Pop Culture

What’s Next for Jeremy Allen White?

Jacket 970 by Schott NYC. Shirt 780 by Gucci. Tie 22 by Tie Bar.

Jacket, $970, by Schott NYC. Shirt, $780, by Gucci. Tie, $22, by Tie Bar.
The Bear made longtime TV fixture Jeremy Allen White an overnight sensation (and an object of fan thirst). Now, for the first time in his career, he has a menu of coveted roles to choose from—and he’s eager to show what else he can do.

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A few years ago, Jeremy Allen White was hanging out at a party in Malibu hosted by Julia Roberts. Sean Penn, one of White’s idols, was also in attendance. The two actors had never met before. But White and Penn were the only two people smoking at the party, so every time the former would head out for a cigarette, the latter would ask to tag along. For most aspiring young stars, this would be a dream come true: one-on-one face time with a legend whose career you want to model your own after. “He’s, like, my hero,” White tells me.

But when it came time to actually make small talk, White…blew it. Just completely froze up. “I couldn’t think of one word,” he admits, curling his fingers to make a zero. There they were “just sitting, smoking in silence.”

Vintage jacket and cummerbund by Polo Ralph Lauren. Shirt, $695, by Ralph Lauren Purple Label. Pants, $514, by Ernest W. Baker. Bow tie, $200, by Gucci. Rings (throughout), his own.

Since then, White, 31, has gotten better at taking advantage of opportunities as they present themselves, which these days is happening with more frequency. This is largely thanks to his starring role over the summer as Carmy, a tortured yet gifted chef, in FX’s The Bear. The show was a sensation, doing for sweaty restaurant kitchens what Mad Men did for Madison Avenue. “When the show came out, the phones started to ring,” says White. Suddenly, the longtime TV actor who spent 11 seasons on the dark Showtime comedy Shameless was one of the hottest things in Hollywood. “It’s definitely shifted,” he says of his career.

Shifted how? Kathryn Bigelow invited him out to lunch just so she could bounce a few ideas for projects off him. Out of nowhere there were “four A24 scripts on my desk,” White says. And he heard from a friend that Dustin Hoffman—another idol of his—loved the show so much that he wanted to send White a handwritten letter. Watching him navigate this interstitial phase of his career is like watching a spark fizz along a fuse toward a cartoonishly large pile of dynamite.

Tank top, $125, by Dolce & Gabbana. Jeans, $690, and belt, $695, by Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello. Bracelet, $3,350, by Cartier.

When I met up with White at Canter’s Deli in Los Angeles, he arrived looking as if he’d put on a Jeremy Allen White Halloween costume: a slate-gray tee with a rough, frayed hem along the neck; a black vest; a droopy gold necklace. Faded blue jeans at least a few sizes too big. He has deep, lake blue eyes, which makes it seem like he could extemporaneously deliver a monologue at any moment. He smells like American Spirits.

White grew up in Brooklyn and moved to LA at 18. Couldn’t even drive yet, so he’d spend all his time here at Canter’s. The first time he came in, just a few days after watching California Split, one of the movie’s stars, the actor Elliott Gould, was posted up in a booth. “I was like, ‘Oh, man, we’re in Hollywood!’ ” says White. He ended up playing Phillip “Lip” Gallagher on Shameless, a beloved show that flew under the radar with a surprisingly rabid following. When we step outside for a smoke break, a group of goth teens swarm him to profess their love not for Carmy, but for Lip. Soon after, a different group of teens come up to tell him the same thing. I almost felt like I was being pranked: Everyone seemed to love White. The middle–aged bartender who asked for a picture. The chef who told us The Bear was so on point he could barely get through it. The cashier behind the bakery counter who packed him a bag of extra cookies.

Coat, $6,400, by Hermès. Shirt and pants (prices upon request) by Bottega Veneta. Shoes (throughout), $350, by George Cox.

White knows he’s lucky. But he’s still uncomfortable with how fast all this change is happening. “It was just like instant attention,” he says. “I felt like that pretty girl who just hadn’t taken her glasses off yet.”

He’s still getting used to the perks fame affords him. One time, he flew on a private jet—and quickly realized it wasn’t for him. (“Hated it,” he says. “I was scared. It was too small. It was too bumpy. Commercial back. Way better.”) He has a personal stylist now. (“I don’t know how I feel about wearing expensive stuff.”) And he’s working with a groomer for the first time as he grows out his disheveled hair for a new role. (His own styling secret? “Water,” he says, “and sweat.”)

White is pragmatic about the moment he’s in. He feels like he only has a year or two to capitalize on the momentum The Bear gifted him. “I definitely feel like I’m taking a step up,” he says, “which is a scary feeling for sure.”

Shirt, $90, by Calvin Klein. Jeans, $1,290, by Balenciaga. Necklace (top, throughout), $7,950, by Cartier. Necklaces (throughout), his own.

After we finish eating, White suggests we head to the Kibitz Room, the bar at Canter’s Deli. “I hope Jimmy’s not bartending,” he says ominously, flicking his cigarette into the street.

White is married to the actor Addison Timlin, with whom he shares two young daughters. But when he was in his 20s, this was his usual watering hole. There was one night, after White and his then girlfriend had broken up, that he marched back to the bathroom and took a long, hard look at himself in the mirror. He was in a fraught emotional state. “I definitely wanted something to happen,” White says.

And then, in dramatic fashion, he proceeded to slam his head into the mirror. Glass shattering everywhere.

He stumbled out of the bathroom, blood gushing from his face. He took the $250 in cash he had out of his pocket, left it at his table, and fled the bar without saying a word. “The face, like, bleeds a lot,” White says, showing me the scar from that night, which is still visible below his right eye. At one point, the bartender (not Jimmy) chimes in: “I have one hundred percent heard that story. I forgot it was about him!”

Jacket, $3,390, shirt, $1,090, and pants, $1,650, by Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello. Watch, $25,300, by Audemars Piguet.

Finding characters who grapple with loneliness helped White select his next two projects, which will film more or less simultaneously: Apple’s big sci-fi movie Fingernails, starring Riz Ahmed, and the winner of the A24 script battle royal, The Iron Claw. The latter tells the tragic true story of the Von Erich brothers, who form a professional wrestling troupe. White will play Kerry Von Erich, the charismatic leader, alongside Zac Efron. When White was booked for the role, Efron sent him a “really lovely note”:

Get training, eat, keep doing what you’re doing, stay hard.

Jacket (price upon request), by Bottega Veneta.

White will try to put on 40 pounds of muscle to play Von Erich. It feels like an unusual role for him, but what White most appreciates is that the wrestler has something in common with Carmy: a quiet discomfort with his surroundings, a sense that he doesn’t belong. “There’s something human about never feeling like you are really your own man,” says White. “All great drama is about family, whether it’s blood or not. It’s about acceptance, it’s about belonging, and just getting away from loneliness.”

White is still learning how to feel like he belongs in Hollywood, even as he leaves a growing body of beloved work behind him. While smoking outside Canter’s, there was one moment when an older white-haired woman approached us.

“Are you Phillip?” she asked. She proceeded to tell him that she loved Shameless. Watched the whole series five times over.

“I know those eyes,” she said. “Now you’re in something else, right?”

Shirt, $1,090, and jeans, $690, by Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello. Tank top (throughout), $125, by Dolce & Gabbana.  Socks, $20, by Brooks Brothers. Belt, $695, by Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello. 

Cam Wolf is a GQ staff writer.

A version of this story originally appeared int he December/January 2022 issue of GQ with the title “Breakout of the Year: Jeremy Allen White”


PRODUCTION CREDITS:
Photographs by Eric Ray Davidson
Styled by Jon Tietz
Grooming by KC Fee at Forward Artists 
Tailoring by Yelena Travinka 
Produced by Seduko Productions


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