There’s dysfunctional families, and then there are the Gallaghers — a different breed of chaos, confusion, and addiction all wrapped up in one. The family at the heart of the hit show Shameless has finally said its final goodbye.
After eleven seasons on the air, Shameless came to an end in April 2021, and it wasn’t without its tears and nostalgia. For the dirtbag that patriarch Frank Gallagher was, viewers couldn’t help but root for him. We cried when Ian went to prison, just as we celebrated when Mickey became his cellmate. Fiona departing the show killed us, and we’re still sad she didn’t make it in the series finale. We watched Debbie and Carl literally grow up on screen, we saw Lip become a dad and Liam embrace his side eye — to say that the Gallaghers have a special place in Shameless viewers’ hearts is an understatement.
As Shameless has now come to a close, we’re looking back at the on-screen transformations that its main cast and recurring characters went through over the years. Some evolutions are subtle, some are extreme, and all include feel-good memories. This is the drastic transformation of the cast of Shameless.
Jeremy Allen White became a dad on-screen and in real life while starring in Shameless
Lip Gallagher is the love of our lives — ok, he’s technically a fictional character, but Lip is a gem of a human, and is played by the wonderful Jeremy Allen White. Viewers watched as Lip became a dad for the first time, but White spent so much time on the show that he got married and became a dad himself. As noted by E! News, White got married to Addison Timlin in October of 2019, and the two welcomed their first daughter. In December of 2020, their second daughter was born.
It’s crazy to think how much time has passed since White was cast; he spoke about his experience on Shameless with Interview magazine. “I got the job [to play Phillip “Lip” Gallagher] right out of high school. I was living at home at the time, and my folks were like, ‘You’re going to have to get a real job soon,'” White recalled. “I was just amazed that I got to live with a character for that long.” Lip will surely be missed.
Emma Kenney went from a little girl to a leading lady on Shameless
If you watch the pilot episode of Shameless, you’ll do a double take because Emma Kenney is so young in it! According to Entertainment Weekly, Kenney was just 10 years old when she was cast as Debbie Gallagher. She wrapped the show at age 21, and truly grew up in front of our eyes.
Kenney revealed that Shameless ending didn’t hit her until a few days after the last shoot; she finally paused and realized that the cast and crew would never be back together like they were. Kenney also reflected on her growth as an actress on Shameless, saying that she had to learn how to get comfortable in her abilities and shed some of her perfectionist tendencies. “Everyone goes through different phases as they’re growing up and trying to figure out who they are. I want to say that was when I was like 17, 18,” Kenney explained. “I think I started to really feel comfortable in my own skin and comfortable to do the best that I could do in front of the camera, and I wasn’t holding back anymore with fear of being judged.”
Cameron Monaghan brought Ian to life for years on Shameless
If any character embodied the Shameless energy to a tee, it was Ian Gallagher. Played by Cameron Monaghan, viewers saw Ian evolve from a closeted kid to an incarcerated former EMT and married man. Monaghan embraced other projects while on Shameless, and after a four-month hiatus from the show, returned to see Ian’s story arch through. “I took some time away and talked to showrunner John Wells about possible things we could do with the character in the future, and we got to a place both creatively and financially where I felt comfortable coming back,” Monaghan said, as noted by The Hollywood Reporter. “Much of that had to do with what we are going to do with the story. I’m excited to go back and do that.”
Monaghan also expressed that he wanted to see Ian evolve and get to a place where he was comfortable with himself. Thanks to Monaghan’s commitment, fans of the show were able to see Ian and Mickey Milkovich get married, and the entire season ended with the Shameless gang celebrating the couple’s one year wedding anniversary. Love to see it.
Emmy Rossum led the Gallagher gang for years on Shameless before turning to other projects
You can’t talk about Shameless without discussing Fiona Gallagher. She was the sister-turned-parent, and her determined character was portrayed by Emmy Rossum. Rossum was a staple on the show, and her transformation was truly something. Fiona went from caring about everyone else around her to caring for herself (finally); in tandem with her character, Rossum left Shameless after the ninth season to pursue other ventures. Sadly, however, Rossum was not able to join the cast for one last hurrah during the series finale, which was a bit of a downer.
Shameless’s showrunner, John Wells, told The Hollywood Reporter that coronavirus restrictions really made the efforts to get Rossum back for the last episode impossible. “We were trying to get Emmy — and Emmy wanted to come back. We caught it at the wrong moment,” Wells shared. “That was [the] biggest disappointment: not being able to make that work out because we all wanted it to happen.” But even though Shameless fans had to endure two seasons without Fiona, we were blessed to watch her evolve on screen.
Shanola Hampton transformed into a leading lady while on Shameless
Veronica Fisher — or V — was one of the most dynamic characters on Shameless. She was bold, daring, and brought to life by Shanola Hampton. Viewers watched as V went from Fiona Gallagher’s neighbor and friend to Shameless’s leading lady, and Hampton’s transformation matched her character’s to a tee. Hampton told Entertainment Tonight that ending Shameless was “surreal,” and that the idea of never coming back to the Shameless set took a while to sink in. “We keep saying, ‘This is the last time. This is the last time we’ll do this.’ But I don’t think that will happen until you’re supposed to go back,” she revealed. “That’s when I think it’ll hit.”
While some of Hampton’s co-stars — including her on-screen husband Steve Howey and Emma Kenney — had some emotional moments as things on set began to wind down, Hampton didn’t let a tear slip. Not a “big crier,” she said that the likelihood of her driving off and crying somewhere in private was a possibility. We’ll certainly miss V and everything she brought to Shameless, just as much as we’ll miss the actress who brought her to life.
Ethan Cutkosky literally grew up in front of our eyes on Shameless
Ethan Cutkosky was just 10 years old when he was cast as Carl Gallagher, and like his co-star Emma Kenney, he was 21 when Shameless came to an end. His transformation was that of a kid turning into an adult, and while Carl gave viewers some hilarious laughs, Shameless allowed Cutkosky to evolve into a wonderful actor.
Cutkosky told Entertainment Weekly that while he was cast at such a young age, he found his stride at around 14. He figured out his performance and dialogue practices, became conscious of the goals of the show, and really took Carl into his own hands.
Of all the aspects of Shameless that he said he’d miss the most, Cutkosky revealed that it was his character’s development. “I’m definitely going to miss the evolution of Carl. It’s just been so interesting over the years, especially for me, evolving as my own person, as a young adult and coming into age,” Cutkosky explained. But he’s certainly set himself up for success, because Cutkosky revealed that “everything that [he’s] wanted to do” is because of Shameless.
Of all the stars of Shameless, William H. Macy more or less looks the same
Shameless wouldn’t have been Shameless without William H. Macy; while his transformation from the start to the end of the show isn’t that dramatic (at least compared to some of his younger co-stars), Macy’s Frank Gallagher was something special. While speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Macy revealed that he knew the show was going to be successful as soon as he got his hands on the script — he was clearly in the know. “It was so fresh, and I loved everything about it,” he shared. “And boy, has it been a mitzvah in my life. I’ve learned a whole lot about acting. There ain’t nothing like getting to go to work every day.”
Macy also spoke about the Shameless experience outside of just acting with his cast mates, and said that the Shameless journey included so many people — from the crew to guardsmen at the Warner Bros. set — who made it special. Shameless clearly meant so much to Macy, because he took to Twitter during the series finale and said he was “a mess.” You will be so missed, Frank Gallagher.
The other half of Gallavich on Shameless, Mickey was brought to life by Noel Fisher
No one thought in the first moment when Mickey Milkovich wanted to beat the life out of Ian Gallagher that their relationship would evolve like it did. However, because the two fell in love and Mickey came into his own, viewers were treated to one of the best transformations in Shameless history. Mickey was portrayed by the wildly talented actor Noel Fisher, and both Fisher and Mickey went on a journey that was thrilling to watch. According to Entertainment Weekly, Ian and Mickey had an “almost Shakespearean” relationship, and it was a joy to watch them fall in love, get married, and start a life together.
Of course, any Shameless fan will tell you that there were a couple seasons where Mickey wasn’t around, and when he joined Ian in prison, Gallavich fans let out a sigh of relief. Mickey — and Fisher — had embraced the character, and Fisher declared that he had to see Mickey’s story through. “There’s still a lot of story to tell,” he shared, and even though Shameless has come to an end, an Ian/Mickey spin-off would be greatly appreciated.
Christian Isaiah grew up in front of our eyes on Shameless
The youngest Gallagher, Liam, was the baby that got passed from family member to family member, and for a while, he didn’t have an arc of his own. But when the original casting (Liam was originally played by twins Brenden and Brandon Sims) was switched up, Liam blossomed. This was all thanks to Christian Isaiah, who took Liam’s character and ran with it.
Liam’s transformation on Shameless was something to see, in part because Isaiah’s first episode provided meaningful commentary on race. As noted by Vulture, Isaiah’s character was forced — by his private school — to show up on the playground every time a family came on a tour. He was the only Black child enrolled, and was used as the poster child of fabricated diversity. It was Isaiah’s first time in the role, and he took the character to huge new heights. “The family dynamic made [showrunner] John Wells think that it was important to raise the stakes for Liam and raise his visibility,” director John Levey said. The goal was met, and Isaiah transformed the character in front of our eyes.
Steve Howey has had a number of transformations on Shameless, including his hair
Kevin Ball was one of the most lovable characters on Shameless, and of all the transformations on the show, actor Steve Howey — who brought Kevin to life — had one of the most drastic. He told Men’s Journal that his physical transformation while starring in Shameless had a lot to do with his own health challenges, and he was better off because of it. “When I entered the first season of Shameless, I compressed a vertebrae and that was very painful. I couldn’t stand up, let alone walk,” Howey revealed. “And I realized something had to change, so I started working out more.”
Of course, Howey also divulged that his character, Kevin, wouldn’t have been able to land a partner as gorgeous as Shanola Hampton (who played Veronica), so he was also motivated to show up for his on-screen girlfriend. “I realized in order for viewers to believe I could get this girl, I needed to look the part,” he continued. Plus, Kevin went from a head full of hair to a short buzz cut, adding to the overall transformation that demands a double-take.
Joan Cusack joined the cast of Shameless for five seasons and evolved on screen
One of the best characters on Shameless was Sheila Jackson. She was absolutely insane, giving her love interest, Frank Gallagher, a run for his sanity, and was played by the legendary Joan Cusack. As noted by the Chicago Tribune, Cusack was a part of Shameless for its first five seasons, and ultimately left the show to pursue other projects, but her impact on the show was truly something. Since her days in the Chicago-based show, Cusack has worked with actors including Brie Larson, and has starred in films such as Unicorn Store and the Hallmark movie The Christmas Train.
Of course, Cusack’s evolution as an actress has a storied past, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t include this wonderful tidbit about her. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Cusack and William H. Macy — who played Frank — had history prior to their days on set. When Macy moved to Chicago in his early acting days, he met Cusack’s father, and ended up babysitting the actress who would go on to play his on-screen love interest. What a journey they’ve been on together.
Laura Slade Wiggins was only on Shameless for two seasons, but she grew so much
Where there was Sheila Jackson, there was her daughter Karen, who got up to some antics while on Shameless. Karen was played by the insanely talented Laura Slade Wiggins, and while Wiggins was only a part of the Shameless cast for two seasons, her performance made a lasting impression.
While still a cast member, Wiggins talked to The Star Scoop about her time on Shameless, saying that everyone was “kind of terrified” about how it would be accepted by viewers; after all, it is pretty raunchy. “As it came on, I feel like people started to understand what we’re more about, which is more understanding people,” Wiggins explained. “Everybody has a Frank Gallagher in their life, and it’s fun to make fun of that.”
Wiggins also revealed that working with Jeremy Allen White was a standout moment for her, as he was often her scene partner. “He doesn’t like to go into scenes knowing what he’s going to do, which makes the whole experience that much more interesting,” she continued. Since Shameless, Wiggins has been in shows including 20th Century Women, Chicago P.D., and CSI.
Isidora Goreshter brought Svetlana to life on Shameless
In one of the more painful parts of Shameless, Mickey Milkovich’s dad hires a sex worker — Svetlana — to “fix” his son’s sexual orientation. Viewers probably didn’t think that Svetlana would turn into a main character, but she did, and she evolved immensely while on the show. Svetlana’s transformation was all due to Isidora Goreshter, who brought her to life. Both the character and actress blossomed while on Shameless, and when Goreshter’s run came to an end, it was clear that she had evolved into a complex, dynamic actress.
Goreshter revealed to Entertainment Weekly that while her character married a wealthy man at the end of her story arc, she’d asked the show’s creators to kill her character. “I really wanted to have this gruesome death scene and just thought that would be appropriate for Svetlana,” Goreshter revealed. “But John Wells was like, ‘No, no, no, no. We want to leave the door open because you never know what can happen.'”
Svetlana didn’t return to the Shameless screen, but Goreshter went on to appear in works including Grey’s Anatomy and Condor.
Paris Newton was the perfect choice to play Emma Kenney's daughter on Shameless
Anyone who’s a fan of Shameless knows that it’s not a show for kids — but that didn’t stop the show’s creators from hiring child actors to fill in appropriate roles. Paris Newton was cast as Franny Gallagher — Debbie Gallagher’s daughter — and while she didn’t have as long of a run on the show, she certainly grew up on camera. Newton told About Insider that her role model in the acting world was “definitely Emma Kenney” (who plays her mom), and that she learned “so much for her all the time.” Remember, Newton was only 6.
So what else do you need to know about the budding little actress who made a splash on Shameless? Her favorite show is Green Eggs and Ham on Netflix, and her favorite ride at Disneyland is the Little Mermaid ride. She told We Are Entertainment News that her brother, Gracen Newton, stars in the show Puppy Dog Pals on Disney Junior, and that she’ll be asking Santa for a Barbie Dreamhouse for Christmas. Hands down one of our favorite Shameless cast members, there’s no doubt about it.
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