June 2023

Screened | Abby Elliott

Getting Into Character With The Bear's Abby Elliott

Photos Martin Rusch | Words Tamara Rappa

Art imitates life, or is it that life imitates art? We are introduced to a pregnant Natalie 'Sugar' Berzatto played by Abby Elliott in The Bear's much-anticipated season two, and Elliott very recently gave birth to her own son. Happy to have much more of Natalie this season, audiences finally get briefed on the Berzatto's, where Natalie's nuances reveal themselves. Deliciously cast in the hit drama known for its frenetic family dynamics and deep dive into food and dining, season two introduces some transformational journeys and the notion of being in service, as we learn more about The Bear's often-distressed and always divine characters. Abby's previous roles were in 2011 film No Strings Attached, on author Jill Kargman's series for Bravo, Odd Mom Out, in the much-loved, How I Met Your Mother, and more. With comedic roots planted firmly: Abby's father is the comedic actor Chris Elliott; her grandfather, the radio comedian Bob Elliott, and she's of course got her 2008-2012 SNL cast member status---Elliott is both entrancing and in her element in the drama genre. Season two of The Bear sees Abby's Natalie as a key player in the development and launch of Carmy's dream, so we caught up with her to hear how her character has evolved, learn more about the series' glorious guest stars, go behind the scenes on an epic and emotional episode 206, and get an insider's taste of all the flamboyant flavors of everyone's favorite force-of-a-show. Our only regret is that we forgot to ask her how that omelette tasted...

Who is Natalie this season, and compared to last? Natalie has found herself, working to help open the new restaurant, and is on the fence about whether she’s up for the task. Last season she was constantly worried about Carmy, consumed by his dealing (or not dealing) with their brother’s death. In the last episode of season one, when Natalie joins for family dinner at the Beef, she begins to understand, and maybe even appreciate, Carmy’s motivation to fix the place up.

What was her initial motivation for jumping in and helping to open The Bear?
Although she’s quick to complain about Carmy, she really loves him and would do anything for him. Bookkeeping and spreadsheets are her forte, so she initially offers her assistance with that, knowing that her brother isn’t capable.
This season we get to know the backstory of the Berzatto family. We get a clearer picture of the three siblings, and who they are within the family unit. How do you describe Natalie's relationship with Carmy? She rolls her eyes at Carmy a lot, but deep down she is proud of her little brother. She admires his ambition, and wants it all to work out for him. They’ve been through so much together, and they’re kind of the last-Berzattos-standing. She knows that she probably won’t get a big thank you from him ever, and although that’s frustrating for her, she knows that’s just who he is, and it’s not malicious— It’s just Carmy.

In some very powerful scenes, we also come to understand who the siblings' mother, Donna Berzatto is, and discover that Natalie is affected by her mother's dysfunction in ways that her brothers are not. How does Natalie experience her mother in ways that Carmy and Michael don't, and why? Natalie is constantly trying to soften the situation, to turn it around, and to fix what’s broken. She‘s consumed by wanting everything to be okay and happy, and she makes it her goal to change the inevitable. It makes sense that she would choose Pete [played by Chris Witaske] as her partner— he is stable and jolly, and wants a happy home and family life. It makes sense that she de-stresses by organizing, and managing, and doing spreadsheets.  Her mother is an equation she can’t solve.
The Bear continues to introduce exciting guest stars, and this season we get to see many of them in an intense and emotional episode 206, Fishes. Jamie Lee Curtis, Bob Odenkirk, Sarah Paulson, John Mulaney, Olivia Colman. How do the series guest stars feel about joining your cast and being a part of the show?
They were amazing and game for anything. The casting was so perfect and everyone’s characters and unique voices were so essential to the storytelling of 206.

What was it like shooting episode 206, with all of its emotional chaos, this key part of telling the Berzatto story? Emotionally diving into that deeply, was challenging. I kind of had to ignore my instincts to support a joke or react to an awkward family dinner moment, and just sit with my feelings. I love Jon Bernthal and his charming, flawed, lovable [character] Mikey, and those sweet brother-sister moments made me feel so sad.  

Natalie decides to stick with The Bear, something that is up for question the entirety of season two, until they reach friends + family opening day and she makes her decision. Natalie's husband reflects upon how it's been good for her; he sees both lightness and fulfillment in her. How does working to open The Bear change her? I think it all goes back to purpose. At her day job at the bank, she’s approving loans. At The Bear, she has an opportunity to keep working at something bigger. She’s needed, and it’s rewarding. She likes stepping up and taking care of shit. She gets to be an important piece of the puzzle. She feels close to Carmy, and to Richie, and gets to honor Mikey.

hair: joseph chase | makeup: denika bedrossian

"The Lost Kitchen docu-series. My family has roots in Maine, and I am bingeing this show centered around Erin French’s restaurant in the town of Freedom.  It’s perfectly relaxing. "
"My Brest Friend Nursing Pillow is a little table for breastfeeding, and it keeps their tiny bodies in the perfect position."
"Bobo’s Oat Bars in Peanut Butter have been my go-to in the middle of the night when I’m feeding my newborn, and ravenous."
"Ursa Major Major Mountain Glow Serum— I love this stuff; it’s clean in its ingredients, and you really see a difference in your complexion. "
"I love Clare V.'s  Pot De Miel bag. It's a light and cute bag, perfect for al fresco summer dining."
"My friend Elyse Gac of Wall of Sound Designs just did my son's room in
Farrow + Ball's  Gable wallpaper in green— it’s so cute. My mom is from Iowa, and it felt like a nod to her roots."

Watch Abby Elliott as Natalie 'Sugar' Berzatto in The Bear's powerful and pivotal ep. 206, Fishes.

Stream all of season two of  FX's The Bear on Hulu.