Will Poulter Begged to Join ‘The Bear’
SPOILER ALERT: This story contains spoilers from Season 2 of “The Bear,” now streaming on Hulu.
Season 2 of “The Bear” included a plethora of incredible guest stars. That began in episode 4, “Honeydew,” with Will Poulter starring as Luca, a top Copenhagen chef who trains Marcus (Lionel Boyce) in the kitchen as the pair create a trusting friendship.
Poulter felt a connection to the FX series early on, as he’d been dreaming about making a show about chefs.
“I called them. I literally begged to be in the show. I asked if I could meet with Chris Storer and basically communicated that I was such a fan of so much of his work, but especially ‘The Bear,’” Poulter tells Variety. “He was kind enough to gift me with the offer to play Luca and it really changed my life, to be honest. It kind of helped me realize my dream of playing a chef on TV. I have such an immense amount of respect for chefs and the women and men of that industry. I feel like the whole society stands on the shoulders of people in the food and beverage industry, and we don’t even necessarily really know it or think about it. They sustain us and maintain us daily and they don’t get enough thanks for what they do.”
Poulter’s mother went to culinary school, so he grew up with a passion for cooking and food. When he landed the role on “The Bear,” he only had a few weeks before he had to be in Chicago, so he began cooking with the show’s culinary producer, Courtney Storer, and worked in three restaurants in London: St. John, Black Axe Mangal, and Trullo.
“I would honestly say that one of the days in particular that I had at Black Axe Mangal was maybe the most satisfying day of work I’ve ever had in my life, doing anything,” says Poulter. “I also want to say, I don’t think I’ve ever been more supported or felt more encouraged by production on any job, in terms of being given the tools and the opportunities to put your best foot forward and to be given the best chance of doing the best job possible.”
He’s always enjoyed cooking — “it’s one of those rare things in life that you can do which contributes to your self-care but also translates to a gift for other people” — but doesn’t want to say he’s good; he’ll let others be the judge of that. “Thanks to Courtney and the chefs that I worked under, I’ve definitely improved. I’ve definitely had my fair share of kitchen failures, but I’ve also made a lot of stuff that I’m proud of!”
Poulter worked closely with Storer to create Luca’s demeanor, especially his interactions with Marcus. He also pulled inspiration from the chefs he had worked with, noting he couldn’t have done it without seeing “the balance between being kind, confident or authoritative and stern, but then also not being an asshole and being gentle and understanding and compassionate.”
Additionally, Poulter wanted to lean into the amount of emotion that goes into being a chef. “You can’t do it in an emotionless way, I don’t think,” he says. “There is a parallel between the world of cooking and the world of acting. You’re engaging in the senses, whether it’s taste, smell, sight, or touch. All of these things are relevant to both acting and cooking.”
In addition to creating the incredible character of Luca, Poulter also worked to craft his look — specifically, his tattoos. He collaborated with tattoo designer Benny Shields and the show’s head of makeup Ignacia Soto-Aguilar to design Luca’s body art.
“I did these crude rudimentary drawings, and I wrote descriptions of what they signify to the character and to me and why I wanted them. Then Benny turned out incredible versions of the drawings, and pitched me some better ones,”
says Poulter. “Funnily enough, I had my tattoos done about two weeks after I said that I was going to do the project. I had them all done before I signed a contract. This team took care of me and made me feel like one of their own before the T’s were crossed, and the I’s were dotted on the business side of things.” The “A” tattoo on Luca’s hand is for Arsenal F.C., of which Poulter is a huge fan. The nurse tattoo is to honor the many women in his family who are nurses. His dad and him used to eat fish and chips together a lot when he was younger, which is what that tattoo stands for. Plus, his brother is a big fan of Tabasco and has nearly the exact same tattoo, so that’s where the bottle came from.
After wrapping the show, Poulter now wants ink of his own — but nothing too big, since he doesn’t want to have to sit for hours in makeup to get them covered up on future roles. He’s considering getting the “whimsical” rowboat with the spatula tattoo that Luca had, one they all had fun with creating.
In addition to his tattoos, the internet has become quite obsessed with both Poulter and “hot chef” Luca.
“I promise you this, no one has got more fanboy energy for the show than I do. I’m more excited about being on this show than anyone else, I can guarantee you that. It was like one of the best experiences of my life, if not the best work experience in my life,” he says, adding that some chefs he worked with have reached out with compliments after the show came out. “So I am I am aware of the show’s impact in that regard, and it’s lovely.”
Specifically, however, he hasn’t paid too much attention to those who have coined him the “hot chef” of Season 2.
“I don’t know about that. I’m just really glad that, with the help of editing, I’m not on camera doing anything too stupid. I definitely made mistakes that are not in the show,” he says with a laugh.
Of course, he garnered the same type of compliments about his physique after starring in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” which came out in May.
“I’m definitely not used to it. It’s definitely odd, but it’s the internet, so I guess it’ll come and go. It’s weird,” he laughs. “I try not to pay too much attention to it, but I’m grateful for any version of support and people liking the show and being kind.”
Ultimately, he’s hopeful to return to “The Bear” in any capacity down the line. The crew is likely aware, as he jokes, that he made his adoration very clear.
“I was supposed to be on set for two days, I think I was really on set for four because I just wanted to hang out. I came by the day before, and then my flight got canceled. So then I came back to hang out,” he recalls before quipping that the creators didn’t believe that his flight really got canceled because of how much he wanted to be there. Luckily, it led to a dream last night, when he went to dinner with some of the cast and Chef Joe — who was “instrumental” in shooting his scenes — and cooked for them.
“He’s a prime example of someone who leads with kindness and empathy,” he says. “He’s a great person that typifies what the experience was like and how it ought to be in the industry.”