The Surprising Way 'Shameless' Will Tackle Polyamory in Season 7

“Polyamory is being shown in a way that hasn't been shown on television before,” star Shanola Hampton says as THR talks to all parties involved, including executive producer Nancy Pimental.
Courtesy of Showtime
Svetlana (Isidora Goreshter), Veronica (Shanola Hampton) and Kevin (Steve Howey) on 'Shameless'
Polyamory may be the most normal thing to happen to Showtime's Shameless.
 
In season seven of the Showtime dramedy, Kevin (Steve Howey), Veronica (Shanola Hampton) and Svetlana (Isidora Goreshter) will evolve their “thrupple” from a string of threesomes and a green-card marriage into one big happy family that includes working and raising kids together as the John Wells-produced series explores polyamory. 
 
“Polyamory is being shown in a way that hasn't been shown on television before. It's not Big Love, where the poly aspect was all it’s about,” Hampton tells The Hollywood Reporter. “[Veronica] fell in love with a woman and her husband loved her enough to accept this relationship and add it to their own relationship. For her to make that choice, it wasn't to make it temporary — this is her new life and new family”
 
Adds Goreshter: "It evolved in such a slow, natural way between them, over a period of [season six], where Svetlana really integrated into their lives. It was this weird slow build so it didn't feel like, ‘Oh, we're polyamorous now.’”
 
Pimental credits the natural flow of the thrupple to the chemistry of the actors and the fact that the storyline happened organically. “We did not set out to have this happen. It originated when Kev and Vee had broken off and Svetlana needed a place to stay," she says. "For her and her culture, she gave payment by sweeping the floor, paying the rent and going down on Kev or Vee. It started as showing a different take on a different culture and a different point of view of sex.”



While feelings were heavily involved for Veronica and Svetlana, Howey says that Kevin wasn’t immediately thinking about love — or consequences. “Kev's point of view is very cut and dry. Having sex with two women is every guy’s dream, and with Svetlana’s help, there is someone else to help cook, help with the babies and the bar, and give him more time for sleep, sex and his relationship with Vee,” he explains. “It felt like a win-win.”
 
Although sex remains a large part of their storyline — including what the cast previews as a “giddy up” punishment scene — it’s not the focal point of their story or the series as a whole.
 
“Now you've gotten past the whole sex stuff, you just see them just doing the day-to-day,” Hampton previews of season seven, which kicks off Sunday. “It picks up with them doing their schedule — who's going to the bar to work, who's taking care of the kids, who’s doing breakfast, and yes, who’s having sex — and being a regular family.”
 
Notes Goreshter: “It's like a beautiful dance that's been choreographed, and they all work so well together. Our polyamory is not the focal point of Shameless or our storyline. It’s not thrown in your face; it's just a backdrop to our real life. It’s just there and it’s working.”
 
The level of love between the trio may also be directly correlated to how much they actually need one another. “It’s really hard to raise kids and have a career, so if you find another part of your tribe or another member of the village that can contribute and there's love and trust and good specs, it kind of just makes sense,” Pimental says. “I think that helps normalize it as well. It started off as a relationship out of convenience and mutual give and take of services and needs being met, and then grew into something more loving.”
 
 
Polyamory isn’t the only thing that will make Kev, Vee and Svetlana’s relationship unique as none of the three characters will follow any gender stereotypes as well this season. 
 
“When Kev stays home with the kids, he wants to be a great dad and play and not clean. When the women come home and they say, ‘I work all day and what are you doing?’ I channeled what I imagine would be a 1950s conversation,” Pimental explains. “We had a lot of fun with that, and they are all so great in helping us flip traditional roles on their heads.”
 
Says Hampton: “That adds another layer to the fact that we’re an interracial couple and that’s never been an issue in seven seasons. We’ve never had to discuss it. Shameless shows more of a reality than most shows.”
 
“Everything in this world is a little bit reverse. We're not playing caricatures,” Howey says. “When Svetlana comes in, she's very masculine and in some ways emasculates Kev because she's a better lover to Vee. Is there jealousy there for Kev? I think so. I think it's underlying, but he's too prideful to even go there.”
 
While jealousy may come into play — especially given the nature of Kev and Vee's relationship — Hampton says the bigger issue will be bickering and Kev feeling as if Vee and Svetlana are ganging up on him. “Men always think that it’s going to be great to have two women in bed, but you also get two women bitching you the hell out and bossing you around to clean the house,” she says with a laugh.
 
“Kev and Vee start to fight a lot more than they usually have because Svetlana takes up a lot of the friendship and lover roles that Kev and Vee were for each other,” Howey reveals. “There are consequences for having a multiple-partner relationship, and you definitely are going to find out about them this season.”
 
 
A bigger looming issue is the fact that Veronica and Svetlana are legally bound by marriage, which could also lead to trouble. “I think everything could be a potential dangerous situation with Svetlana involved,” new series regular Goreshter warns. “Her love is conditional upon how it services her to get what she wants, and upon her survival. Is she really falling for them, or is there something more behind it that is self-serving and manipulative? She's 100 percent always out for herself, so you never know when that's going to get flipped over on its head.”
 
“Svetlana has different definition of what love is,” Pimental adds. “We play with all of that, because it's hard enough with two people in a relationship to define and establish what you have going on. Then you add a third person — and a third person who has a different cultural upbringing — and it definitely shakes up the lines of the triangle.”
 
After all of the crazy things that Shameless has gotten away with — including Frank (William H. Macy) having sex with a woman after her heart stopped, Fiona (Emmy Rossum) accidentally giving her youngest brother cocaine as well as Kev and Vee playing out a slave owner and slave sex scene — the cast jokes that this is the tamest storyline of their time on the show. 
 
Given the show's creative freedom, it’s little surprise that Pimental says the writers got “zero pushback” on their poly line. “My big running joke with [Showtime programming president] Gary Levine is that many seasons ago, in one of my episodes, Frank was doing something so horrific. It might have been the episode where he turned down the heart transplant for Butterface. Gary didn't have any notes on that storyline, but I also had Lip stealing library books and he asked me to take that out,” she recalls. “When he went on to explain why, his belief was that the Gallaghers don't do anything to hurt the community or to hurt their people, and so by stealing library books that was hurting the community. My point being, they are very supportive of what we do.”
 
Shameless premieres Sunday, Oct. 2 at 9 p.m. on Showtime.
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