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‘Shameless’ – Interview with Emma Kenney

For those of you who don’t know who Emma Kenney is I recommend ordering Showtime and binge watch the first 3 season’s of the oh so wrong it’s right drama Shameless.  Trust me by the time you are finished you will not only be as obsessed with the show as I currently am you will also learn exactly why you don’t fuck with Debbie Gallagher the character that just so happens to be played by 13 year old Emma.  Recently I had a chance to speak with Emma and was pleasantly surprised to find that although Debbie and Emma may share the same face that is pretty much where the similarities end.

What have you enjoyed the most about being a part of Shameless?

“It is such an amazing set, everybody is so nice and so sweet and we have the best time in the world.  I’m not just saying this, we’re honestly such a big family and it is so much fun.  But if we are acting we’re really professional.  I think that my character is a different character.  She has so many different layers to her and I think it’s fun to play and I guess its fun to play and I guess kind of mysterious.  It’s fun that a lot of people get to see how they relate to Debbie or a different character on the show.  I think the show is so different and so out there.  I think it’s fun to just have so many different reactions to it than other tv shows today.”

Shameless is not known for being PG-13 so how do you balance being able to portray your character honestly with still keeping Emma, Emma?

“Right, I think that for a character I don’t really like to base character off of myself because then I think it can get confusing, not confusing that’s not the right word, but it gets to where it doesn’t make sense and it’s not really a character and it’s method acting and I don’t really like to do that.  So I think that for Debbie the way I play her is I kind of have to take…what I do personally is I like to base characters off of someone I know even for an audition.  If the character is really smart and perky I will base that character off of somebody I know who is smart and happy or even a celebrity I will base it off of or somebody I know of.

As far as it being PG-13 a lot of people wonder if I see those actual scenes as they’re filming but we actually don’t because we have a closed set so don’t worry, but for Debbie I think that’s just her normal like.”

This season you shared a lot of screen time with Joan Cusack, what was that like?

“That was so much fun.  Joan is one of the nicest people that I’ve ever met.  She is so sweet so those scenes were really fun and Joan is a phenomenal actress so just to learn from her and her comedic style is amazing.  It’s just so awesome.  So I’ve been trying to learn how she does her deadpan.  No, that’s not the right word, it’s not deadpan but it’s kind of where you want to hug her but you also want to laugh at her.  I’m kind of working on being able to do that because not everything I do is funny so I want to work on my comedic tendencies if that makes any sense to you at all.”

It does, it makes a lot of sense.  Now that one episode I believe it was called “Frank the Plumber’ where you had a code pink with Joan’s character Shelia both of you were just very, they were very quiet scenes together and that was the first time that I really started to notice Debbie.  You did wonderful in that scene.  I was like wow this girl is going to be something.


“Thank you.  Those scenes I think the difference was the atmosphere and the physical setting is so different from the Gallagher house and the emotional setting is so different.  At Shelia’s she’s more understanding and she listen’s more and she cares more while in the Gallagher house its almost every man for himself and everybody is kind of worrying about their own lives and they don’t really listen to Debbie’s school issues and how Debbie gets bullied at school.  They don’t really hear her.  They worry about getting food on the table every night.  So I think it was a different change for Debbie to feel that somebody loves her kind of like a mother figure for the day.”

I noticed that as a viewer it seemed as though your character was really starting to assert herself as being a Gallagher and what I mean by that is she wasn’t just little Debbie anymore and she was saying “I’m a part of this family and you need to start seeing me” and she really started to establish herself as somebody who needed to be taken seriously.

“Yeah I think that was a different experience and the Gallagher’s see Debbie as more a little girl and someone to feel sorry for but seeing how she handled the situation a lot of people tweeted me that they were screaming at their tv “Go Debbie, you got this” and that kind of stuff and I don’t know but it was fun.  I think she got so much more respect in the whole entire Gallagher house now that she stood up and beat up Frank and that she drowned the girl at the pool.”

(I must interject here that if you haven’t seen the show that last part will seem wildly messed up but once you see it in it’s actual context you will see that it’s not at all as crazy as it seems it’s not even the craziest thing that happened that episode.)

“I think it changed Debbie, especially the Frank scene because it got her to look at Frank in a different way and it got all that anger from her whole entire life out so she could start fresh and live her life freer.  If that makes any sense.  I always say that “if that makes any sense”.”

(Frank Gallagher is Debbie’s often absent, always drunk dad played by William H. Macy.)

I’m the same way.  I always ask if they understand what I’m saying.  Where do you hope Debbie goes next season, If you could write a storyline for her what would you want it to be?

“I would like to see Debbie in her personal life out of the Gallagher house.  Maybe school related and how she’s handling the situation now that she’s more experienced and more violent in a way.  But for personal reasons I would love to do more action scenes.  Scenes where Debbie is running or being chased by a burglar or something like that.  I would love to do that.”

So basically you are wanting to do more stunts?

“Definitely, I love stunts.  They are so much fun.  I really, really want to do them.”

They look like they would be fun because it’s not something you would do in everyday life.

“Yeah exactly me too.  They’re just so much fun.  I don’t know how to describe it but for the pool scene when I was actually drowning the girl those scenes were so much harder than I actually expected because we had so many underwater cameras and our DP, the Director of Photography) our camera guy he had a mouthpiece so he could breathe underwater.  I actually did my own stunts but for the girl I was drowning but for the girl I was drowning she had a stunt double do her part and I was so terrified I was going to choke her even though she has a respirator in her mouth so she could breathe underwater for like a minute or however long it was but she said to go for it and I just did anything and I felt bad for her that she was stuck under the water while I was just breathing away. But those scenes were very fun and different so it was kind of cool.”

One of the big questions that we’ve had is how old is Debbie supposed to be?

“Debbie is supposed to be 13 years old and a lot of people, even though I don’t look like I’m 18, are like oh yeah Debbie is an 18 year old at heart, but yeah she’s supposed to be 13.”

@misskrissiebabe wants to know how is it working with the Shameless cast and are you close off screen?

“Working with the cast is so amazing and everyone is so nice and normal.  We are almost like a big family and we are always joking around and we always hand out in the Gallagher living room or we will hang out at lunch at the commissary where there’s a Starbucks and a Java Juice but we always hang out there.”

Who would you say makes you laugh the most?

“Oh Steve Howey and Justin Chatwin and Jeremy Allen White.  They are so funny.”

Who is the least like their character?

“I know the most like their character is definitely Ethan (Cutosky) who plays Carl because he’s a prankster.  But the least like their character is probably Jeremy Allen White, he’s nothing like Lip.  He is very smart, don’t get me wrong, just like Lip is but Lip is so much more deadpan and more angry at the world.  Jeremy is just chill and living the ride.  He is so nice.  He is nothing like Lip at all.”

When are you going to start filming the next season?

“September-February and I’m so excited because I miss everybody and I know none of the story lines so I can’t wait to find out what happens.”

You’re like the rest of us. We are all waiting to see what happens next.

“I know, I know everybody always tweets me “Come on, it will be between us” and I’m like I’m just like you guys I no idea what is going to happen.  I have no idea they just left me hanging too.”

Does that make it more interesting not knowing where things are going?

“I think so actually.  I think ours is just different and it’s kind of surprising and I love reading the scripts when we get them like 3 days before the actual table read.  I like to read my part first and then I like to go back and read it all again just so I can go back and see what’s going on and get insight in to the character’s lives.”

What’s been your favorite story line this season?


“Probably the scenes where Debbie goes to the swimming pool because you had never seen Debbie in an actual social environment and it was exciting to get to experience how socially awkward she was and after that aired everyone was tweeting me that when they were younger they got bullied too so it was kind of nice to see that a lot of people relate to Debbie so well.  But another story line that I loved was when she was going to Shelia’s house because you got to see Debbie with a mother figure.  We’ve seen a couple of scenes with Debbie and Monica, her actual mother, but we’ve never seen her with an actual mother figure so I think it was nice to see Debbie in a nice environment.”

If you could choose Debbie’s career when she got older what do you think it would be?

“Hmmm, maybe a scientist or something.  I just see Debbie being very very successful in whatever it is that she does.  I hope she gets out of the Gallagher neighborhood.  I hope she get’s out and sees a very bright future.”

Do you feel that the adult content on the show has shaped how you’re growing up or is it not really a factor at all?

“Not at all.  It hasn’t affected me at all to be honest because we have a closed set so it’s not like I see any of the inappropriate scenes.  The language is different.  I go to regular school so it’s not like I haven’t already heard curse words.  So we have a closed set and the table reads are pretty chill I guess so it’s not like it’s that inappropriate.”

@hannahmalik12 wants to know what you are doing now that Shameless is not filming?

“I’m not doing anything right now unfortunately.  I’m just going to regular school.  I’m in the 8th grade and I’m in the animation movie Epic that’s coming to the movie theater’s May 24th and Beyonce is in it so I’m really excited about that.”

Do you like Beyonce’s music?

“I do, I love her music.  I love ‘Love on Top’ and ‘Halo’.”

Can you tell us a little about the movie Epic?


“Epic is an animation movie and I don’t think I can say to much but I guess you can watch the trailer on YouTube. But I’m really excited its my first ever movie that will be in theaters and it stars Beyonce, Josh Hutcherson, Pitbull, and a bunch of others.  So I’m excited and maybe I will get to meet them at the premiere and I will probably start to cry like a total loser.  But that would be so cool.”

You would definitely not be a total loser because I think everybody, no matter who they are has had that moment when they are meeting somebody for the first time.  How is voice acting different from the trraditional actiing you do in Shameless?

“It’s very different because I’m personally more of a facial expression actor.  I’m better at acting through my face rather than the words.  The thing that was different doing Epic is that you have to get your emotions out through lines and a lot of people would think that would be easier but its actually not because you have to do a lot of hand gestures.  I prefer to shoot in a studio when I have this big weird facial expression where I’m doing something weird with a hand gesture and I can see the actual emotions come out through words and voice.”

Can you tell us anything about your character like your character’s name?

“Well I’m a little flower.  I’m so excited and my character is so cute too and I have a sketch of her and she is so adorable.”

I saw that you go to regular school when you’re not filming Shameless what is your favorite thing about school?

“Honestly I just like seeing my friends and everything.  Lunch is my favorite subject.  No I’m just kidding.  My favorite subjects are English and Writing Workshop.  I love writing so much and I love to read.  Anything but Math.  I really hate Math so much.  I really don’t like Math. But just school and seeing friends and that kind of stuff.”

You said that you really love reading, what’s your favorite book?

“My favorite book is probably The Fault In Our Stars by John Green.  Augustus Waters is so perfect oh my gosh.”

I’ve been meaning to read that. I’ve been hearing a lot of great things about it and I just haven’t had the chance to.

“It’s amazing.  They’re making a movie out of it.  To be honest I’m not sure how I feel about that because I mean I’m so excited for the movie. I’m just worried that somebody perfect needs to play Augutus Waters.  It can’t just be anybody.  It needs to be the perfect person to play him.”

I know how you feel.  That’s how I felt when I found out they were making The Hunger Games in to a movie.

“I love The Hunger Games.  It was such a good movie.  I can’t wait for Catching Fire.  I think that they should put ‘Girl on Fire’ by Alicia Keys in the movie.”

Who is your favorite singer?

“Taylor Swift, Lana Del Ray, oh and Frank Ocean.  Those are my favorites.  Oh my gosh Lana Del Ray is my number one.  I love her so much.”

What’s your favorite song by her?

“Either Radio, Ride, or American those are my favorites I cant pick between them.  My favorite Frank Ocean song is Thinking About You, Fertilizer and my favorite Taylor Swift song is Never Grow Up and I will go traditional and go with Love Story.  She has so many songs and they are all so good.”

Do you have any big summer plans?

“Summer plans, I’m going to camp for 3 weeks and that is my first time so I’m excited and I’m going to Paris with my friends so I’m unbelievably excited I love Paris.  I’ve been before so I’m so excited to go back.  So what else, really just hanging out with my friends.  Hopefully I will go on another vacation.  I don’t know where but somewhere maybe and I really, really want to do a film.  I want to do a movie so bad and it’s stressful and frustrating because I haven’t been booking anything and it’s kind of annoying so hopefully something will come up and it will work out cause I really want a film.”

Well I have no doubt that you’re going to get films, television soon because I admit the first couple of seasons I was just like Debbie’s Debbie and I wasn’t really too focused on her character but the 3rd season you started to come in to your own and I was pretty impressed.

“Thank you that’s awesome.”

I just want to thank you for speaking with me today you’ve been great.  I can’t wait to see Epic.  My youngest has seen the trailer and she is dying to go.

“Ah tell her I say hi.”

But thank you again and it was great talking with you.

“Definitely, thank you so much it was great talking with you.  Thank you, bye.”

 

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