‘The Bear’: Ramy Youssef and Lionel Boyce on making the understated episode about Marcus

Marcus, in a blue shirt and apron, carefully tries to place a decoration on a dessert with a pair of tweezers.
Marcus, played by Lionel Boyce, is the focus of Episode 4 in Season 2. It moves at a slower pace compared to other episodes in the series.
(Chuck Hodes / FX)

The first season of the FX dramedy “The Bear” was like “The Godfather” but with sandwiches; Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White) left his dysfunctional family and their mom-and-pop dining establishment, the Beef, in Chicago to legitimize himself as a chef by rising through the ranks of the more respectable world of Michelin-starred restaurants. He returns after his brother, Mikey (Jon Bernthal), dies and leaves him the Beef.

The eight episodes were a loud adrenaline rush of curse words and familial trauma, which involves cousins who aren’t really cousins and unpaid debts to a powerful uncle. It culminated with Carmy’s decision to bet on his family’s legacy by destroying it and modernizing it with a new restaurant concept.

The second season, which premiered on June 22, comes at one of two speeds, according to Times critic Robert Lloyd: “completely insane [or] unusually meditative.” The best example of the former is Episode 6, titled “Fishes,” which flashes back to a Christmas Eve dinner with the complicated Berzatto family. However, the season’s fourth episode, ”Honeydew,” may be more of a palate cleanser for all of that sulfur.


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The episode focuses on Marcus, who is played by Lionel Boyce, following the restaurant’s once baker and now pastry chef on a pilgrimage to Copenhagen, where he stages (or interns) under the chef Luca (Will Poulter, who guest-stars). Shot through tones of blues and grays and at a slower pace that matches Marcus’ more sedate demeanor, it feels separate and unique from the rest of the show.

Marcus looks down at a dish that Luca is plating on a stainless-steel kitchen prep table.
Marcus (Lionel Boyce), left, in the kitchen with Luca (Will Poulter) as he undertakes a staging in Copenhagen.
(Chuck Hodes / FX)

It is also the only episode that wasn’t directed by either of the co-showrunners: Christopher Storer, the creator of the series, or Joanna Calo, who is also one of the executive producers. Instead, “Honeydew” was directed by comedian and actor Ramy Youssef, who also partnered with Storer on his eponymous Hulu series, “Ramy,” and was written by “Watchmen” writer Stacy Osei-Kuffour. It also welcomed back director of photography Adam Newport-Berra, who hadn’t worked on the show since the pilot.

“The show is so fast-paced, and there’s a lot of intensity in Chicago,” Youssef said. He and Storer came up with a challenge, asking themselves, “How do we have this be a meditative exhale at the fourth-episode point of the season … [and] how do we kind of blend how colorful the city is and how colorful these desserts are?”

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Youssef and Boyce explored Copenhagen ahead of filming and even staged at the city’s acclaimed Noma restaurant. The trip was supposed to last three days, but Youssef said he extended his stay to almost two weeks, meticulously photographing and documenting everything down to the kitchen supplies and bread baskets more commonly found in European restaurants. The script originally called for Marcus to stay in an apartment, but Youssef said he suggested they change it to a houseboat to really drive home “the feeling [of] what’s the opposite of Chicago.” The show’s production department also created the kitchen for Poulter and Boyce’s scenes, which were filmed in Chicago.

Boyce said he knew that his stand-alone episode would be coming (“Chris has everything mapped out,” he said of the series creator). He just didn’t know it would mean traveling overseas and that it would also give so much insight into a character whose prime motivation in the first season was limited to his quest to create the perfect doughnut. The trip wasn’t just Marcus’ first international flight; it was his first time ever on an airplane.


“If you’ve never traveled at all [even] to go to another state, and [for Marcus] to take a flight out of the country where everything’s already foreign and you’ve seen signs that aren’t in English,” Boyce said. “On top of that, you’re going to go work at another restaurant that you’re not familiar with, that’s probably a really high-end restaurant … it’s already nerves. And then you meet the chef [who’s] very direct and very all about work.”

The trip also meant Marcus had to leave behind his sick mother, who was bedridden, which tore at him. And, unlike most everyone else who might come to stage in a high-end kitchen, he never had aspirations of becoming a pastry chef; as we learn in the episode, it’s something he fell into while trying to find a better job after playing college football and working at the phone company and McDonald’s.

Lionel Boyce and Ramy Youssef, who has headphones around his neck, standing in a kitchen
Lionel Boyce, left, and Ramy Youssef, the director of “Honeydew,” during filming of “The Bear” Season 2.
(Chuck Hodes / FX)

That he felt comfortable sharing his story with Luca, a stranger, was telling to Boyce because he said that “Marcus is always a little checked out” from the rest of the commotion at his day job. It’s a dual-sided confessional because Luca also confides in him in a way that’s easy to do when you won’t have to see that person every day after the stage ends.

“They’re both sharing something they don’t ever talk to anybody about,” Boyce said. “Ramy wanted things to feel longer and lived-in. I think the way he shot it complemented that conversation.”

Marcus proves to be a quick learner, and the two characters bond both over his ability to perfect a dish and how he shows his appreciation for it. Boyce said that the series’ culinary producer, Courtney Storer — a professional chef who is also Christopher Storer’s sister — doesn’t always design the food to taste good for the actors who have to eat it over multiple takes. Mostly, he said, these desserts look pretty but “taste like sugar” (which, to him, is fine because, he said, “I love sugar”).


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Much of Marcus’ downtime in Copenhagen is a lonely vacation. He gets to taste and explore the city’s baked goods, but he’s mostly seen thinking about his mom, sitting on his rental boat and contemplating whether the cat who supposedly lives there actually exists because he never sees one materialize (Boyce, for the record, is team #FakeCat).

Things change through an act of good Samaritanism. As he’s walking down a deserted road, Marcus finds an injured cyclist stuck in wiring on the side of the bike path. Marcus frees the man (played by Martin Kongstad), who thanks him with a hug. Finally, Marcus gets something he’s longed for: human contact.

Boyce said the scene was filmed by the water on a night so cold that “you’re afraid because you think about falling and how much that would hurt.”

Filming this part of the episode also brought a tone that he wasn’t expecting. When he read the script, he first thought it would be like “a very intense and scary action movie,” “scary in the sense that you’re the only person around and you don’t know the situation and you’re in a foreign land.”

The scene also hints at something that “The Bear” doesn’t really address: Despite being set in Chicago — a city with a long history of discrimination — and having a diverse cast, the series does not frequently discuss race.

“There’s just this inherent tension of being someone who looks like Lionel and Copenhagen; it’s just not that diverse of a city,” Youssef said. And given how the show’s first season had a reputation for drama and the way TV audiences have been trained to think about plot, he said, “You always kind of feel like, ‘OK, the shoe is about to drop; something’s gonna happen.’”


Youssef said that “so much of this season is about acts of service.”

“Making food for someone in a restaurant, you don’t really talk to them, but you help them,” he said. Similarly, “this moment, it’s not very verbal. It’s just them connecting in that way.”