Emmy Rossum Reveals Why Shameless Season 4 'Terrified' Her, Previews Fiona's Continuing Spiral

Shameless Season 4 SpoilersShameless heroine Fiona Gallagher has hit the lowest of lows this season, leading to some bleak moments that gave her portrayer Emmy Rossum cause for concern.

“I was terrified that people would not like it and abandon the show because it’s so much darker than anything we’ve done before,” the actress tells TVLine. “We’re really changing the characters and giving them obstacles and making them fail. It feels almost like what they did on Breaking Bad, where they broke all the characters and made them really unlikable, and then started to redeem them again.”

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But first, you have to hit rock bottom, which is what Fiona did when she landed behind bars and found herself subjected to a strip search. The emotional scene — which earned Rossum the honor of TVLine’s Performer of the Week — was also traumatizing for the actress.

“That was a rough day [of filming],” she says. “That was one of the days where you go home and you go, ‘Wow, I hope that that was worth it because that definitely took a couple months off my life.'”

Below, Rossum talks about shooting that difficult moment and previews the troubling road ahead for Fiona, beginning with a visit from her probation officer (played by Southland‘s Regina King) in this Sunday’s episode (Showtime, 9/8c).

TVLINE | This season has been very brutal for Fiona. What has it been like for you playing her?
Honestly, this season was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my whole career. That scene in the prison, during the strip search, I had a complete panic attack. I was completely naked when we did it. And it wasn’t like when I’ve been naked on set in the past where there’s been a sexuality to it, which for me is kind of easy because you’re just playing pretend. This was a nakedness with a complete removal of all your humility, your humanity. It was really scary for me to do that scene. Those feelings that came out were really, surprisingly, real for me.

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TVLINE | In the last episode, Fiona came to accept what she’d done and pleaded guilty, and she got this really grim description of her future. What is her state of mind now going forward?
She has some acceptance of her faults and her mistakes, but she’s about to realize what being a felon now means. Her life will never be the same. She can’t have the same jobs that she did. She’s no longer our golden girl who wanted to get her GED and wanted to set an example for the younger kids in this family. She’s fallen on hard times, and her family is really rejecting her in a way that is the most hurtful, even more so than being rejected from a job. You can always look for another job. She even goes to try to babysit for a woman she’s babysat for before and the woman says, “You have a drug problem now,” and Fiona says, “Well, you once dropped your kid at my house when you were up in Lawndale for a week, sticking a needle in your arm.” The woman’s like, “I’m sorry.” So she’s getting rejected on every level. She even goes to World Wide Cup to see if they’ll give her another chance, and Mike’s family basically eviscerates her. The low that she got and the fear that she felt in the prison, it was almost easier than being in the real world and dealing with the ramifications of the mistakes she’s made and the lack of opportunity that she will have now.

TVLINE | What does day-to-day life look like for her? She has that ankle bracelet, so she can’t leave the house, right?
She can’t leave the house at all, initially, and then she can only leave the house during certain hours where she has to find a job immediately. But the only jobs available are at night and she can’t work those because she has to be home at night. She definitely can’t get any kind of job like she might have had before in an office because she’s a convicted felon. So there’s a lot of new, awful, scary developments. At the same time, her family is out and about during the day. There’s only so many times you can clean the house and organize things before you go stir crazy.

TVLINE | One of the conditions of her pleading guilty was that she might have to serve jail time. Is that still a real possibility this season?
Only if she breaks parole.

Shameless Season 4 SpoilersTVLINE | How are the little kids, like Debbie and Carl, seeing her now? They’re much more impressionable.
They’re definitely happy that she’s home, but at the same time, she’s all over them because she wants so much to make up for her shortcomings and her mistakes. She’s trying too hard. It’s very obvious to the little kids. They’re like, “Listen, you messed up. Get away from me. We’re not the ones who were in jail.” It causes a big rift. Also, she’s finding it difficult to relax and accept her fate, accept her mistakes. She and Lip get into another really big row where he ends up taking the kids out of the house and taking them back to college with him. So she’s all alone in the house.

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TVLINE | Is Ian’s return a welcome relief for Fiona because he wasn’t there for all of this?
Yeah, although when he comes back, as we’ve seen in earlier episodes, he’s exhibiting really strange behavior. It almost seems like manic highs and lows of drug abuse. But what we’ll soon come to realize is that he has hints of bipolar Monica in him just like Fiona has been showing the qualities of Frank.

TVLINE | Fiona’s really been spiraling this season. Are we looking at a situation where it’s only going to get worse, or is she going to wake up to what’s going on with her?
I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better. The rejection she’s going to get from jobs and the rejection she’s going to feel from her family is going to make it really hard for her emotionally. She’s just going to want somebody to be kind to her, something to feel good, and sometimes that doesn’t come from the best place.

TVLINE | What does the season finale hold for Fiona and the rest of the Gallaghers?
I think it holds real hope in a way that I was really worried – and vocally worried in the writers’ room – that it wouldn’t. I was really terrified when I would get these scripts and it made Fiona so unlikable. I’m not afraid to be unlikable, but I’m afraid to be unlikable without having room to redeem myself. So I really feel that the Fiona we meet towards the end of the episode is gaining some maturity in the fact that she finally realizes she doesn’t have it all figured out. I think she needs to be in a program situation, an Al-Anon program, where she can really talk about her issues because they aren’t going away.

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  1. Francine says:

    This season has definitely been much darker. I’m not going to lie, I do miss the comedic moments and lighter tones, which have been few and far between this season (although thank goodness for Kevin). That being said, I’m still really enjoying the season and Emmy has been killing it. I continue to be amazed that she doesn’t get any recognition.

    • KavaBuggy says:

      Oh, man! Kevin and V are awesome!!! As much as I like the Gallaghers (although I’ve really only ever enjoyed Lip and Fiona as individuals, the others are better when they are considered a unit), I look forward to the scenes with Kevin and V!

    • I agree, Kevin and V and Mickey and the pimping at the Alibi room are the comic relief this season and it works BEAUTIFULLY.

    • Laura says:

      Totally agreed, actresses like Emmy’s are often overlooked. Hollywood seem to praise shallow actresses rather than reward the ones who are devoted and sacrificial to their craft. Super kudos Emmy. Also, one shouldn’t be worried about the fan base hating fiona, because she is so relatable. We all go through ups and downs and I am so darn happy the show is showing her battling her own obstacles instead of only burdening those of others. Additionally, super heroes often fall before they reach their greatest potential. Fiona is definitely my hero and I won’t abandon her because she’s facing trials and tribulations. Shameless is so gooooood. Keep it up writers.

      Btdubs… is Steve gone for good?

  2. Flynn says:

    As much as I liked the previous seasons, this season is hands down the best one so far. The character development is exceptional and with every episode I get more eager to watch the next. Good job shameless crew! The acting is flawless , he story line is more diverse everything is just on point. Can’t wait for next weeks episode! Just wish this show would get the recognition it deserves

  3. Francine says:

    Yes, me too! I love the Gallaghers but Kev and V are by far my favorites. They’re hilarious together and even though they do just as many messed up things, its obvious how much they love each other. I would lose it if they ever split up.

    • I’m afraid Kevin’s new obsession with guns will lead to an accidental shooting. Otherwise what’s the point. Cameron Monaghan said in an interview that a “tragedy” would occur at the end of the season. He or Noel Fisher may want to leave the show because of their outside interests. Just a hunch.

  4. Ray says:

    Wow, quite spoiler heavy but nice interview.

  5. kat says:

    This is the show I look forward to the most every week. The writing is so smart and everyone is incredibly talented. The storylines are emotional and brave. I love, love love the Gallaghers, and Kev and V, and Mickey.

  6. pria says:

    When is she getting her emmy is what I wanna know.

  7. Will says:

    I used to love this show. I rooted for the Gallagher’s. I gave up after last season as it started getting a little too dark for me. I get the realistic aspect of it but I’m afraid Emmy was spot in in her thinking that the show would lose some viewers. It became unenjoyable to watch – I had to force myself to finish the episodes. Surely someone else here has felt the same?

    • Raul Miller says:

      The show was good entertainment in the past. I always rooted for the family, however this season I have become disappointed and am totally turned off by the darkness of the show. The younger kids are spiraling out of control, and there is not one redeemable person with the exception of Sheila.

  8. Dee Dee says:

    I have to be honest, I have only watched the first episode of this season. As soon as I saw a preview of Fiona in handcuffs, I was done. I still love the show, and the characters, but the thought of witnessing Fiona’s downfall makes me cringe. Just too dark, and that’s saying something for Shameless. I’ll just have to keep up with it through recaps for now.

  9. Stephanie says:

    I find it amazing how people get scared of the truth.This is what happens with addiction. It trickles on down to the kids. It impacts all involved. It would have been impossible for these kids NOT to be impacted by their parents actions and what they have had to endure. I really respect the writers for taking us down this path. Quite frankly, I have been waiting for it. Those who hate Fiona don’t understand addiction.

  10. mandy says:

    I’m still rooting for Fiona. Personally, I’m finding Lip more unlikable. Geez, he’s had his own issues while Fiona has kept things together.
    I’d also like to see Frank finally go to the great beyond; he’s been unlikable most of the series and continues to bring the family, and the show, down. He can’t possibly survive this season, I hope.
    I agree 100% about Kev and V. If it weren’t for them, the show would be complete misery.
    And I truly hope this is the season that the awards will finally recognize Emmy and the show. They’ve been amazing.

    • Marc says:

      This times a million! I’m so ready for Frank to die, he is truly despicable and only brings the family down. It’s incredibly sad that the younger kids are so desperate for his love and approval. I have not been enjoying this season as I have done the past ones, not necessarily because of Fiona, because like it or not, I can’t complain when I get to witness such phenonmenal acting. But Deb’s underage, negligee-wearing storyline as well as stripper Ian’s are cringeworthy and very hard to watch. It really creeps me out.

      • Abc says:

        So I find Frank’s story kind of sad. I guess I just hope he redeems himself somehow someday but he always ceases to amaze me. I don’t think the show really would he the same without him though. I do agree that Ian’s and Debbie’s storyline are cringeworthy and creepy. I surprisingly find Mickey entertaining but dislike his sister for some reason. I find her really annoying and telling debbie esstentially it was okay to have sex was awful or giving her advice on it anyway.

  11. Lisa says:

    Count me (and the rest of my friends) in the group that have found this season unwatchable. I don’t mind the realness or the craziness, that’s what I loved about this show from the start. However, this season, in almost every characters storyline, there’s nothing but bleakness and gloom. It’s too much. Shameless has always been so incredible because it balanced the dark realities of life with humor and the love this family has for one another. This season that’s all gone and it’s just too much of a downer. I’m praying they turn it around and make it great again before the season ends.

  12. Mandy and Lip make me want to abandon the show. What she did last season to Karen (the girl Lip REALLY loved) was inexcusable and not at all funny. To see Lip constantly ‘thanking her’ and sleeping with her, and her being “oh so helpful” to the Gallaghers every single episode has made me put off watching this season. I have them recorded but find myself speeding through all of their scenes. The whole relationship makes me despise Lip and how can you watch a show when you hate the main character? The writers build up characters that we LOVE like Jimmy and Karen and Jody then for NO REASON just turn them into someone different, just so we won’t like them anymore and they can write them off. It is cheap! However, Mickey and Carl SHINE this season! They are better than ever! I personally hated the juvenile and gratuitous Mickey/Ian relationship last season. It was just shock value. But I actually love Fiona and the darkness she is slipping into. Her self sabotage is realistic, makes sense, the show SHOULD BE focused more on Fiona and Frank who is always BRILLIANT to watch.

  13. Lilia says:

    I think it’s heart breakin what is going on with Fiona and how everybody is being so mean to her she has always been there for everybody giving up her life to raise all her brothers and sister she could have been selfish and walked away. I hope she doesn’t go to prison and not be part of the show that would be the end of Shameless and the new sister has to go.

  14. Laura says:

    Ummmm yea…loved what Mandy did to Karen. Bitch had to go, she was poison. Lip also had to change, college brings out the best and worst in you. Having exposure to that in which is so different from his neighborhood and lifestyle sort of pushes him in a different direction. On the other hand, he still possess that hard core Lip personality. I mean, what other college boy would steal food from their work study position in order to put food on the table. Additionally, with Fiona spiraling, Lip had to put on his big boys shoes and take control. Granted, I think he was a bit rough on Fiona in the beginning, because he did major shot in his past too; but I think it was an over all shock and concern. Bc really, who would have considered Fiona would take such a dark path? Not I, and certainly not Lip. It took him a while, but he’s coming back around.