The Bear Season 3's Heartbreaking High Point “Napkins”, Broken Down By Liza Colón-Zayas

Let’s break down the scene at The Beef where Tina meets Mikey. The episode hinges on this open and honest conversation between them. Was there a lot of preparation behind it for you and Jon Bernthal?

I wanted it to feel as organically flowing as possible. So I worked on the script. Quietly go through line by line and really chart what I think we’re trying to get from each other. For me, I have to do it that way, so that on the day it feels fresh. [Jon Bernthal] is just such a pro. He is such a master. I just didn’t want to let Ayo down.

It took two days to shoot, because the first [day was] where we’re entering [The Beef] and that whole madness. Then the next day was in the dining room, and there’s technical stuff there with the pinball game and that noise. What comes in is loud and jarring, and we move into this quiet where all of it is still going on, but then it’s just us two. Somehow it becomes white noise and [Tina and Mikey] become the focus. We ran the scene a couple times, which I asked for. I was a little nervous, and [Jon] was more than happy to. He just makes it easy to be available, to be open, to be loose.

When she sits down in The Beef after weeks of looking for work, she finally breaks down into tears. What do you think is triggering that?

That kindness. That one thing of, I don’t know how broke she was, but maybe she didn’t just go in there for a cup of coffee. I think the dam burst in that moment. Sometimes food will bring up memories and feelings, and I think that there’s something about how warm and delicious [the food was.] [It] took her to a place that allowed her to admit that she’s terrified of losing all of it.

In the first two seasons, we’ve seen Tina primarily as this hardened and resilient person. Was there something cathartic in portraying that release?

I think that that scene encapsulates why [Tina’s] grief, and all of our grief is so profound. [Mikey] was reckless, but he would do these grand gestures of generosity and decency. He was that guy.

Tina and Mike understand each other right away. What do you think made their relationship special?

This was Mikey’s house. He opened up the doors not just to people from the neighbourhood to eat. He knew things about the community. He gave purpose to the broken toys.

In that conversation, Tina mentions that she doesn’t really have a dream job. Do you think she’s found her dream job in the restaurant?

She wants it to be. As you see in season three, levelling up comes with a whole new set of challenges, and I think she wants to do well. I don’t think she’s anywhere near having the light go out. I think that being entrusted with the sous chef title has reignited some passion in her and that’s exciting.

At the end of the episode, there’s a beautiful moment where Tina is looking at her apron and smiling. What’s going through her head at that moment?

A light at the end of the tunnel. Salvation. Like she said, “I don’t want to save the world. I just want to feed my kid.” She’s got a reprieve. She doesn’t have to lie at the dinner table and pretend.

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