‘Shameless’ on Showtime lives up to its name, Cameron Monaghan interview

Meet the Gallagher family on Showtime’s new series, “Shameless,” yet another American version of a British television series. 

The dysfunctional family is headed by raging alcoholic Frank (William H. Macy), who for the first episode mostly lays prone in his own waste on the floor, as his children nimbly step over him. 

Frank loves to hold court at the bar, fueled by his true love, liquid courage, that ignites his Irish gift o’gab blather as he literally pisses his money and life away. 

Bonus is he cheats the government by claiming false disability benefits, as his six children from different mothers (all in absentia) are essentially raising themselves.

The family is rounded out by eldest daughter Fiona (Emmy Rossum); two teenage sons, Lip (Jeremy Allen White) and Ian (Cameron Monaghan); and Debbie (Emma Kenney), Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) and toddler Liam (Blake Alexander and Brennan Kane Johnson).

Mother duties fall on Fiona, who in the pilot races around shaking down all the children for money from their odd, street urchin “Artful Dodger” financial dealings to pay an overdue utility bill so they don’t freeze to death or sit in the dark.

There’s no pussy footing this one: Frank’s a conniving shit who has no business having children, but too late for Joe Taxpayer, as the one successful thing Frank can pull off is impregnating a woman.  And collecting benefits to support the kids he cannot pay for or properly raise. There is so much unethical and illegal shucking and jiving by Frank and company, you get whiplash watching all their classic Irish travelers’ grifter moves. 

Plan B for the kids is being looked after by the Gallaghers’ extended family, Kev (Steve Howey), an exhibitionist bartender, and Veronica (Shanola Hampton), a nurse who moonlights ironing topless on the Internet.

Also in the series is Sheila (Joan Cusack), an agoraphobic with some interesting proclivities, and a bit of a shocker as under-aged Ian is having an affair with a married Muslim boss (and father of two), Kash.  Genius son Lip has discovered Ian’s gay, and after the slight shock subsides, Ian assures his brother he has his back and nothing has changed between them.

Will you love “Shameless”? Depends on your perspective. The UK version is popular in a region of the world where heavy drinking is not as stigmatized as the USA. Pub culture is the norm. If you have ever depended on, lived or dealt with a degenerate drunkard, you may find Frank’s “charm” wanting.

Episodes premieres Sunday, January 9 at 10 PM ET/PT on Showtime.

Monsters and Critics had a chat with Cameron Monaghan about his character Ian:

Monsters and Critics:  Cameron, have you ever played a character as deeply conflicted and in turmoil as Ian before?

Cameron:  I think all of the best, most interesting, characters are the ones who battle with some form of inner conflict.  And I think that many, even most, of the dramatic characters I’ve portrayed have dealt with some form of emotional turmoil.  However, perhaps never to such an extent as Ian.  I mean, he has a lot going on; he has to deal with the animosity of his alcoholic father, the lack of a mother, the stress of taking care of his siblings and earning money for them, going to ROTC military training, and having an affair with a married Muslim man in a neighborhood unforgiving to homosexuality.  That’s a lot of emotional baggage for one guy to carry! I’m psyched to get the opportunity explore such a complex character over the course of the series.

Monsters and Critics:  Did you have any qualms about the gay sex scenes, or the situations your 15 year old character finds himself in?

Cameron: You know, the best part of acting is that it’s all, well… acting!  It’s all make-believe.  One of my favorite things about being an actor is that I get to put myself in other people’s shoes and portray things I wouldn’t normally experience.  And I’m happy to represent the gay community with such a strong, realistic, and relatable character like Ian.

Monsters and Critics:  What are Ian’s best qualities, and his worst ones?

Cameron:  Ian is tough, brave, caring, and responsible.  But his fearlessness can also lead to recklessness, and he sometimes endangers himself trying to protect the people he cares about.

Monsters and Critics:  Describe Ian’s relationship with his brother Lip (Jeremy Allen White)

Cameron: Ian and Lip are very close.  Being only one year apart in age, they’ve grown up taking care of and looking out for each other.  If one is in trouble, you can count on the other having his back. Lip stumbles upon Ian’s secret, that he is gay, and becomes the only person to know about it.  I think at first Lip feels his brother has betrayed their trust, but sharing the secret eventually makes the two an even tighter unit.

Monsters and Critics:  There was a tough scene where Ian’s neighbor Kev exposes himself to Ian in bed, this neighbor being half of Veronica and Kev- the safety net that takes care of the Gallaghers.  Can you talk about this and what we can expect of the Veronica/Kev and Gallagher arc?
   Well, I think you might be perceiving the scene differently than I do.  I don’t think Kev is exposing himself to Ian so much as he simply is exposed, and Ian happens to wander into the room. Kev is very comfortable with his body, frequently walking around his home nude, and it’s not even clear whether he is aware of his nakedness at all as he wakes up hungover. 

I think the scene is playing off Ian’s awkwardness and uncomfortableness as he accidentally sees someone he knows so well naked.  But, to answer the second part of your question, Kev and Veronica will continue to be core members of the show.  K and V are The Gallaghers’ closest friends, perhaps some of their only friends, and are practically part of the family.

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