Fiona is about to face a turning point on Shameless.
"This is an interesting episode for my character because it’s a bit of a turning point in terms of her relationship with Jimmy/Steve (Justin Chatwin), but at the same time it’s the happiest we’ve seen her maybe ever," Emmy Rossum tells The Hollywood Reporter. "She has a legitimate office job — it’s not working in sewage or trying to hustle at a nightclub — where she’s starting to feel a sense of her own self worth."
In Sunday’s episode of the Showtime drama, Fiona finds out about Jimmy’s likely move to Michigan, stirring up their past issues. "I need a change," Jimmy admits to Fiona in the middle of the baseball field following her work-related softball game. When Fiona starts to question his motives ("From me?" she inquires), he sidesteps it like a pro. "You know that’s not what I mean," he reassures. As Rossum reveals, this exchange between the two kickstarts their journey through the remainder of season three.
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"It’s a happy point where we see her, playing on the office softball team and being part of that environment that we’ve never seen the girl be a part of," she says, describing it as a "funner episode" to film, to play Fiona’s "sense of joy." "Towards the middle of the episode, when she gets the news that Jimmy is going to go to Michigan for medical school, there’s that old trigger for her: of the abandonment and the anger that comes with that."
Filming their confrontation was a particular highlight for the actress, who noted that the writing "felt real." "It didn’t feel overwrought, there weren’t preachy speeches and it felt like a believable conversation about the growing pains of a relationship," Rossum says of the "Civil Wrongs" scene, exclusive to THR (watch the clip above). "This felt like a real moment for her that triggers some of her issues."
Rossum talks to THR about her experience filming the scene and breaks down the scene — moment by moment, line by line — as well as what the future entails for the Jimmy/Steve and Fiona relationship.
The Hollywood Reporter: You mentioned that this scene marked a turning point for Fiona. How did you approach this particular scene?
Emmy Rossum: Our director Gary Goldman was very encouraging of us to be very loose with it. We shot the first part of the scene, which is the actual baseball diamond and the game first, then [Justin] Chatwin came in later on in the evening. I had this idea to do it as like a walk and talk, something that the director and I had discussed – not doing it as a static scene, keeping it moving, creating this ballet between these two characters during an argument, I thought it would reinvigorate the material which could feel otherwise just two people yelling at each other from static locations. We evolved the blocking of it in a natural way, trying to find the moments where we would want to break away from the person that were intimated in the dialogue.
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THR: So the cameras would move appropriately as the moment played out?
Rossum: Kind of, and rotate around us to capture it from different ways. That’s why when you see the scene cut together, it’s a bit chopped, because you pop in and out of those moments with them. I loved the way the scene was written, the back and forth, the frustration with which Fiona is trying to express herself to this guy who has never really been honest with her. She doesn’t even know to the extent with which he’s not being honest with her right now that the audience knows, in terms of his other relationship.
THR: There’s a line in the scene when Jimmy/Steve says, “Other people do it,” meaning a long-distance relationship. But they aren’t other people.
Rossum: I think from her perspective, that’s more middle-class couples, to be honest. Her life is harder than most people. She’s constantly struggling to keep food on the table, to raise these kids who are like her children but they’re her siblings, her life isn’t like a normal life. He clearly comes from more of an upper-crust upbringing. That has always been a rubbing point for both of them because they don’t think the same way.
THR: There was another moment in the dialogue when Fiona tells him, “Don’t be that guy,” which I thought revealed a lot about where her mindset was.
Rossum: Right. I mean, her father has always been that guy who lied to her, who told her things were going to be one way and they weren’t. Her mother abandoned her, and I think she’s been manipulated by many men and she doesn’t trust. They’ve (Jimmy/Steve and Fiona) gotten to this point earlier in the season where she says, “I trust you, that’s bigger than I love you.” When there at this point of trust and he’s breaking it again, it’s really going to create problems. “Don’t be that guy,” that she knows he can be. She didn’t even know his real name for the first year of their relationship. [Laughs] When you’re dealing with a relationship like that, it’s not going to be a normal relationship.
THR: If and when Fiona finds out about all of Jimmy’s deceptions, how do you think she would react?
Rossum: To answer that would be to do a massive spoiler. I can’t say whether she’s going to find out or not, or, how she will react when she does. The episode after this, episode 11, is a massive turning point. Jimmy has been getting himself more and more in over his head, and their relationship will definitely come to a head in that episode. This scene, it was important to lay the groundwork for what’s coming.
THR: As the season begins to wind down, what can we expect for Fiona?
Rossum: People say when you’re successful at your job, you’re not successful in your love life. Like something’s got to give. We’re definitely seeing her bond with her co-workers in a corporate environment that we never though a Gallagher would fit into. She’s faking that and negotiating her way through that situation very well. If Jimmy does in fact go to Michigan or follow through with this idea, he knows what he got into with her. She would never give up her family. They split up once before and he left her for six months; she’s been through this already with him. They’ve gotten to the point, though, where they love and trust other; unfortunately she doesn’t know the deception that’s happening from his end. As the actress playing her, I’m dying for her to find out.
THR: What about the Gallagher family?
Rossum: What’s interesting to me about the coming two episodes, 11 and 12, is that Bill Macy’s character [Frank] will start to suffer the true consequences of addiction and we’ll start to see him suffer through the physical trauma that he’s put his body through. There’s some amazing stuff coming up for him.
THR: We haven’t seen Frank really deal with the physical consequences of his incessant drinking and drug use over the past few seasons.
Rossum: As much as the show is heavy on the comedy, the bottom line is underneath it all it’s a drama. We are talking about addiction and poverty and family in a very dark way. We don’t like to sit in the darkness of that, we like to give it levity and make people laugh at it and make fun of it, but when you’re dealing with somebody who’s tortured their body as much as Frank Gallagher has, you need to see the consequences of that. You can’t drink all day long and drug all day long for years and years and years, and sleep on the street, and not expect there to be negative consequences to your health. We’ll see that come to a head with him ending up being pretty sick.
Shameless airs at 9 p.m. Sundays on Showtime.