Steve Howey plays fan favorite Kevin Ball on Showtime’s Shameless. Perhaps one of the most complex characters on the show, Kev manages to be both a responsible husband, father, and business owner while also at times being a drug-dealing ice cream truck driver or a dorm-squatting co-ed escort. Through it all, Howey brings a comic relief to a show that sometimes gets quite heavy. Talk Nerdy With Us had the opportunity to sit down with Howey for a frank look at this character. We discuss the evolution of Kev over time and how Howey’s real life experiences have informed his performance of struggling husband and father. Howey’s insights into the plight of new parents were refreshingly spot on. Read on to hear what Howey had to say on the topic as well as his thoughts on what’s to come in season 6 of Shameless.
I have been a fan of Shameless for a lot of years, and what I wanted to tell you was that my absolute favorite Kev storyline was in season 2 when you guys got Ethel.
Yeah. That was fun.
I really appreciated the paradox that was Kev, in that it was sort of unexpected to me that he was such a nurturing guy.
[laughs] Yeah, me too.
That’s what I wanted to know. When you were reading the script, were you surprised to discover that part of your character?
Yeah. It was, you know, the whole storyline of having a girl who was in a Mormon cult and having this little girl come in…I mean look, Madison Davenport, the actress who played Ethel, she was so good and so sweet and so innocent, she played it so innocent, that you couldn’t help, unless you were a monster, be sympathetic toward her. So I was kinda just like “Oh my god, this poor girl.” But how they wrote it, my favorite moment of that was when she said thank you for taking care of me and my baby, cause she had a baby of her own. And that moment in her little makeshift room that we gave her in the house, that came out of nowhere you know? It was a whole dramatic moment that just happened and it was really emotional. Yeah, that’s cool you said that, I haven’t thought about it in a while. My god, it was four years ago. [laughs].
Yeah, it was a long time ago! But, when I think of Kev and V, that was really the beginning of me falling love with those characters.
That’s very cool.
So, last season you spent time in Lip’s dorm and got the nickname of the rape walker for your role of escorting women home to prevent them from getting raped. I’m sure you guys hear from fans a lot, did you hear from anyone on college campuses about how that storyline impacted them?
No, I haven’t. You know, a lot of my social media I don’t really get into. I go on and I post what I want, and then I get off. I don’t really respond to much and I don’t read a lot.
That’s probably healthy.
Yeah, I mean what started that is that I read a couple of things that were like “why don’t you answer any of our questions” and it’s like, I don’t even have to have an account. I’m not doing it to answer anyone’s questions, I just post my shit and get out. So it’s not like I’ve had those conversations. The only feedback that I got was that the name was kind of funny. There was a positive outlook on it, because unfortunately there is a lot of rape and assault happening on college campuses and it’s getting brushed under the rug by administration. That was brought up in certain conversations and it was like okay here’s this guy who’s a bigger guy and he’s not a student, but he’s doing it for his own, it’s not altruistic, by any means, he’s doing it for his own means at the end. So, no it didn’t really come back to me, to make a long story short. But, why do you ask, was it upsetting to you?
I think you’re right, I’ve read a lot of accounts in the last year. Your storyline seemed to coincide with the whole “brushing under the rug” situation coming to light. Everything kinda came out at the same time, so I was wondering if you guys had heard anything about Shameless being brought into the conversation.
I don’t know, maybe the writers have. I haven’t, but I’m basically a conduit to a lot of these things. But, yeah…well, that’s also what Shameless does, right? We walk that line with being offensive.
Right. like we’re going to do this good thing but we’re going to do it in a way that’s kind of offensive somehow.
You have a wife and kids at home. Was there any takeaway from your whole experience last year with Kev and V. Yes, Kev was off at college doing whatever he was doing, but at the heart of it there was some real stuff going on in terms of postpartum and the issues that couples face when they first have children. Were there any lessons that came out of that story that you were able to apply to your life at home?
Well, it’s the other way around. I helped the storyline with Kev because of my own experience. My wife and I were like any other couple. All of our time was for each other. We would go on vacation, we’d have ice cream, we’d go to a movie, we’d do whatever we wanted to do. And then when we had the kids, it was really tough, all of that went away. And also we’re both working actors, so we were very tired, and when we’d come back, if there was any energy left it was for the kids, and not for each other. So we experienced that, I mean it almost broke us up. We didn’t really understand why, we just weren’t liking each other and we realized that things weren’t the same and it was really messed up. Because it was hard and we weren’t used to it.
Yeah it is hard. It’s really hard.
So I learned from a lot of experiences with my own family. So, when Veronica last season is saying, you know, “we need to talk about us,” and Kev’s like “the babies are crying,” and she’s like “just let them cry, we need to talk.” There was a lot of that in my own life so I think it wasn’t just a scene, it was personal. As an actor, you don’t have to have the experience of the character, obviously. You don’t have to murder somebody to know what it’s like to murder somebody in the scene. You can guess as much as you can, but for that I knew exactly what they were talking about.
It really hit a cord, actually. What I liked about it is that V was playing what is less often talked about. Women are often perceived and portrayed as immediately connecting with their babies and having this maternal instinct. We don’t talk about it, but it happens to women all the time that they don’t feel it right away. Especially with a couple like Kev and V who were so sexually fun and exciting before.
And also, just physically. Babies are parasites on the inside and then they come out and they use your body to feed. It’s hard to feel any ownership over your body.
Well, you hit on something a lot of couples go through, too, I don’t know if you did, but not only does it wreak havoc on a woman’s body, having a child, going through childbirth, but then your breasts turn into milk jugs. Then you have to stay up. The one thing you don’t want to do is have sex.
But the man is still the same as he was before you made the baby! [laughs]. That is…no one really talks about that. How hard that is.
Did you have twins on the show before you had your twins at home?
How crazy is that!
Yeah, that whole cliché of life imitating art. It was true as day. I was like, “Oh my god, can you believe this?” But, Kev had two girls, we have a boy and a girl. But yeah, the twins, the whole same thing. You know, what’s really weird is that I find myself not to be such a family man, but I am a family man, if that makes sense. I think I’m a good family man because I’m not a family man. I think the characters I play, especially with Kev, it’s the same thing, where you wouldn’t expect Kev to be so emotionally connected to Veronica. But he needs her in a way that’s his life support, it’s literally his life support. She’s like a vital organ, that’s what she is in his life. And it’s the same way with me. I don’t know. I play a lot of guys who have families, and I’d think “God, who would want to marry me? I’m just so disgusting.”
But yeah, it’s really interesting that the twins came and then how the dynamics play into it. You see it happen a little bit in season 6, and then we get through some other things that happen that are going to test the relationship.
Let’s just say this, it’s similar [to the story with] Veronica’s mother when she was trying to get pregnant.
I spoke to Shanola [Hampton, who plays Veronica] and she said that there’s some stuff that evolves in a way that shocked her and she thinks the audience will be shocked as well.
Yeah, it shocked her. She almost got pissed. Well, she didn’t get pissed, but you know what I mean, she was like “What the hell is this?” [laughs].
So, let me ask you, every interview I read with a cast member of Shameless says you’re the funniest person on set. Hands down, no one ever has to even think about it. What I wanted to know is, who’s the most fun to mess with?
Everyone. It depends on who’s one set. I’m feeling a lot more confident fucking with William H. Macy. You know, you just get to a point where you don’t really care about their opinions anymore. Also, you’re just venting off steam. You get paid to wait, there’s a lot of waiting. They do a really good job of setting up the scenes. I mean, it looks so good that John Wells, our patriarch, is always telling the guys to make it look worse. This isn’t Boardwalk Empire, you know? It’s supposed to look disheveled and impoverished. So we’re waiting, we’re just on the set, fucking around, and it’s just like, “what can I do to get a laugh?”
I mean, I can’t even tell you what I do, I don’t even know why it’s funny, there’s a lot of busting balls and making fun of people, that’s what it comes down to. We all have that evil inside of us that loves to see someone else be made fun of.
What should our readers be most excited about for season 6?
Personally, I think it’s one of our best seasons yet. I think season 6 gets back to our roots of what made the show so great and I think, because of that, it is going to polarize fans, which I think great art does. Some art that we all know, some people can’t stand it, some people love it. And this season is not mediocre. You’re either going to love it or you’re going to hate it and I think that is a testament to how good it is. I think I’ve done some of my best work in it. I wear a g-string a lot in this season, so that’s a plus. [laughs].
There’s a lot of great stuff, everybody has good stuff to do. It’s more storyline driven than it is character driven. The last couple of seasons it was more character driven. It’s gonna piss some people off and it’s gonna excite some people. Some of our fans are probably going to be horrified.