Emmy Rossum bares it all in "Shameless" TV role

Wed Feb 2, 2011 10:24pm EST
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By Lesley Goldberg

LOS ANGELES (Back Stage) - Emmy Rossum doesn't think she was a logical choice for Showtime's new dark drama series "Shameless."

She began her career as an opera singer, passing an audition at the Metropolitan Opera when she was only 7. She left opera in her teenage years because she had grown too tall to play the child roles. On the small screen, Rossum had never had more than a few guest appearances on shows including "The Practice" and in a few TV movies.

She was most commonly known for playing ingenue Christine in the 2004 film "The Phantom of the Opera." At that point, says Rossum, "I was looking for material that I would fall in love with." She was drawn to the script for "Shameless," a remake of a long-running British series created by Paul Abbott. "This is the first thing that I'd seen in a long time that I actually emotionally responded to," she says.

Rossum, 24, plays Fiona, the eldest child of the working-class Gallagher family, who is tasked with parenting her siblings to compensate for their absent mother and drunken father (played by William H. Macy). The role is a far cry from the plucky young heroines she has played in such films as "Poseidon" and "The Day After Tomorrow."

Says Rossum of playing Fiona, whom she describes as very sexual free spirit, "I had no hesitation to do it because I've seen the amazing work that women have gotten the opportunity to do on television in the last decade. From Mary-Louise Parker on 'Weeds' and Julianna Margulies (on 'The Good Wife') to Laura Linney on 'The Big C,' I'm really excited to be part of that world."


Rossum was warned about the series' nudity, which pilot director Mark Mylod encouraged her to explore before her final audition. Rossum says Mylod recommended she watch the kitchen scene from the British series' pilot -- a down-and-dirty sequence that's also featured in the Showtime take -- as a barometer for what to expect. "I saw it and thought it was really funny," Rossum says, noting that she drank a beer before filming what wound up becoming her first onscreen sex scene. "I thought it had absolutely no kind of salacious, tawdry cheese factor and no fakeness to it."

Indeed, she says, the nudity and adult themes in "Shameless" were some of the more interesting elements for her to work with, and she had been waiting for the right time to cross that line in her career.   Continued...