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Path to the Emmy Awards: Ayo Edebiri

Coming off the warm reception of The Bear’s inaugural run — it took less than a month for the hit FX/Hulu series to garner a second season renewal — it may come as no surprise that the show is popping up across the board with various forecasts of this year’s list of Emmy nominations. Aside from the show’s lead, there’s one cast member in particular who is consistently referenced when it comes to actors from The Bear likely to be recognized by the Television Academy. We’re talking about Ayo Edebiri and her chances of landing a nod for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, which would be her first-ever Emmy nomination. If you’re wondering what led up to this moment in the career journey of the actor/writer/stand-up comedian, you’ve come to the right place.

Edebiri grew up in Boston as an only child with a social-worker mother and a Massachusetts state-employee father, who respectively hailed from Barbados and Nigeria. According to a Today interview, her initial childhood career aspiration was to pursue medicine. But then one of Edebiri’s teachers directed her toward drama class, and from there she was asked to join her school’s improv group. “I remember saying, ‘I don’t really think that’s my calling, sorry,’” Edebiri recalled. “And my teacher said to me, ‘It’s not always the loudest person or the class clown who’s the funniest. It can be the person who likes watching people, observing and listening to them.’”

And while The Bear actor showed early signs of giftedness in entertainment, when she entered New York University as a freshman, her planned course of study was education. One particularly intense student-teaching gig changed her mind, though. “Teenagers are really scary, and they will tell you when you’re not a good English teacher,” she told Trevor Noah during an appearance on The Daily Show. “But I was doing stand-up and stuff at night, and all my friends were studying writing … I was like, ‘I’ve got one life — might as well try [entertainment]; see if it works.’”

Edebiri switched her focus at NYU to performance. She had experience interning at improv spots like the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre and gave herself a deadline. The Bear actor detailed to Rolling Stone how she allotted two years to pursue a comedy career, and if it didn’t pan out, she would go back to school and get a master’s degree in teaching.

It did, in fact, pan out. The multi-hyphenate gained success as a standup comic and quickly started gathering TV credits, working as a writer on the 2019 NBC comedy series Sunnyside and creating/starring in the 2020 Comedy Central digital show Ayo and Rachel Are Single. Edebiri made her way to the writer’s room for the Apple TV+ series Dickinson and eventually transitioned to working as on-camera talent for the show, appearing in the role of Hattie opposite Hailee Steinfeld’s Emily. And on Netflix’s critically-acclaimed animated series Big Mouth, Edebiri pulled a similar move. She began as a writer on the show before working on it as an actor, voicing the character of Missy Foreman-Greenwald after Jenny Slate exited the role.

Then came The Bear. Christopher Storer’s dramedy series follows a fine-dining chef named Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White) who returns home to Chicago after the death of his brother to take over the family sandwich shop. Edebiri portrays Carmy’s sous chef Sydney in the series, which is a new dramatic turn for the actor. Upon receiving the online database’s “Breakout Star” award for her role on the show, she told IMDb, “I’m just really grateful that he [Storer] saw the potential for me to do this.” Critical acclaim followed Edebiri’s performance on the series, including praise from her fellow multi-hyphenate Quinta Brunson. “As Chef Sydney, she was so honest and gave one of the most clear-eyed portrayals of the modern working Black girl I’ve seen onscreen in a really long time,” Brunson told Time. “I felt so represented by Ayo’s character, and other people will too — it takes a lot of confidence and strength to give a performance that’s so grounded.”

And after season one of The Bear wrapped, Edebiri didn’t slow down. She’s appeared on Brunson’s ABC comedy series Abbott Elementary and the Part II series sequel to Mel Brooks’ 1981 film History of the World: Part I. Up next, she can be seen in the Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman comedy Theater Camp, as well as the 2024 Marvel feature Thunderbolts. But let’s not move too far past The Bear just yet — the buzz surrounding her performance is sure to continue leading up to July 12 when this year’s Emmy nominees are announced. At that time, you can find out if Edebiri nabs her first-ever nod from the TV Academy with a nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. From student teaching to writing for TV shows to starring in them, it would be quite a path to the Emmy Awards.

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