In Conversation: Ayo Edebiri

ayo edebiri
In Conversation: Ayo Edebiri Myles Loftin

Not so long ago, Ayo Edebiri would amuse herself spotting celebrities in the aisles of her local LA organic grocery store. Now the tables have turned, and just a year on she has become the one that’s stared at as she does her weekly shop. 'I used to go to Erewhon Market and think, "Oh, what random actor am I going to see here?"' she says. 'Now I'm like, "Oh my God, I'm the random actor!"' Starring in the biggest TV show of the moment can change things a lot.

When The Bear hit screens in 2022, it slotted straight into the cult TV-shaped holes in our lives. The story of a star chef returning to Chicago to run his recently deceased brother's sandwich shop achieved a level of intensity and drama rarely matched by anything on the small screen – episode seven was filmed in just one long shot. And then there was the cast: Edebiri, playing talented Culinary Institute of America grad Sydney, a highly talented cook in awe of the award-winning New York chef Carmy Berzatto (played by the equally brilliant Jeremy Allen White). Its potent blend of food and feelings won rave reviews around the world and even bagged Edebiri her first Golden Globe at this year's ceremony.

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Kevin Winters - Getty Images

Did she expect such a reception? ‘I think you’d be a sociopath if you were to say, "Absolutely",’ she grins. ‘I think we all had positive feelings while we were making the show and there was something very cathartic about the process. I wanted to work with everybody again because the scripts felt good [to read] and working with these people feels good. But you never know how people are seeing things.’

The 27-year-old, was also excited to return for the second series – which hits screens this month – because of the boost it's given her kitchen skills. ‘As soon as we received the scripts for the new season, I immediately started cooking again. I'm a pretty good cook. If I'm trying to impress somebody, I'll make a roast chicken, that's a classic. There's something I make in episode nine or ten of season two that I was making non-stop [afterwards], and now I'm like sick of it.’

Even beyond The Bear 2023 is indisputably Edebiri’s year. There's a plethora of projects coming up, running the gamut of genres, from queer teen comedy Bottoms alongside Rachel Sennott to mockumentary Theater Camp (which received a standing ovation at the Sundance Film Festival) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem later this year. As one Twitter user said: ‘Ayo Edebiri has 27 hours in the day.’

Edebiri is especially excited for Bottoms, a belly laugh-inducing, indie high school comedy written by Sennott and directed by Emma Seligman, that focuses on a pair of friends who start a fight club as a ploy to lose their virginities to cheerleaders. For Edebiri, who studied at New York University with both Sennott and Seligman, and co-wrote a Comedy Central show, Ayo and Rachel Are Single with Sennott, it was a welcome reunion.

An only child raised in Dorchester, Boston, with a Barbadian mother and Nigerian father, Edebiri developed an avid interest in theatre growing up 'because it was fun'. She went on to study teaching at NYU before switching to playwriting. Following her graduation, she sought out stand-up comedy gigs and by her mid-twenties, she’d written on comedy shows including What We Do In The Shadows and Big Mouth (she also joined the cast in 2020). ‘I've always loved theatre,' she says. 'I still do. When I'm sad and I want to cry, I’ll start looking at videos of Michael Jeter accepting a Tony.’

ayo edebiri and amy sherald
Dimitrios Kambouris - Getty Images

With burgeoning celebrity comes more public appearances, but Edebiri embraces her red carpet moments. ‘My stylist Sophie Cox is such a G, she knows I like to wear clothes that are sustainably made and by designers that are people of colour.' London-born menswear designer Grace Wales Bonner is one of her current favourites. 'I wore one of her suits recently and I was so happy about it. I think what she's doing in womenswear and menswear is awesome,' she says. 'I love Sandy Liang; she's a New York girl. I adore Shush/Tong, Martine Rose and Thom Browne. Playing with masculine silhouettes and subverting the expectations of womenswear is so much fun.'

The screenwriters' strikes in LA have paused a few of Edebiri's commitments for now, but she's taking this as a welcome break before it's back to work. She has joined the Marvel universe and will begin filming Thunderbolts, about a group of anti-heroes, new year. However many hours in the day she has, she's making them count.

Season two of 'The Bear' is available now on Disney+.

This article was originally published in the September issue of ELLE UK. Disclaimer: This interview took place before the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike.

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