AMC’s new series, Feed the Beast, introduces us to Tommy (David Schwimmer, Friends) and Dion (Jim Sturgess, Across the Universe), two friends who open an upscale Bronx restaurant and attempt to rise above the chaos of their past and a world swirling with criminals, corruption, and violence. A potential recipe for disaster.
We hit the red carpet premiere to catch up with Sturgess, executive producer Clyde Phillips, and Michael Gladdis (Mad Men) for the inside scoop on AMC’s latest concoction.
Tell me a little bit about your character and his motivations.
Well, you start the series off seeing my character Dion coming out of prison. He’s cooking a beautiful meal for the prison wardens—he’s really a survivor. He’s a kid from the streets of the Bronx. He brings a lot of trouble wherever he goes. He’s a mischief-maker, but he’s full of heart. He’s the driving force behind the whole idea of getting the restaurant up and off the ground, mainly because he’s in trouble with the law and he owes bad people a lot of money. He pitches the idea of the restaurant in a way to convince David Schwimmer’s character Tommy that they need it as a lifeline. He’s really the driving force behind the whole idea of getting the restaurant up on its feet. Wherever he goes trouble follows him.
Chefs are like the new rock stars—as a nation we’ve really become obsessed with the culinary world. What was it like stepping into that world?
Yeah chefs are a crazy breed. I’ve met quite a few of them while we’ve been doing this show. They really have to be the masters of their own universe. There’s a certain bravado, and a certain kind of arrogance that comes with being a head chef of a restaurant. They’re all kind of crazy. To survive in that industry, in the world that they live in, with that kind of crazy adrenaline that pumps through them everyday is madness.
It’s organized chaos.
Absolutely. It takes a certain person to be able to survive that, and it fits Dion’s personality perfectly because he’s hungry for anything that stops him from thinking basically. Ha!
What was the last memorable meal you had?
That’s easy. That was on my birthday, which was only a few days ago. The guys from the cast took me to a restaurant called Emporio, and I had a beautiful pasta dish. I rarely eat pasta, so it’s a special treat. It was one of the best I’ve had. It was truly an amazing meal.
Tell me how the concept for this show came about. You previously worked on Dexter and Nurse Jackie, which were obviously very intense shows in their own rights, but Feed The Beast is set in a very different world.
Interestingly enough, although the subject matter is different I think the worlds are the same. At their core, these shows are really about damaged people. Who’s more damaged than a serial killer or a drug addicted nurse or my two Feed The Beast guys. This is based on a Danish series, and it came to me through my agents. The project alliance at Lionsgate brought it for me right away, we went out and pitched it, sold it to three networks, got a bidding war going and then AMC took it off the table. It’s about an alcoholic sommelier, played by David Schwimmer, and his best friend who’s a coke-addicted rock star chef. Their dream is to open a high-end restaurant in the Bronx. It’s an impossible dream but they pull it off!
You touched on my next question! Chefs have really become rock stars, right? There’s been this whole culinary resurgence, where instead of idolizing musicians we’re really idolizing chefs.
Sure, food has become pornography!
Absolutely. So I’m curious, were you always interesting in tackling this world of chef rock stars, or what this something that when the opportunity was presented to you, you just couldn’t pass up?
It’s more the latter. I’m not a food guy. I had a health bar for lunch today. I was in the hotel doing all these interviews and all this food was floating around and I had a health bar ha! So for me, it’s about the people. It’s about the characters. It’s about the chance to tell amazing stories, that’s what’s appealing to me. The food is an added bonus. To try to open a restaurant in this atmosphere is such a challenge, that it makes the story telling more fun.
Well the stakes are really high in New York, that’s for sure.
No pun intended?
So your character definitely seems super complicated, and really dark. Could tell us a little bit about your character and his motivations?
We can’t choose our family, and I think Patrick is the kind of guy who was born into one way of life and is trying desperately to please his father. He never will. He’ll never be half the mobster his father is, but he’s going to do everything he can to try and fill his shoes. At the same time, I think he has dreams and aspirations that are very different from the path that’s been sort of set for him. His father is at the same time also an obstacle, so it’s a real complex relationship for him to play.
Sounds like it. I’m wondering, what is the last memorable meal that you’ve had?
Oh boy, I’ve had so many. Actually, the other night we had one. Just a big Italian meal with all our best friends and family that were in town for a play, and it was a lovely meal.
Have you ever been interested in opening your own restaurant?
Not so much. I worked in restaurants coming up as an actor, and I opened a few. I know what it takes to open a restaurant. I would open a bar. I would not open a restaurant, but I think one day I’d like it open a bar. Rich Sommer (Mad Men) and I have thrown around the idea of opening a bar called Kinsey and Crane.
Oh! I think you would have a lot of patrons at that bar.
We would, right?
I know I’d go!
Set your DVR for the series premiere of Feed the Beast, tonight Sunday June 5, at 10/9c on AMC, and Tuesdays at 10/9c.