‘Sweetbitter’ serves up heightened angst in Season 2 of Starz restaurant drama

‘Sweetbitter’ – Tasty restaurant drama gets complicated

Caitlin FitzGerald stars in “Sweetbitter,” which returns for Season 2 Sunday on Starz.

Following up on the exposition of Season 1, the layers of the proverbial onion begin to peel away for the characters as the Starz restaurant drama “Sweetbitter” returns for its second course this week.

Premiering Sunday, July 14, the new season finds the workers at the chic Manhattan eatery 22W facing their own challenges. Chief among them is smalltown girl Tess (Ella Purnell), who is grappling with an awareness of her own power now that she has some knowledge and experience in waitressing and life under her belt.

That’s not great news for her mentor and pseudo-idol Simone (Caitlin FitzGerald), a fellow server who feels trapped in her limited world at the restaurant and dogged by her mysterious relationship with bartender Jake (Tom Sturridge). Also feeling hopelessly bound to his workplace is general manager Howard (Paul Sparks), who often finds himself playing referee for his spirited charges, which also include backwaiters Will (Evan Jonigkeit), Ari (Eden Epstein) and Sasha (Daniyar) and server Heather (Jasmine Mathews).

“I think what’s great about Season 2 for all the characters,” FitzGerald says, “is we get to know them a lot more and a lot more intimately. … I think as the onion is peeled, the relationships get more complicated and the dynamics get more complicated. And I think especially for Simone, there are a few instances that really sort of challenge her authority and challenge her perceived control, particularly relating with Tess, and that’s hard for her and complicated.”

Tom Sturridge and Caitlin FitzGerald star in “Sweetbitter,” which returns for Season 2 Sunday on Starz.

And that relationship, FitzGerald says, will evolve as the season progresses.

“I think Simone saw in Tess perhaps in some ways a younger version of herself,” she explains, “and certainly someone who would readily be an acolyte. And as that kind of starts to shift in Season 2, it’s very confronting for Simone. Simone is a control freak, to say the least. And Simone’s control is a fragile edifice that she’s built. This restaurant is kind of her kingdom, which is tragic in a way because her world is really small. But when her control gets threatened, she doesn’t take it very well.”

Things don’t go so easily for Simone with Howard, either.

“I would say the relationship between them is a little fraught this season,” FitzGerald says. “I think historically Simone and Howard have kind of figured out how they both operate in this restaurant and where the power lies and that also gets challenged this season and sort of thrown up in the air.

“They definitely know each other too well,” she continues with a laugh, “and I think at one point Paul and I talked about there having been some kind of romance affair between them. But they’ve known each other forever also, so it’s been kind of when they get along it’s really great and they’re really close.

“But when they don’t get along they have a lot of ammo on each other and they kind of know how to push each other’s buttons.”

George Dickie

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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