Ayo Edibiri, 28, is so normal that, in Hollywood, she is practically a freak. On winning the Golden Globe for her leading role in the second season of the Hulu series The Bear, she thanked all of her agents and managers’ assistants. ”To the people who answer my emails! I’m really, really grateful!”
On the Emmy Awards red carpet, Edebiri fixed Better Call Saul actress Rhea Seehorn’s makeup. They were not together and had barely spoken, but she alerted Seehorn to a blemish under her eye and sorted it there and then. At the same awards ceremony, when asked what a younger Ayo would think if she could see herself there on the red carpet, she replied: “I didn’t dream of nights like this. I dreamed of just dental insurance. Now we got dental, we got eye, we got ear. We can go to the dermatologist!” She then turned to viewers to advise them to check their moles.
Despite her youth, Edibiri has been writing scripts, voicing animated characters and participating incessantly in series and films for the past decade, though half of the almost 30 projects she’s been involved in happened last year. Her original intention after school was to become a teacher but during her college years, she realized she might be “lying” to herself. Now as an emerging actress, her role in The Bear, an unpretentious comedy series in which she plays the organized and methodical cook Sidney opposite Jeremy Allen White’s somewhat lost Carmy in his disastrous Chicago sandwich shop, has already earned her a Golden Globe, an Emmy and a Critics Choice award, as well as nominations for a People’s Choice gong, a Screen Actors Guild award and a Bafta. On Saturday, February 3, she became the host of the veteran comedy show Saturday Night Live, and introduced guest Jennifer Lopez.
Edibiri continues to be surprised by her meteoric rise to fame and has acknowledged feeling to be in a place that does not seem to belong to her. She has made the leap from normal girl to award-winning actress, and the result is someone dressed in Louis Vuitton who speaks with a heart-warming touch of naivety despite the maturity of her own scripts and performances. Her success has been such that she has decided to quit Thunderbolts, the next installment of Marvel, in order to be available for other projects, showing she is ready to forge her own path.
She may have started out in the entertainment industry as a production assistant, making tea and coffee, but in the past year, besides The Bear, she is one of the stars of the comedy The Wrestling Club alongside model Kaia Gerber and her good friend and colleague Rachel Sennott; she is one of the voices in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem and in the Oscar-nominated Spider-Man: Crossing the Multiverse; and she has been involved in award-winning series such as Abbott College and Black Mirror, as well as Big Mouth, for which she wrote while also starring in around 30 episodes.
After penning the Dickinson series, centered on the life of the 19th century poet Emily Dickinson, her role as the voice of Missy Foreman-Greenwald in the animated series Big Mouth brought Edibiri her a first taste of success, but also her first problems. Aimed at an adult audience, Big Mouth has at times proved controversial — it deals with topics particularly pertinent to adolescents such as masturbation, first sexual encounters and drugs; moreover, the role of the mixed-race Missy was initially played by the white actress Jenny Slate, who decided to quit at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement. Consequently, Edebiri has been subjected to threats which have even been aimed at her parents, whose identity she has subsequently kept under wraps.
The only child of a mother from Barbados and a father from Nigeria, Edebiri is very close to her parents, who raised her in Dorchester, a predominantly working-class neighborhood of Boston. Her mother was religious and took her every Sunday to Pentecostal church, and Edibiri credits the Bible with inspiring her to write and develop stories. Her father, on the other hand, took her to the movies. Now that her role in The Bear is that of a cook, she has stated on occasion that her mother is “incredible” in the kitchen.
The twists and turns of Edibiri’s career were not what her parents had in mind for their daughter. When she left Boston for New York to study teaching, she told The New Yorker that they were full of “encouragement,” but took longer to get on board when she switched to screenwriting and then acting. “Now it’s very comforting that my parents know what I do,” she said in an interview with Gold Derby. “They’re like, ‘Just to confirm, you won’t be moving back? You’re done? You’re good?’” At the Emmy’s, she dedicated her speech to them, saying, “Probably not a dream to immigrate to this country and have your child say, ‘I wanna do improv.’”
The improvisation and comedy sketches started thanks to her then partner Rachel Sennott, who introduced her to the New York monologue and stand-up scene. A perfectionist and hard worker, she performed her own writing and got the bug. She went from venue to venue, performing up to three times a day. She also started writing scripts with Sennott in what began as a comedy duo and ended up as a three-episode series in 2020, Ayo and Rachel are Single on Comedy Central. Although almost five years have passed since then, some of the pair’s followers on social media appear to have difficulty separating fact from fiction. In reality, each has a partner: Sennott, actor Logan Miller, and Edebiri, comedian Colin Burgess.
In several of her interviews, Edebiri explains that it feels weird to be an actress, and that she never thought she fit the Hollywood standard; she felt she had neither the charisma nor the looks for it: “I wanted a real job that would make me money,” she told The New Yorker. Not only has she succeeded, but she has become an actress respected by her co-stars and critics alike. Those working with her on The Bear have only good things to say about her. They mention her ease, her control of the situation, her attention to detail and her encyclopedic knowledge of film. She joined Allen White at a hospitality college and both have worked in kitchens to get a feel for the routine and the space. Now she appreciates the work that goes on behind the scenes in the hospitality industry, but likes to keep it on set. “People will come up to me at restaurants [and] be like, ‘Can you cook?’ And [I’m like] ‘I’m not helping. I’m off duty right now,’” she told The Hollywood Reporter.
Bubbly and refreshingly normal, the recent accolades have only reinforced Edibiri’s awareness of how lucky she is. “I like my job. I feel like it’s a real privilege to like what I do and feel challenged by what I do and just want to keep working, keep learning,” she said to The Hollywood Reporter. “That’s kind of the main goal right now.” After all, the dental insurance is in the bag.
Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition