This summer has been good to Jeremy Allen White. The star of The Bear, a breakout Hulu show of 2022, and his performance are the main reasons for the acclaim — and a countless supply of thirst tweets.
White has never been at the forefront of the pop culture conversation quite like this before. But this isn’t the first notable show he’s been a part of. The 31-year-old was a member of the ensemble show Shameless for the entirety of the Showtime comedy-drama’s run.
Being his first major role as an actor, White used the role as a valuable learning experience both as a performer and as a person.
Jeremy Allen White was on ‘Shameless’ for 11 seasons
In a recent GQ feature, White discussed his career path and current state of mind as a media darling. Performing is his lifelong passion. White’s parents were both theater actors prior to his birth. They encouraged their middle-schooler to study ballet, tap, and jazz as a child before pursuing acting.
After small parts in indie movies and a couple of Law and Order guest spots, White earned the role of Phillip “Lip” Gallagher in Shameless. The show follows the trials and tribulations of the Gallagher family, a chaotic unit from the South Side of Chicago straddling the line between working-class and outright poverty.
The second of six children, Lip is naturally intelligent and excels in school. But he struggles to find a healthy outlet for his gifts amid troubles at home and the family’s lack of resources.
Shameless was one of the few premium cable shows of its day to stay on the air for a long time. At a time when networks are trying to make prestige dramas headlined by big names, 11-season runs are increasingly rare. White entered the Shameless world as an 18-year-old and left as a 28-year-old husband and father. He underwent a lot of personal changes while the show aired.
Jeremy Allen White’s time on ‘Shameless’ as Lip taught him a lot about humanity
Moving out of your parent’s house is a tough transition for everyone, but doing so as an aspiring actor brings its own unique stressors. White was a born and bred New Yorker who moved to LA alone to film Shameless. He didn’t even know how to drive when he got there.
Finding any sense of comfort on the West Coast took some time. “I didn’t have a community outside of the show when I first got there, and I felt super isolated,” White told GQ. “I would go to Canter’s (a Jewish deli in Fairfax) a lot and read scripts. There was something kind of romantic about that loneliness in the first year, too.”
It’s easier to romanticize since White made his dreams come true and didn’t have to return to New York with his tail between his legs. But it does take a level of resolve to deal with the anxiety and fear of failure that comes with such a move.
The maturation process White went through off-screen mirrored the Gallagher family’s attempts to improve their situation on Shameless. “I was learning a lot about how to behave as a person outside of an actor,” he says. “We learned how to be, I think, decent people on that show, too.”
As grateful as he is for being on Shameless, he was ready to move on at the end. White explained that he “stopped feeling like an actor and I started feeling like I was just here to do this show.”
‘The Bear’ is one of the biggest hits of the year
When White was first presented with the script for The Bear, he came close to turning it down. Shameless had just ended and the broad similarities in the premise of the two shows, where he would play the golden child in a dysfunctional Chicago family, were initially a turn-off. White got over his doubts and turned in the signature performance of his career, according to many critics.
The actor embodies Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto, a brilliant but tormented chef who returns to the Windy City to run The Original Beef of Chicagoland after his older brother dies by suicide and deigns him the rightful successor.
Carmy left home to apply his trade in esteemed Michelin-rated restaurants, not greasy, sanitation code violating-holes in the wall like this sandwich shop. But as tense and stressful as running the restaurant is, it is the exact place Carmy needs to be to grow as a person and recover from multiple personal traumas. Also, the show is funny when it wants to be.
The Bear was instantly hailed by critics and an increasing amount of viewers who fell in love with the show’s sense of place, daring filmmaking, and explorations of the complicated emotions that come with being part of a family.
The entire cast is excellent, but White has received the most praise as the primary figure in the show. Awards nominations seem inevitable. The Bear has already been renewed for a second season.