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The ‘adorable Irishness’ of The Bear’s Ayo Edebiri

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Emmy-winning actor Ayo Edebiri has been claimed as “Ireland’s own”, after thanking the Emerald Isle in acceptance speeches as she swept up a host of top prizes.

While there have been a “disproportionate number of celebrities hailing from the proud nation of Ireland vying for awards this year” – including Cillian Murphy, Barry Keoghan, Paul Mescal, Andrew Scott and Sharon Horgan – “none of them are quite as Irish” as Edebiri, said the AV Club.

Edebiri “isn’t actually Irish”, said the news site. “But if you’ve been following her whirlwind red-carpet tour at all over the past few weeks, you’d be forgiven for being a little confused”.

The background

Best known for her role as beleaguered sous-chef Sydney in hit show “The Bear”, Edebiri was actually born in the US city of Boston, which, incidentally, is “one of the epicentres of Irish-American life”, said the BBC.

But her tongue-in-cheek connection to Ireland began with a red-carpet joke during last year’s award season, when British-Irish director Martin McDonagh’s film “The Banshees of Inisherin” was hitting the headlines.

During a red-carpet interview, Edebiri pretended that she had played Jenny the Donkey – a doomed pet owned by the film’s protagonist – and described her “method” for getting into character as the unfortunate animal.

“I lived in Ireland for about four months – and I got really in character. I was on all fours for four months and it was really painful, but beautiful as well,” she quipped.

The “throwaway” comment quickly “took on a life of its own”, as Irish social media users “flocked to claim Edebiri” and to “speculate that she may have as yet undiscovered Irish heritage”.

The actor has been equally happy to run with the joke, frequently referencing Ireland as her “home nation” in interviews since.

And it’s not the first time that Edebiri has made a joke of this kind. She had “large swathes of the world” believing she was the showrunner behind FX’s “Kominsky Method”, simply because she thought it “seemed like a funny idea”, said Mashable.

“I just thought what an incredible world that would be if a young Black woman in her mid-20s created this show where Michael Douglas and Allan Arkin are acting,” she told “The Late Show”. “Have I watched a single episode? No. But I already get the gist, you know what I mean?”

The latest

Picking up a Critics Choice Award for best actress in a comedy series at the weekend, Edebiri thanked the nation of Ireland in her acceptance speech.

“To everybody in Boston, Barbados, Nigeria – Ireland, in many ways – thank you so much, I love you,” she said.

And as she walked the red carpet at this year’s Emmy Awards – later going on to win best supporting actress in a comedy series – she hailed some of her favourite Irish cities.

“Shout-out to my people – shout-out to Derry, shout-out to Cork, shout-out to Killarney, shout-out to Dublin,” she told an interviewer.

The reaction

“Ayo Edebiri, we’re proud to call you Irish,” said Donald Clarke in The Irish Times.

He explained that, as a nation, Ireland has always been “remarkably happy to clutch those born overseas – when willing – to the national bosom”. Despite all the “griping” about English people taking up Irish passports, “for the most part we smile when people like John le Carré or Bill Nighy grandmother their way towards the fast-moving queue at immigration”.

It seems that a “remarkable number of people wish to be of this nation”, and it seems “reasonable to play along when we can”. After all, “it’s quite a compliment”, continued Clarke. And in any case, “the adorable Irishness of Ayo Edebiri really is a tonic for the bitter months”.


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