Emmy Rossum Opens Up About Shameless, 'Wild Child' Nudity

This Sunday at 10/9c, Showtime gets Shameless with a new series starring William H. Macy (Fargo) as the alcoholic patriarch of a sprawling, dirt-poor family. With Dad forever three sheets to the wind and Mom long gone, it’s up to eldest offspring Fiona, played by Emmy Rossum (Mystic River), to keep the brood of six afloat. But as you’ve seen in promos, Fiona’s not shy about offsetting the business of running a household with a bit of pleasure.

Rossum – whose name fittingly rhymes with “awesome” – spoke with TVLine about playing this Shameless “wild child” and why she was willing to bare (almost) all for the role.

TVLINE: As an only child, was it a bit strange to play someone ruling a roost teeming with kids?
I think it actually made it easier for me to latch onto all the other kids so much, because I’ve always wanted a big family. It’s funny because the other kids on the show, except for one, are only children as well.

TVLINE: Aww — it’s like you all found each other.
We did. Happily ever after. Dysfunctionally, happily ever after.

TVLINE: One of the things I like about Shameless is that the Gallaghers are barely making ends meet. I mean, when was the last time a TV show went there? Good Times?
[Executive producer] John Wells likes to say, “They’re not blue collar; they’re no collar,” and I really like that. The bottom line is that the show, even though it is a bit of a farce, is timely. It will make people laugh and think — which are both good things.

TVLINE: Shameless is based on a British series. What do you think was the hardest part about adapting it for the U.S. audience?
I’ve never seen the original version, so I’m not sure. Maybe the humor, because British humor is so specific? But it seems to translate pretty well, as you see in shows that have successfully made the jump, like The Office.

TVLINE: When you were up for this role, did you try to negotiate away the nudity or the intensity of the sex scenes?
No, that was not an option. I had to fight for this role, because I definitely wasn’t an obvious choice. I was living in the West Village at the time of my audition, and it was raining, and I remember thinking, “I should take a cab.” Then I thought, “No screw it — Fiona wouldn’t take a cab. I’m really going to do this thing.” My lack of vanity in the audition hopefully showed that it was very important to me to portray the character in a real way, as this raw person. When they told me about the nudity and the sexuality, I’ve always been hesitant to do it in the past, but this is a classy group of people. Plus I knew that Bill Macy would also be showing his ass, so I wasn’t worried! On a serious note, if you’re going to show real people, you need to show their entire lives. Sex and romance are such a big part of an adult life, so to have it in any way that was more glamorized than the rest of the show would be odd.

TVLINE: The fact is that when a gal like Fiona meets and clicks with a charming guy like Steve (Justin Chatwin, War Of The Worlds) — and they have a few drinks in them — kitchen floor sex is entirely understandable.
He’s hot, he bought her a drink, and she doesn’t wear a bra! This is a girl clearly with a high sex drive, and given her difficult [family] situation, Steve is appealing to her — especially the more she gets to know his darker edges. She can really let off steam with him, while she takes on all this parental responsibility. She is a wild child who wants to let loose.

TVLINE: Lets talk about Frank – will we ever see Fiona have a real heart-to-heart with her hapless father?
Absolutely. And later in the season the mother (played by China Beach‘s Chloe Webb) will actually appear again.

TVLINE: Is there a deeper reason why she suddenly left? Something more than Frank being a tireless drunk?
Yes, that will all be explained. I’m sure [the drinking] didn’t help! But you have to ask: What sort of woman would marry a man like Frank anyway? This obviously isn’t a sane woman.

TVLINE: Is there a past movie of yours that, when you stumble across it on cable, you often find yourself watching a bunch of it?
Yes, but only because I like the movie – not because I’m in it. I really like The Day After Tomorrow; I find it very easy to watch. And it’s always on cable, usually shown as a “double feature” with Independence Day!

TVLINE: While prepping for this Q&A, I came across your Dragonball: Evolution action figure. As those things go, the likeness isn’t entirely bad….
Oh my god, that’s so embarrassing. I don’t think that looks anything like me. The resemblance is slightly more striking than that of Kate Middleton and Prince William on their coin, which doesn’t look anything like them! Somebody really messed up with that one.

Will you be checking out Showtime’s altogether excellent Shameless on Sunday?