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Exclusive Interview with Shameless’ Shanola Hampton

CREDITS: Photographer: Catie Laffoon Stylist: Kelly Johnson Hair and makeup: Kimberly Bragalone
CREDITS: Photographer: Catie Laffoon Stylist: Kelly Johnson Hair and makeup: Kimberly Bragalone

For six years, Shanola Hampton has been playing Veronica “V” Fisher on Showtime’s Shameless. As the Gallaghers’ no-nonsense next door neighbor, V has had the opportunity to shine as a partner, a friend, and most recently as a struggling new mother. Talk Nerdy With Us had the chance to chat with Shanola about the upcoming season of the hit show. We talked about her thoughts on some of her most notable storylines, what we should be most excited about in season 6, and the devastation surrounding one of the show’s most beloved couples, Ian and Mickey. Read on to hear what Shanola had to say!

You’ve been on Shameless now for six years, what has that been like to be part of something that’s had such lasting power?

Oh! It’s been torture. Do you know the people I work with? [Laughs] No, it’s been the most amazing life-changing experience. To be on anything that makes it past the pilot is so rare, and to make it and be able to grow with the character and to be able to be a family with your cast for six seasons, watch the kids go from 9 to 16, it’s really something you can’t put into words. An experience, of this magnitude, comes maybe once in a career, that has this kind of synergy and love. It’s a really really great vibe and I feel so fortunate to be on it for this long. 

The audience has something in common with Fiona in that for both her and for us, Kev and V represent the possibility that a solid relationship can exist. Last season was really hard on all of us that you guys were struggling as much as you were. What was that like on your end?

Yeah, it was very very difficult. Steve Howey and I are very close in real life and because we have been playing these characters who are so in love and the most stable relationship on the show for so many years, to have our worlds blown apart…Even the mother coming in and trying to have the baby was still Kev and Veronica doing something together. So having them be opposite on where they were was very challenging in a great way as an actor to play, but it was really hard to not be in every scene or most of my scenes with Steve. It was hard, we didn’t get to see other as much, it was very taxing on us.

I was very happy that they resolved it in a way, last year at the end, that we were at least in the same bed. But I root for Kev and Veronica. You know, I’m a television addict. If you look at my Twitter feed you’ll see I talk about all kinds of TV: trashy TV, good TV, I love TV. I’m not just on the show I’m a great big fan of the show. And even if I wasn’t on the show, I love their love, and I root for them and I was sad when they couldn’t get it together. But I was also honored to be able to show another side of motherhood and what can, and often does, happen after you have children. 

Do you, Shanola, ever have a hard time with some of the choices that V makes, and if so, how do you reconcile that in order to play her?

The hardest thing I did was last year, because what people don’t know is that it wasn’t written just because I was pregnant Veronica was pregnant. Veronica was going to be pregnant no matter what. She was going to be pregnant with triplets, one would get eaten in the womb, and then she would have twins. That was a storyline that was already done and it just so happened that God, the Universe, whatever you believe in, had me be pregnant at the same time. Because our pregnancies were very different, and our reactions were really different, it was very difficult for me. It was also really great as an actor, but it was difficult for me not to be able to bond with the babies when I was bonding so much with my daughter at home. And I just wanted [Kev and V] to not argue anymore. That was frustrating.

Some of the other choices that Veronica makes…what I love is that whether you agree with her or not, she stands for it, and she doesn’t waiver. So I can’t, as an actor, waiver on her choices, because then she’s not going to look as strong as she is. 

I know you can’t give away too much, but what can you tell me about Kev and V in season 6? Are we going to get to see them as more of a team again?

Yeah. I actually can tell you, cause now the first episode is out, you’ll see they’re back together. And they really are managing the family life as well as owning the business and this new world, this gentrification world and trying to make money. They’re not trying to leave the neighborhood, but really trying to make money in the surroundings that they have now. So you really see them coming together. That banter that we love so much between them is back again. But you will see a change in their relationship, a new energy, and a change in the dynamics in a way that was quite shocking to me and I believe will be quite shocking to the audience. 

The show does have a tendency to be pretty shocking. They have done some stories that could be considered over-the-top. Have you ever read a script and been concerned about a scene? And if so, how do you handle that? Or have you always felt really good about what you’re reading?

Oh no, never. Never on a show called Shameless can you just be like “Oh, yeah I feel good about this.” Some of it is just very shocking. I had a very difficult time when I was first reading the threesome stuff with Veronica’s mother coming in. I was like “Ew. That’s gross. How is that even going to sell? Who’s going to buy it. Like ew ew ew.” [Laughs]. It was a very made-my-stomach-upset kind of feeling. But then I had to go back and be like I do have to play this, now how do I justify why this works in this world? And when you’re desperate and don’t have money, sometimes you do whatever it takes and we made it work. And I actually think that as shocking and over-the-top as it was, we were able to find the elements that made it work. 

What would you say has been the best part of playing Veronica and what has been the most challenging part?

The best part of playing Veronica is playing a character with no inhibition. And quite honestly, one of the best parts of playing V is her wardrobe.  It’s the funniest thing in the world, she puts all these colors together and her cleavage is up to her chin. It’ll be below zero outside but she doesn’t care, she’ll rock the boots, that’s been super fun. And the most challenging is not playing her, but just some of the scenes, with some of the material and making sure I can find the truth in all of the work.

You said you’re not just on the show, you’re also a fan. What storylines are you most excited for the rest of the fans to see this season? 

I’m excited about the Carl storyline, I think it’s funny. I think it’s also showing the neighborhood in a way we haven’t yet seen, but it’s more of a depiction of that side of town in Chicago. I think Debbie’s storyline, the kids have – I still call them the kids, but they’re really our teens – this is really their seasons. They have some very good stuff going on in their lives because now they are in that in-between stage where they’re making choices like adults but they’re still teenagers.

I’m also excited that fans will get to see, because you know, the last couple of seasons everyone’s sorta been in their own world. In the first season we’d solve problems together, it was a lot more togetherness, so you’ll get more of that togetherness that people fell in love with the first season. So I’m happy about that.

Fans are really sad about where Ian and Mickey are at this point. I know you’ve been a very vocal fan of their relationship, are you as devastated as the rest of us?

It’s very very sad. I think that people, you know, you fall in love with Mickey and with Ian, even through their flawed relationship. And it was very sad. Noel, in real life, is a very good friend of mine, so it was hard not to be with him, we’ve been together for so many seasons. But the reality of it is that relationships, as much as you love them, may not have been the healthiest of relationships. Sometimes it takes getting into another relationship to realize that a previous relationship was fine for that time but it may not have been that lasting relationship that you need to have when going through life.  You know, you have friends that you love them as couples, but it may not be the best for that life. And that’s real life. And as much as it gets people angry because you just want Ian and Mickey together – and there’s no bigger fan of the two of them than me – real life is that relationships fall apart and life circumstances happen and you know, you have to move on from that. 

It’s definitely incredibly upsetting, but you make a good point. 

And you never know. The best thing about being on a show that has longevity, you don’t really know, I don’t know, where the story actually ends. Sometimes people take a break, realize what they deserve, and are able to revisit that relationship but put it back on healthier terms because everyone is well and had some time apart. None of us really know what the life of this love is, and that’s really how it is in real life. And I pray our show will be on a little bit longer, so who knows what could happen in season 7 or season 8? We don’t know how the story really ends, we just know how it ends now. And it doesn’t feel good, but it doesn’t mean it’s a final ending. 

Right. Absolutely. So, since we’re all about Talking Nerdy, my last question for you is what do you like to nerd out about?

Ummmm…is reality TV part of the nerd squad? [Laughs]. I’m the biggest nerd anyway, because all I do is stay home, eat cupcakes in my bed and watch TV. People think I’m so fun, I’m really not. I’m just a TV addict. 

 

Shameless airs Sundays at 9pm/8c on Showtime.

 

 

 

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