smash right away, it might have been trouble. And then with The Bear, I think the show reaches a different audience, and I’m lucky that I’m now getting into rooms with directors and writers that I really admire. That happened a little bit with Shameless, but it’s definitely happened more so since The Bear has come out. That’s the biggest shift, and it’s kind of incredible.
Considering the nature of the Stella campaign, have you been thinking about who would be the guests—dead or alive—at your most fascinating dinner party?
Yeah, I’ve thought about it a lot. For me, a good dinner, I need to have a homie, somebody that’s just my person. My buddy that I grew up with, Gabriel Gomez, he would be my guy. And then it would have to be some athlete, and I’m a big boxing fan, so I think Mike Tyson would be great to have at the dinner with Gabe. And if we’re talking legendary actors, Paul Newman would be amazing…
Are there any dinner parties you’ve attended in the past that particularly stand out? I bet your Shameless pops William H. Macy throws a solid one!
Bill throws some heavy dinner parties, and that’s been the whole Shameless gang. But what’s been really nice about doing The Bear is we have this accessibility to restaurants and chefs. We’ve had some great dinners doing The Bear, hanging out with Matty Matheson and other chefs. I’d love to have Chef René [Redzepi] from Noma at a dinner.
Is there any worry that people might now start inviting you to dinner parties with the hope that you’ll make something? Yes, you’re an actor playing a chef, but everyone knows you went and did your homework.
Yeah, I got in trouble. A year ago, my brother-in-law had a birthday, and my wife and I wanted to host. It was him and 15 friends, and my brother-in-law just assumed that I was an amazing chef and I could prepare a dinner for 15 people. And so I tried, and I did okay, but I’m not that nice with it. People think that I can really move, and the truth is that I’m so-so. I’ve got a long way to go.
Sticking with the eating and cooking theme, what was the process of beefing up for The Iron Claw?
Yes, eating all the time. Like, never stopping. In the morning, I would have waffles, almond butter. In the middle of the day, I was eating turkey patties and avocado all the time. It’s really just gross. You’re trying to consume as much as you possibly can, and, to be honest, you don’t feel great. I was training as well, but, I don’t know, trying to get that big, it’s no way to live.
Luckily, in Zac Efron, you had a pretty ideal costar to pick the brain of when it comes to that grind.
Zac’s a maniac. He’s so focused and knowledgeable on training, diet, all that. In terms of a physical transformation, I think he kind of blew us all out of the water. He looks really amazing in this thing.
Between the cast and director Sean Durkin, Iron Claw is one of my most anticipated films of the year. What was that experience like, and am I right to be this excited?
I think you should be hyped. I was a fan of wrestling, but I didn’t know the story of the Von Erichs, and it’s so interesting, bonkers, and sad. Sean did a beautiful job. He’s been a fan of wrestling and the Von Erichs since he was a kid, and so I feel like he understands the story so intimately that he had a really nice perspective on it. And it was a blast to work with Zac and Harris [Dickinson].
What can you share about what’s ahead for Carmy?
We’re trying to build out the restaurant that Carmy has imagined for a long time; he’s turning The Beef into something a bit more elegant. And I think the really interesting thing about Carmy’s arc in Season Two is that he has the opportunity to get everything that he wanted when we met him, and the question becomes,Is that enough? Is that going to make him happy? Is that going to bring him joy? Joy and inspiration are the big themes in the second season, and not just for Carmy, but also for Sydney, Marcus, and Richie.