Matty Matheson on ‘The Bear’ Season 3, That ‘Bigger Than Life’ Guest Star and His Hilarious First Encounter With Jamie Lee Curtis (2024)

SPOILER WARNING: This interview contains spoilers for “The Bear,” including a surprise cameo.

Matty Matheson has spent his career running restaurants. Now, he’s focused on a fictional one.

With FX’s “The Bear,” the Toronto-based celebrity chef and restaurateur added actor to his resume, playing the loud, lovable and sometimes immature handyman Neil Fak in addition to his role as a culinary consultant and producer on the show.

Matheson’s role behind the scenes of the Emmy-winning kitchen dramedy expanded from co-producer in Season 1 to executive producer for the next two seasons. And so too did his role in front of the camera. Together with Ricky Staffieri, who plays Neil’s brother Ted, Matheson has proudly shouldered the comic relief of “The Bear,” a responsibility he doesn’t take lightly.

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“I think I was able to create more of a character out of Fak,” Matheson tells Variety, adding that series creator Christopher Storer “loves throwing me in there.”

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“We’d be riffing on stuff, and then a day or two later there would be a couple extra scenes with Fak and Ted,” Matheson says. “We kind of turned into this softness and relief from everything else that’s going on in the show.”

Before 10 new episodes of “The Bear” dropped on Hulu June 26, Matheson spoke with Variety to discuss Season 3, adding a certain pro wrestler turned actor to the Fak family and why restaurants (real or fake) are “miracles.”

This week must be crazy for you. How are you feeling?

I’m excited! I’m excited for everybody to see it. We just wrapped three weeks ago, so it’s very funny to have it come out so quickly. I’m still coming down from shooting it, and being in Chicago for four months. It’s pretty funny we get to see each other so soon again. Everyone was hanging out yesterday doing the press junket, and the premiere is tonight.

It was reported that you filmed Seasons 3 and 4 back to back. Does that make it hard when doing press, having to remember what you can and can’t talk about?

Yeah, very! We can’t talk about a bunch of stuff. But I kind of forget everything, which is perfect because I’m like, “I don’t even know.” I haven’t even watched the season, actually. I’ve seen some edits and some early episodes, but I’ve only seen Episodes 1 through 4, really.

You’re no stranger to being on camera, but “The Bear” is your first substantial acting gig. Did you take any classes or just jump into it?

I still have never taken a class. It’s just being around amazing people. Ebon [Moss-Bachrach] and Jeremy [Allen White] and Ayo [Edebiri] and Lionel [Boyce] and Liza [Colón-Zayas] and Ricky [Staffieri] and Abby [Elliott] are so incredible to work with. They’re so giving and they make it easy, and they make me feel comfortable. We all live in this building together [when shooting], so we’re always like, “Hey, what are you doing? We’ve got a big scene tomorrow, come down and run some lines.”

You also have a really sweet moment with Jamie Lee Curtis this season. Did you ever think at the beginning of “The Bear” that you’d one day be sharing scenes with an Oscar winner?

It’s crazy. The first time I saw Jamie was at the Golden Globes or something, before she came on the second season. We were in the ballroom, and there weren’t a lot of people in there. I called Chris and was like, “Can I just go up and say hello to her?” And he was like, “For sure! Go say what’s up!”

As I was walking up to her, she pointed at me and was like, “I know who the f*ck you are! Get over here!” We just hit it off. She’s so sweet. She’s our big mama. She hangs with us the whole time, even when she’s not on screen. Being around someone like that, a true icon, is amazing. “Trading Places” is my family’s movie. We loved that movie growing up. Never in a million years — and now we’re friends! We’re texting! She really is an incredible person.

You carry a lot of the comic relief this season. What goes into building that onscreen rapport with Ricky Staffieri?

Me and Ricky spend about every single waking moment together, and we’ve become best friends. I talk to him every day, and we love each other. We’ve never had an argument. We’ve never wanted to be apart from each other. All we do is riff all day, we just make fun of everything. You meet a person like Ricky and you just fall in love. Us being brothers on the show is hilarious, and Chris loves it, obviously. We even shot a bunch of stuff that got cut — building these weird stories and dumb scenarios and pitching him, and him pitching us. It was very collaborative.

What do you make of the Emmys debate as to whether the show is a comedy or a drama?

We’re just a 30-minute show. There aren’t 30-minute dramas. It’s actually a technical thing, and a lot of people don’t understand that. It’s not like we’ve put ourselves in a category. Our show is our show. We’re making “The Bear.” Life is uncompromising, and life is funny. I wish everyone knew that it’s just a technical thing, where we’re not in control of that. We don’t think we’re making a comedy — we’re making a show about a family-owned restaurant and life on life’s terms.

“The Bear” is certainly not the first comedy to be dark as hell at certain moments.

No, and that’s the thing. You’ve never watched a drama that’s funny? It’s just being pigeonholed. People are so upset, like, “This is not a comedy!” And I’m like, “Yeah, of course. I agree with you. It’s a show.” Labels are pretty archaic to begin with. Our show is “The Bear.” We’re happy with what we make. People putting things into categories never really ends well to begin with.

[Editor’s note: The Emmys stopped categorizing comedy and drama based on runtime in 2021, but it is still rare for any 30-minute show to compete as a drama. “The Bear” could theoretically classify as a drama series if FX petitioned the TV Academy to switch, or if the Academy forced it to.]

What was it like acting alongside John Cena as another Fak brother?

He came in and was so professional, so dialed. It was a trip. My son, who is 8, is always doing that “You can’t see me” Cena thing. He’s bigger than life. He was reading in between takes, and we were all like, “What’s that book on his chair?” He was reading, like, literally a medical doctrine on neurology. It was crazy.

Have you told your son that you share scenes with him yet?

Yeah! There’s no embargo with my son, you know. John even made a cute little video for him. He’s such a sweetheart.

“The Bear” thrives on controlled chaos. What are the most challenging aspects of making the show that viewers might not pick up on?

It comes down to Chris’ pace. Chris is very adamant about starting on time, very much like [Carmy] on the show. We move fast. When we’re rehearsing a scene and we start reading, he’s just: “Faster, faster, faster, faster.” The guest stars are definitely not used to it. Chris will shoot three times — we do a very low amount of takes, and he typically wants to use the rehearsal. We always shoot the rehearsals. It’s an amazing experience. He keeps the pace of a kitchen, which I think is the opposite of making television and movies, as far as I’ve heard.

What is the feedback that you hear most often from chefs who watch the show?

It’s all mixed. Some people are triggered. Some people are like, “Man, that’s the best. It’s so real.” Some people are like, “Eh, it’s OK.” You can’t make everybody happy. We’re not trying to make everybody happy. We’re telling a story of one restaurant. We’ve created a little restaurant world, and we’re trying to stay true to what that world would look like. When I meet chefs and they’re very excited about it, it’s beautiful. And when chefs are indifferent, I’m OK with that too.

The season ends with a “To Be Continued” card. Obviously a lot of things are unresolved, and you’ve already filmed Season 4. Was there a sense of finality when you wrapped?

No idea!

Ha, OK, fair. In the final episode, Carmy, while mourning the end of Ever (the restaurant run by Olivia Colman’s character) and reflecting on The Bear, says it’s a “miracle” these restaurants exist. How do you interpret that?

All of these people are trying to do something, and they’ve created a space for them to get somewhere together. I think that the miracle could be that none of them are willing to give up on each other. You see them all being pulled in these different directions. You see them being taken away or wanting to leave. But you don’t want to give up, and you want to fight for this one thing together. They truly don’t want to quit themselves, you know?

The miracle is that chosen family. Life is not a straight line, and I think the miracle is that they’re all there. It’s easy to walk away sometimes. It’s hard to have hard conversations, and to have empathy for each other. The miracle is the hope.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Matty Matheson on ‘The Bear’ Season 3, That ‘Bigger Than Life’ Guest Star and His Hilarious First Encounter With Jamie Lee Curtis (2024)
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