With debut of its ninth season upon us, Shameless is now Showtime’s oldest currently-running fictional series. Based on a UK series of the same name, Shameless stars Oscar-nominated actor William H. Macy as the dysfunctional patriarch of the Gallagher clan, a struggling working-class family on the south side of Chicago. While gut-bustingly hilarious at times, Shameless also goes to much darker places than many TV series has ever gone, dealing with addiction, family dysfunction, social and economical class struggles, mental health, LGBTQ issues, and other taboo topics in an unflinching manner.
Macy– along with co-star Emmy Rossum, who plays his oldest child, Fiona– head up a cast of brilliant actors who have been playing their parts for nearly a decade now, some literally growing up on screen during Shameless‘s run. They have taken these characters on a dizzying journey through the lives of the Gallgahers and their friends and enemies, clutching on to every tiny triumph amidst what seems to be mostly tragedy. All the while, they have made us conflicted about when to praise them and when to condemn them, but we never stop rooting for them.
While this is one case where the behind-the-scenes trivia of a show couldn’t possibly be as crazy as what is happening on the show itself– at least, we can only hope that it isn’t– that doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty of fascinating tidbits about the making of the show and about its actors and creative team that will blow away even the most hardcore fans.
Here are 25 Crazy Things About Shameless That Only True Fans Knew.
25 It Was Almost Set In A Trailer Park
In trying to decide where to set the American version of Shameless, producers initially wanted to take the easy route of having it take place in the south and in a trailer park.
John Wells, who developed the U.S. version, was staunchly opposed to that plan, saying that such a setting has already been overdone and often makes for lazy, cliched jokes and situations. Wells said that the show would be more effective if the majority of viewers felt like the Gallaghers could be their neighbors, saying “They’re the people who live four blocks down from you and two blocks over.”
Additionally, original creator Paul Abbott also had reservations about the show being set in a trailer park for the same reasons, and only got on board when he heard Walls’ ideas for where the Gallaghers should live.
24 Emmy Rossum wasn’t allowed to audition
It takes a certain kind of actress to play a role like Fiona Gallagher, and Shameless‘s producers didn’t think that Emmy Rossum had what it took.
Looking at her work prior to the role– especially her part in 2004’s The Phantom of the Opera— they thought she was too pretty, too clean-cut, and too glamorous to tackle a role like Fiona. In fact, they refused to even give her an audition, convinced she could never land the part.
In a very Fiona move, Rossum refused to accept that, making own audition tapes and sending them anyway.
She wasn’t taking no for an answer– and once they saw her audition, they weren’t saying no anymore.
23 You Can Visit The Real Gallagher Home– For A Price
It’s pretty obvious– at least from the exterior shots– that the house that the Gallaghers call home is an actual house in an actual Chicago neighborhood.
As fans tend to do, viewers set about trying to see if they could find the “Shameless house,” and many have.
If you are ever in the area and want to actually go up onto the porch and take pictures, you can– just be respectful of the people who actually live there, and have a few bucks on you. There is a bucket on the porch requesting donations for the owners of the house if you decide to take a picture there. It is their private property, after all– and they could very easily be like many owners of similarly famous houses and not allow that at all.
22 Woody Harrelson Was The First choice for Frank
William H. Macy is perfect in the role of neglectful father Frank Gallagher, and has multiple Emmy nominations and SAG award wins to back that up. But it turns out that Macy wasn’t the first choice for the role, something he didn’t find out about until he bumped into the guy who was.
In an interview he did shortly after Shameless began its run, Macy recalled bumping into friend and fellow actor Woody Harrelson, who asked Macy what he was up to.
When Macy responded that he was doing Shameless, Harrelson responded, “Oh yeah, I talked to them about that.”
Harrelson explained that he passed because he was a fan of the UK version and didn’t think he’d be able to top actor David Threlfall’s portrayal of the character– to which Macy confidently replied, “I can.”
21 Jimmy/Steve Was Never Supposed To Come Back
A major part of Shameless for its first three seasons was the complicated relationship between Fiona and Steve– aka Jimmy, aka Jack– played by Justin Chatwin. While his featured role was reduced to recurring guest star in the fourth and fifth seasons, he was never supposed to come back at all after the end of season three.
Steve’s life seems to have ended in brutal fashion at the end of season three.
Indeed, that was the plan, but the show’s writers and some of its cast were unhappy with the way his storyline resolved, especially in regard to Fiona.
It was decided to “revive” him so that he could make a few more appearances over the next couple of seasons, and have his time on the show come to a more satisfying– for Shameless, anyway– conclusion.
20 The Dragon Ball connection
Most of the cast of Shameless hadn’t previously worked together, which is remarkable given how amazing their chemistry is and how well they all get along off screen, by most accounts. That said, two major cast members were co-stars before Shameless, though it’s probably not something either of them are all that interested in reminiscing about.
Two years before working together on Shameless, Emmy Rossum and Justin Chatwin were co-stars in the 2009 live-action film Dragonball Evolution as Bulma and Goku, respectively.
19 Fake Smokers
A lot of addictive behaviors are on display in Shameless, each with varying degrees of danger and legality. Honestly, smoking tobacco is far from the worst thing you’ll see a character do. That doesn’t mean that there still hasn’t been a lot of thought given to how smoking is portrayed on the show.
Attentive viewers might have noticed that both Fiona and Ian smoked a lot more in early seasons than they would later on, and there is a reason for that. Neither Emmy Rossum nor Cameron Monaghan (Ian) are smokers in real life, and there was some concern over whether the non-smokers were believably portraying smoking on screen.
Both actors just decided that their characters wouldn’t smoke as much. Meanwhile, Lip has always smoked like a chimney– and that’s because actor Jeremy Allen White actually does smoke.
18 There have been 5 different Liams
To say that Liam has been one of the more controversial characters on Shameless would be an understatement, but we’re not going to get into all that. We’re mostly going to discuss that a whopping five different actors have played the youngest Gallagher over the show’s soon-to-be nine seasons.
It’s no surprise that baby Liam would’ve been played by twin actors– and for seasons one and two, those twins were Brennan Kane and Blake Alexander Johnson. Since kids don’t always age quickly enough for a TV show’s liking, his age was fast-forwarded a bit when older twins Brendan and Brandon Sims took over for the next five seasons.
Once Liam’s role got deeper and more complex in season eight, more experienced young actor Christian Isaiah assumed Liam duties and has played the role since.
17 Mickey Was Only Supposed To Be In A Few Episodes
One of Shameless‘s most heart-wrenching subplots has been that of the relationship between Ian Gallagher and Mickey Milkovich, played by actor Noel Fisher. The couple’s journey has been such an integral part of both characters’ growths on the show, particularly Ian’s, that it’s hard to imagine that Mickey wasn’t always meant to be a longtime member of the show and always intended to affect Ian’s life in such a way.
Remarkably, Fisher says he only initially signed on to play Mickey for about a handful of episodes, as that was to be the extent of the character’s appearance on Shameless.
The writers quickly noticed Noel Fisher’s chemistry with actor Cameron Monaghan.
Plans changed and he went on to play Mickey for a total of 43 episodes (so far).
16 Veronica Got Pregnant Because Her Actress Did
The Gallagher’s next door neighbors, Kevin and Veronica, have probably been the biggest non-Gallagher characters on Shameless since its debut. Of the many difficult things we’ve watched the couple endure, few have been more sad than their struggles to get pregnant and Veronica being told that she was unlikely to ever have a child.
Well, luckily for Veronica, the actress that portrays her– Shanola Hampton– got pregnant, and the easiest way to deal with an actor on a TV show getting pregnant is to make her character pregnant, too.
The show’s writers had to give Veronica a miracle pregnancy despite already kind of establishing that she couldn’t conceive.
Of course, it beats the alternative method of dealing with an actress’s real-life pregnancy, which always has questionable results (we’re looking at you, Mad Men).
15 No Scripts Are Allowed On Set
One of the perks of doing film and TV work over, say, live theater is that you can sneak a peek at the script between scenes and don’t have to necessarily have everything completely memorized before going “on.”
It’s particularly common on television sets for their to be a ton of scripts floating around and being studied every time the cameras stop rolling. For Shameless, however, this is certainly not the case.
Showrunner John Wells instituted a strict policy of no scripts being allowed on set, meaning the actors need to come prepared and knowing all of their dialogue for at least that whole day’s worth of filming. Wells says that he wants the actors to play their parts as naturally as possible, and that forcing them to have the script memorized helps to ensure that.
14 Carl’s Actor Wanted To Leave
There have been several notable exits of major characters throughout Shameless‘s run, with most departures being the result of some creative decision that was made to propel the story forward in some compelling– or heartbreaking– way. However, sometimes characters leave a show because the people who play them simply wanted out, which was the case with Carl Gallagher, played by Ethan Cutkosky.
Having started on Shameless when he was just 12 years old, Cutkosky soon found himself at the age where he’d be entering high school.
He decided that he wanted to have a normal high school experience.
The writers sent Carl off to military school in order to give his character an excuse to be absent for an extended period while Cutkosky took a hiatus to go to high school full-time.
13 Real Injuries Become Fictional Injuries
Actors can’t be expected to just sit in their homes doing nothing in between projects or seasons, and it’s inevitable that they are going to hurt themselves in such a way that it needs to be addressed on screen. The cast of Shameless has had two notable examples where an off-screen injury had to be written into the show.
Actor Steve Howey, who plays Kevin Ball, confirmed in a tweet that Kev’s broken leg from a shower mishap was the result of Steve snapping his Achilles tendon in real life. Ethan Cutkosky claims that he broke his leg dancing, and because he needed to wear a cast for part of Shameless‘s fifth season, the writers had to give Carl a broken leg as well.
12 Allison Janney played Sheila in the pilot
Woody Harrelson wasn’t the only big-name actor attached to Shameless who didn’t accept the offer. Except, in the case of Allison Janney, she wasn’t just approached for a role on the show and turned it down– she had already filmed an entire episode before changing her mind.
It’s difficult to imagine anyone but Joan Cusack playing Sheila Jackson, but Janney was initially cast in the role instead and had even shot the pilot. When the producers of Shameless decided to make Sheila a much more prominent and longer-running character than was initially planned, Janney was unable to continue playing the role as she had already committed to a featured part on the ABC series Mr. Sunshine.
11 The Cast Loves To Prank Each Other
The casts that pranks each other, stays together– and it likely surprises nobody that the cast of Shameless have a lot of fun on the set at each other’s expense.
In particular, it seems as though Emmy Rossum and Justin Chatwin really had a history of messing with each other, which clearly served to strengthen their on-screen chemistry.
Rossum once shared how Chatwin liked to make the pair’s romantic scenes as uncomfortable for her as possible, and in one specific instance, he wolfed down a tuna sandwich just before a make-out scene so that he would have terrible breath.
If anything is a testament to Rossum’s acting chops, it’s that she made it look as though she was legitimately enjoying an intense kissing session with a guy who reeked of canned fish.
10 The Mandy Switch
Did something seem a little off about Mandy Milkovich in the second season of Shameless? No, your eyes weren’t deceiving you– the character had switched actresses. It is definitely to the credit of the show’s casting department that it took a double take to notice the swap and that the change wasn’t hit-you-over-the-head obvious from the first moment the new actress stepped on screen.
Jane Levy, who played Mandy in season one, had gotten an offer for a lead role in the ABC sitcom Suburgatory— another Shameless actor inadvertently poached by ABC, oddly enough– and chose that over her recurring role on Shameless, which she can hardly be blamed for.
Since Levy’s departure, Mandy has been played by actress Emma Greenwell, whose interpretation of the character has been a little softer and more vulnerable.
9 There Is A Real “Patsy’s” In Chicago
While Shameless takes place in– and accurately name-checks– very real Chicago neighborhoods and mainstays, most of the actual businesses and establishments in the show have been fictitious. That includes Patsy’s Pies, the café that has served as a frequently-used locale on the show.
As with some of the other fake places on the show, Patsy’s is at least based on a real place. In this case, it is most closely inspired by a Chicago eatery called Patsy’s Place.
However, the location used for the exterior shots of Shameless‘s Patys’s Pies isn’t actually Patsy’s Place, but instead another local Chicago eatery called the Golden House Restaurant.
In addition, there is a bar in Chicago called Patys’s Pub, which some Chicagoans claim is also the basis for Patsy’s Pies. Confused yet?
8 Castle Rock’s Mini Shameless Reunion
As we previously mentioned, the cast of Shameless work extremely well together both on screen and off. It stands to reason that they’d be one of those groups of actors who frequently pop up together in other shows and movies going forward. It turns out that has already happened.
Hulu’s Stephen King-based horror series Castle Rock features two former Shameless cast members. Jane Levy, the original actress to play Mandy Milkovich on Shameless, plays Diane “Jackie” Torrence on Castle Rock— alongside her brother’s actor Noel Fisher, who went from playing Mickey Milkovich to Shawshank prison guard Dennis Zalewski.
7 Emmy Rossum’s Salary Disputes
Women continue to struggle to get equal pay to men in just about every career field, including acting. It’s only recently that more actresses have been able to successfully lobby for salaries to match their male co-stars, and one of those trailblazers has been Shameless‘s own Emmy Rossum.
When Rossum discovered that William H. Macy was making more money than her despite her being as big as– if not bigger– a part of the show as him, she went to the producers and not only demanded their salaries be made equal, but also that she get a raise to make up for the seasons when he was still outearning her.
Not only were her demands met, but she had the full support of Macy himself, who said, “She works as hard as I do. She deserves everything.”
6 Cast Members Step Behind The Camera
Shameless really feels like the type of show where everyone has a real say in its direction, from the top producers all the way down to the stars themselves. That is made especially obvious by the fact that two cast members have been given the chance to write and direct episodes.
William H. Macy was the first cast member to go behind the scenes, as it were, when he co-wrote the season two episode “Can I Have A Mother”. He then followed that up with directorial duties three seasons later, when he helmed the episode “Tell Me You ****ing Love Me.”
Emmy Rossum later joined the ranks of Shameless actors turned director when she got behind the camera for season seven’s “I Am a Storm”.
5 Most Indoor Filming Is Done In L.A.
Following up with the previous entry, it also needs to be pointed out that it is only the outside of the Gallagher’s home that is located in Chicago.
We’re sorry to spoil the illusion for you, but just about all of the interior scenes in Shameless are actually filmed halfway across the country in sets on studio lots in Los Angeles.
To be fair, most of the outside locations actually are shot in Chicago, as are shots of actors riding the city’s famous CTA train lines and buses.
The cast and crew of Shameless spend about two weeks per year in Chicago.
They film all the necessary exterior shots in and around the city to at least make the show seem as authentically Chicago as they can.
4 Shanola Hampton’s Video Game Origins
While Shanola Hampton had already appeared in a number of prior movies and television shows, Shameless was her first major role. She was definitely prolific enough before Shameless that she likely looked familiar to viewers, even if they couldn’t quite put their finger on why.
If you’re a gamer, you might have recognized Hampton from Left 4 Dead 2.
She served as the face model for the character Rochelle. But typical of the game developer, a different person voiced the character, so Hampton’s only contribution was her face.
It’s an odd choice, given that she was already an established actor– and a good one at that. Rochelle’s voice was instead that of actress Rochelle Aytes (Mistresses, The Forgotten).
3 It Was Initially A Direct Remake
It’s not a secret to most Shameless fans that the show is a remake of a UK show of the same name, and that it shares the basic premise and many of the characters of the original. But those who haven’t watched the UK version probably aren’t aware of where the shows are the same, and where they differ.
Much like when NBC imported The Office, and it was initially more or less a carbon copy of the UK original and began to forge its own path shortly thereafter, so too was the U.S. Shameless essentially a direct retelling of the original for the first few episodes. A couple were even written by original series creator Paul Abbott. But it didn’t take long before the two versions split apart, and now are largely different shows save for their similar foundations.
2 Big-Name Talent Behind The Scenes
While there were some recognizable actors in Shameless‘s cast from the beginning, it should also be noted that there are some equally respected names working behind the scenes as well. If some of the names in the credits sound familiar to you but you couldn’t quite place where you know them from, you might be surprised to learn just who they are.
Perhaps the most noteworthy name on Shameless‘s creative team is Alex Borstein, who serves as a consulting producer as well as having written five episodes so far. Borstein voices Lois Griffin on Family Guy and is a current Emmy nominee for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
Additionally, Shameless producer and sometimes writer Mike O’Malley is a veteran comedian who not only had his own self-titled sitcom, but turned in an acclaimed performance as Kurt’s father on Glee.
1 The Psychology Of The Gallagher Children
It’s obvious that the creative team behind Shameless knows a thing or two about addiction. In fact, UK Shameless creator Paul Abbott has said the original show was at least partly semi-autobiographical. Frank’s addiction isn’t just realistic due to the incredible portrayal by William H. Macy, but in a much more subtle way as well.
Each of the Gallagher children– save for Liam– is said to represent a specific character trait commonly found in children of addicts. Fiona represents the “hero” or the perfect child; Lip is the “clown” or the screw-up; Ian is the loner; Carl is the rebellious one and also the scapegoat; and Deb is the caretaker.
Obviously they don’t all rigidly play these roles with no overlap, but it was definitely the basis in creating them and largely describes their overall place in the family.
Do you have any other Shameless trivia to share? Let us know in the comments!