Liza Colón-Zayas as Tina on the Bear

Liza Colón-Zayas Knows Where She Wants Tina to Go in ‘The Bear’

The beauty of a show like The Bear is that there are characters who were smaller roles in the first season that now got their time to shine in season 2. One of those characters is Liza Colón-Zayas’ Tina. Someone who worked at The Original Beef of Chicagoland when Michael (Jon Bernthal) was in charge, she was less willing to change when Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) and Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) take over. But in season 2, we started to see a different side of Tina and someone who wanted to be the best she could be.

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Talking to Colón-Zayas about Tina’s growth, her excitement in season 2 was something that she loved to explore. “For me it was so fun to just see a different side of Tina, that she’s not always like so hard,” she said. “And, I know we got to see some of that toward the end of season one, but I love to watch cooking shows, so to be able to train a little bit and be able to do that on camera. I’m excited to see the bond with Sydney forming because Tina’s insecurities are very legit, I think. So all the things she’s faced with, you know, ageism, gentrification, the misogyny of working in a male dominated world, all of those things. She may not be able to articulate them, I’m glad that we gave her a chance to take down that wall.”

And it is in season 2 that we got to see Tina’s relationship with Sydney grow as she began training to be her sous chef and the excitement there for Tina to grow as a chef at the newly named The Bear.

Working on Sydney and Tina

The excitement of season 2 came from Tina and Sydney getting closer. In talking with Colón-Zayas about that growth, I asked her how she grew her relationship with Edebiri to make the dynamic between Tina and Sydney pop in the new season. And, for her, it was just something that came from their work on set.

“It just happens on set,” she said when I asked about growing their relationship. “You know, it’s the kind of set in that it’s a unicorn because everyone is so kind. Chris (Storer) has created and Joanna (Calo) and everyone behind the camera, in front of the camera, everyone is so sweet and kind and funny. And I felt, I would apologize when they would yell, cut. It is so easy to be sweet to Ayo and I’m really glad that we get to see the trust building and Tina feeling validated, not that she’s gonna be replaced. And so in, rebuilding this restaurant, we’re rebuilding this family, this sort of family and for us to see Tina take it in that it’s gonna be okay. To see like, she could dream again. She could have inspiration again. That she’s not that she’s so old, but yeah. In a way it’s like her age to be given that second chance.”

Tina’s New York

The Bear takes place in Chicago with the main characters being from there but that doesn’t mean everyone is from Chicago. And for Colón-Zayas, she always envisioned Tina as being from New York like herself and having moved to Chicago from there.

“No one ever told me otherwise,” she said when talking about Tina being from the Bronx, like she is. “So I didn’t play that and it never came up. And I know so many New Yorkers, especially Puerto Rican New Yorkers, it’s a huge Puerto Rican community in Chicago. So it’s not outside of the realm of possibilities that this Puerto Rican would be there. And so hopefully, season three, if there’s a season three, knock on wood, we’ll be able to explore how that happened.”

When I asked about her audition and the building of Tina as a character, Colón-Zayas told me about auditioning via Zoom during COVID and how it blossomed into the Tina we’ve come to know and love. “I feel like they watched my tape because it was Covid, so I auditioned on Zoom. I feel like they got it and they saw something, because I didn’t even know when I auditioned if Sydney was a woman or a man or whatever background she came from, age, I didn’t know anything. I just saw the pages that they gave me and I think not knowing much about the show or where the storyline was gonna take me, whatever instincts I came with, it appealed to them. I don’t know exactly what it is but I would say even like the first season I got, I didn’t know anything about Tina. I didn’t know anything and it was just trusting that she gotta survive in this kitchen with these people, but that there is love and at first it scared me but then I thought, you know what trust they’re going that I have what they want.”

The future for Tina

At the end of season 2, we saw the restaurant come to creation and everyone struggle with their new status in The Bear. Tina was coming into her own as Sydney’s sous chef and so I asked where she hopes Tina would go in the future. “I hope that she just continues to open up,” Liza Colón-Zayas said. “To trust, to believe in herself that she could raise and continue to raise her game. And it’s not like everything’s gonna be perfectly miraculously solved all the conflicts, all the challenges. But we’re gonna have plenty of those, believe me. I hope that all of those, that she continues to grow in that way and that her story is an inspiration for younger folks or any folks at this point, that she becomes just less invisible and that hopefully people in the industry and the hospitality industry appreciate it and we as a society treat them better.”

She went on to talk about the aspects of Tina’s story she loves. “I love that it’s not all glossy and sexy and all of that because the authenticity and the growth hopefully will inspire watchers to rethink how we treat these folks and what they’re struggling with and how we have more in common than not.”

You can see all of The Bear on Hulu now.

(featured image: FX)


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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.