Josh Hartnett Is The Bear Season 3’s Best Guest Star

THERE HAVE BEEN a lot of guest stars in The Bear—to the point where we, as an audience, have kind of been conditioned to expect any major off-screen character to eventually show up with a famous face. That’s what an episode like season 2’s “Fishes”—where Jamie Lee Curtis, Bob Odenkirk, Sarah Paulson, and John Mulaney were among the guests at a past Berzatto Christmas dinner—will do to an audience.

Season 3 was ultimately a bit lighter on star-power, bringing back some of the above names while featuring people from the real-life food world playing themselves. But one key appearance, and a masterstroke in casting, came in episode 4, “Violet.” Midway through the episode, Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) drops his daughter off to stay with Frank, his ex-wife Tiff’s (Gillian Jacobs) new fiancé (who was mentioned in season 2). And in this moment, we learn two very vital facts: Frank is played by Josh Hartnett, and he’s a super nice guy.

That throws a wrench into things! When you’re following a character like Richie who’s both likable and on a path of self-improvement, the natural feeling is to want to root for him to right the things he’s messed up, and that includes making things right with his ex-wife (and maybe even rekindling something). He messed things up, and she’s engaged now, but he’s changed—and he has the chance to win her back. That’s what rom-coms would have us thinking, at least.

In those rom-com scenarios, though, the new fiancé is usually some kind of an asshole, or a jerk, or someone easy to root against. Within moments, it’s clear that’s not who Frank is, or what he’s about.

josh hartnett as frank in the bear season 3


A quick recap of the scene: Frank is kind to Richie’s daughter. Frank makes a self-depreciating joke (Eva calling him “Waldo” is better than calling him “Asshole,” he quips). Frank apologizes, heartily, to Richie for not talking to him before proposing to Tiff. Frank wants Richie to come to their wedding. Frank wants to eat at The Bear.

It’s yet another example of The Bear fleshing out its nuanced world, one that understands the way human beings are and how they interact better than just about any other show on television. It would be so easy if Frank was a cocky, rich, arrogant dude. It would be so easy to make a box that says “Jerk” and put Frank right in it. But that’s not what the show does, and that’s challenging. The audience needs to acknowledge and accept the reality of what’s in front of them—that Frank is a swell guy.

Hartnett’s casting speaks volumes by itself. Not only is Richie naturally comparing himself with this guy who’s nice, with a nice house, who’s marrying his ex-wife, but he quite literally looks like a movie star—because he’s played by one. Hartnett is 45 now, but still carries the effortless cool you remember from major movies like Black Hawk Down, The Faculty, and Sin City. His appearance works perfectly because sometimes, as frustrating as things might be, and as much as it might seem like a conflict could be brewing, it’s just not. Sometimes things are just OK, and, as Richie will likely continue to learn, that’s OK too.

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The Bear marks Josh Hartnett’s latest great appearance in a high-profile movie or show

josh hartnett

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After bursting onto the scene in the late ’90s and early 2000s as the star of movies like The Faculty, The Virgin Suicides, Black Hawk Down, and Pearl Harbor (among many others), Hartnett has once again made a major splash in the film and television industry over in the last few years.

Hartnett worked with director Guy Ritchie on a pair of fun action movies (2021’s Wrath of Man and 2023’s Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre), jump-starting his career ahead of roles in Black Mirror (he starred in season 6’s best episode, “Beyond the Sea”) and Christopher Nolan‘s Oppenheimer. That run will continue this summer, as he’ll take the leading role in M. Night Shyamalan’s twisted new thriller Trap, playing a dad bringing his daughter to a pop concert—who also just happens to be a serial killer being hunted by the authorities.

It’s been fun to watch Hartnett embrace, twist, and bend his previous movie star persona in recent years, and that includes his role as the utterly-affable Frank in The Bear.

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