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Interview: Lionel Boyce on 'The Bear' Season 2 + portraying Marcus.

Interview: Lionel Boyce on 'The Bear' Season 2 + portraying Marcus.

'The Bear' is back on our screens with its highly anticipated Season 2 taking the time to change the pace. The opening scene of the first episode 'Beef' features the beloved character of Marcus (portrayed by Lionel Boyce) looking after his unwell mother - lovingly moisturising her hands and placing a towel on her forehead. Boyce shares in the sentiment of avid viewers of the show that Marcus is what holds the show together explaining: "I always call him the glue because he gets along with everyone, and everyone fights with one another... it just shows that he keeps everyone together in this different way."

The show, created by Chris Storer, takes a new course in Episode 4 of the season, 'Honeydew', where quiet isolated conversations and precision dessert-making takes the helm. Marcus sets on a solo journey this season to Copenhagen where he works under a pastry chef named Luca (portrayed by Will Poulter) who opens a door of new perspective and insight for Marcus. Boyce believes that Luca makes a choice to help Marcus when he sees how seriously he takes his craft: "It's the same journey of belief with Carmy and Sydney who were there for Marcus in Season 1, Luca is that in Season 2 where he gives him this key that helps him unlock and go to the next level."

We caught up with Lionel to chat about approaching things at arm's length, the specificity of 'The Bear', and letting go of expectations... 

COUP DE MAIN: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me in New Zealand today. Did you come with Odd Future to New Zealand back in 2012?
LIONEL BOYCE: No, I've been to Australia, but never New Zealand. I didn't get to go on the New Zealand trips - I've been wanting to go though. 

CDM: So you were doing 'Loiter Squad' with Odd Future, and then worked with Tyler on 'The Jellies'... what was your journey from that world with your friends, to being cast on 'The Bear'?
LIONEL: It was an interesting journey when 'The Bear' came about because an audition just came to me. I'd known Chris Storer, we were friends because we knew the same people, but I didn't know he wrote. I guess my journey has always been making things with my friends, and being in front, and also behind the camera. It was very interesting when I got this script where it was to only act, and I read it and thought, "Wow, this is really cool. I like this a lot." I was looking at the character and I was like, "Wow, I feel like I have an idea of who this person is and I also really like the pace," because even on the script it was very fast and urgent. It was just a traditional audition, and then I got the part and then we shot the pilot. That was the first time where I noticed the biggest difference because all of the stuff that we did felt much smaller. It was with friends and we worked with Jeff Tremaine who did 'Jackass' so it felt very rolled in this cool way and 'The Bear' was very much in the traditional world of how you make TV shows. It was a big learning experience with a lot of really good actors, so I was just like, "Alright, let me make sure I'm not the one messing up the show." It was nerve-wracking but also awesome because it opened my eyes so much more.

CDM: In a way, that sort of mirrors Lionel's journey from McDonald's to pastry chef, and I mean that as a compliment because New Zealand McDonald's is amazing. American McDonald's sucks but New Zealand McDonald's is really good.
LIONEL: I've had the Australian McDonald's, which is also good, so if they're somewhat similar, I know that's true! They have way better breakfast, I'm like: "This is crazy!"
CDM: It's actually savoury, whereas American McDonald's burgers are so sweet. I don't understand.
LIONEL: It is - because everything is just sugar. <laughs> I definitely think that was the big entry point for me that I always talk about, where it was very much a similar journey where someone believes in you and sees something that you never considered, and that opens your eyes. You're like, "Whoah, this is cool," and you feel encouraged to keep pushing along. It's a similar thing with Marcus where he meets Carmy and even when he starts out working at The Beef, it's still just a job. He meets Carmy who shows him a passion and he gets curious - he shows him a door that becomes a passion. He's now just going down this rabbit hole of seeing where you can go chasing greatness.

CDM: In Season 1, Marcus feels very inspired by Carmy and his belief in him, and that sets him off on a journey to dream of more and bettering himself - is there anyone in your own life that has been a really big inspirational influence on you? 
LIONEL: I think all of my close friends are like that very much. I've been fortunate enough to be able to grow with my friends and we're in the same industry - Tyler [The Creator], Taco [Bennet], and Jasper [Dolphin] we're all still growing in our own lanes and avenues and are able to have conversations that push us forward. Tyler is one of my close friends, I talk to him all the time - we'll just be talking and then he goes off and does what he does, and then comes back and we have a conversation, and then I go off and shoot the show. I'm like, "Man, that's cool!" and then I share and download all my information to him and he's like, "Wow, that's cool!". It just brings about different conversations from what we learnt in the world to push ourselves forward. It's inspiring and encouraging to be able to not feel weird making all these strides in my life and being able to share it with your closest friends because you're not wondering how they will feel about it. It's really cool.
CDM: That is one of my favourite things about this show, and especially this second season - just people believing in other people. I almost cried when Sydney asks Tina to be her sous-chef.
LIONEL: Everyone's on this journey. Season 1 was about understanding who these people are, and Season 2 is now watching these people take who they were, and grow into who they become by the end of the season.

CDM: This new season opens with Marcus visiting his sick mother. Did you know that was going to be how Season 2 opened when you were filming that scene? 
LIONEL: Yes, and I was like, "I hope it stays!" - but it was in the script that way. Chris said he wanted to set the tone and open on a different pace because it's a great natural way to break expectations. It wasn't done in a contrived way - there was a reason and it was necessary for them to put that there. The first season is like that because that's what the world was, but the home life is not what the kitchen is. If that house scene was filmed like the scenes in the kitchen, you'd think it was weird and it wouldn't make any sense. There was a real reason to slow it down and have it feel that way to give you an understanding of who this person is behind the smile.
CDM: I was literally hand-on-my-heart when Marcus moisturised his mom's hands. He's so incredibly thoughtful and kind. Marcus really feels like the heart of the show. 
LIONEL: It's funny, I always call him the glue because he gets along with everyone and everyone fights with one another. Think about a character like Richie, where he's very volatile in the sense that he's combative and that's just his way of being - he gets along with Marcus too, they have a joking rapport, and it shows that he keeps everyone together in this different way.

CDM: Sydney got to go on a food tour of Chicago, but Marcus goes to Denmark! You won!
LIONEL: Yeah, <laughs> I won! That was also me when I got the script and I was reading it, I was like, "Whoah, this is cool. This is crazy." I remember before we shot they didn't say anything, but they were just like, "We might do this thing..." and they were being very coy about it. When I finished reading it, they were like, "Did you like the script?" And I was like, "Yeah! So we're gonna shoot this in Chicago?" And they were like, "No, we're going!" <laughs>

CDM: What was it like working with Will Poulter?
LIONEL: It was awesome. He's the best. It was really great and very natural. I instantly got along with him and he's such a good actor and it brings your level up just by proximity of doing the scene and listening to him. Me, him and Ramy [Youssef] would have conversations that helped us really flesh out those scenes together with them interacting, and just that whole arc of Will's character seeing Marcus and asking [himself]: 'Who is this person? Do they take this job seriously?' I've learnt so many people go and stage at places, and the chefs who work at the restaurant quickly know who takes it seriously and who is there for whatever reason, and they nurture the people who take it seriously - and watching Luca, Will's character, go from being like, 'Who is this person?' to being like, 'Okay! I see this person, he takes it serious and also he has potential to be great so let me help him.' It's the same journey of belief with Carmy and Sydney who were there for Marcus in Season 1, Luca is that in Season 2 where he gives him this key that helps him unlock and go to the next level.
CDM: Yeah, and that whole heart-to-heart that they have in the kitchen, it felt very real, which is another one of my favourite things about the show. Everything feels very real.
LIONEL: Yeah, I think it's the specificity that brings that out, where it's real because you're thinking about it and wondering, 'How would you do this?' Matty Matheson and Courtney Storer help bring that to the show where they're just like, "No, this is real. Do it like this."

CDM: Will's character encourages Marcus and tells him: "Just be confident about it. Don't second-guess yourself." What's the best advice you've ever been given?
LIONEL: The best advice is always something circling around that... like instinct, that's what resonates. We can always feel when we're not doing it from that place. It's funny because the best advice I was given actually came from me saying something to a friend and not thinking about it - we were getting ready to go somewhere and he was putting on clothes and deciding what to wear and he came upstairs wearing something, and he's like, "What do you think about this?" and I was like, "I don't know, I don't believe it because you don't believe it." He brought that up to me years later and I didn't remember saying that, but my advice came back to me through him and then resonated.

CDM: There's also a really touching scene in which Will's character tells Marcus that: "At a certain stage it becomes less about skill and it's more about being open." Being open to the world - do you think that's advice that is applicable to anything? Not just being a chef, but literally any kind of dream or goal?
LIONEL: Openness is one of the key things - Season 1 for Marcus was this journey of discovery for a passion, but Season 2 is going from good to great. You can get good at anything - you can go and you can become proficient [to a point] where it's like, "Oh, I know how to build a table," but to make it your own and to make it resonate is in the 'being open'. You need to have something to pull from and you need life experiences. Experience is what it translates to - you receive something and then have an opinion or articulation of something because you've now seen it. It's real and it's no longer an idea of something - I've done it, and I have specific experience on this. It's like life, whether it's love or whatever - you can't meet somebody, if you're not open to the idea. It's like running into a brick wall, you meet the same kind of person because you're looking for something that's not real, rather than to let go of expectations and let it happen and then see where you go from there. Let it touch you and then go.

CDM: What would you like to see happen for Marcus in a third season of 'The Bear'? 
LIONEL: I don't know. That's what I love about this show - when we finished Season 1, I really truly had no idea where Season 2 was going to go. I couldn't get ahead of it and I had no clue where Marcus' journey was gonna go or anything. I have a couple of ideas but I'm more so excited to see where they go because I think they do a good job.

CDM: When Marcus is in Copenhagen making notes on pastries, he really dissects them and thinks about how they are created. Is there anything that you're similarly passionate about? And enjoy analysing?
LIONEL: Movies and TV shows, and I'll do that a lot - I'll watch everything. I still go to the movies most days. I think I go to the movies every Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and I watch anything and everything. I feel that way about that. I play a lot of chess and I like try to learn about it too.

CDM: Have you learnt anything about yourself, during your experience of playing Marcus?
LIONEL: Yeah! You know what's funny, when I was learning to make bread, I was aware of my learning curve and my learning process whereas when I'm learning to cook or other certain things... for Season 2, I was working with Courtney Storer and I was mixing something and she was saying, "Put your hand closer to the bowl like you're mixing... you have your hand so far away." It reminded me that is how I approach things where it's at arms length. I won't immediately immerse myself in the beginning, so it just made me aware of my process of approaching things which I thought was a really cool thing - Season 1 was like learning to make the bread, and that was the same thing with the motions, it just showed me the physicality of how I approach things.

'The Bear' is out now on Disney+.

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