'Shameless' Postmortem: Emmy Rossum on Fiona's "Desperate Attempt" at Stability

"It does make sense because it doesn't make sense," the actress tells THR of Fiona's latest impetuous decision.
Cliff Lipson/SHOWTIME

[Warning: This interview contains spoilers from the fourth episode of Shameless' fifth season.]

Last The Hollywood Reporter spoke with Shameless star Emmy Rossum, she teased Fiona's attempts at maturing during the fifth season of the Showtime dramedy. But maturation for a character like Fiona, who hasn't had a stable home environment or any traditional role models, may be relative considering the events of Sunday's episode.

During the hour, Fiona took a very adult step when she married musician Gus (SteveKazee), but she did not do it with any traditional planning or sense of forethought — effectively following Gallagher tradition.

"Life is messy, especially for Fiona; she likes the mess [but] at least she’s messing up in ways that aren’t as physically destructive this year," Rossum told THR of the storyline.

"With all frankness, the story hits pretty close to home for me because it’s not dissimilar to something that I did when I was 20 years old," she added. "I keep thinking that I must have told [executive producer] John [Wells] that story, and it must have been somewhere deep in the recesses of his brain. This is a bit of a case of art mirrors life for me." 

Below, Rossum talks about the fallout of the marriage and how it will influence the remainder of the season.

Read more 'Shameless' Star Emmy Rossum Says Fiona Is "Stumbling Toward Maturity" in Season 5

The Gallaghers have done a lot of crazy things, and Fiona, of late, has done her fair share, too. What was your reaction to finding out she was going to marry a guy she has only known for days, especially while she was still pursuing her boss, Sean (Dermot Mulroney)?

I knew it was coming from the first episode [of season five] because John Wells told me that was where the storyline was going. And it comes on the heels of her having been rejected twice — Sean being very hot/cold simultaneously friend-zoning her and coming on to her, that’s kind of confusing, and then she’s interested in this other fellow who's in the band [Axle Whitehead], and he turns out to have a girlfriend — which is something we haven’t really seen her experience at all. That coming on the heels of all of the destruction she caused over the last year — the jail, the drug use — I do feel like it does make sense because it doesn’t make sense. [Fiona] is clearly trying to find her way as a woman and seemingly the only way she knows to do that is to put herself in the context of other people. Her whole entire life she’s been basically in service of the rest of her family, and when she got a little bit of success, she goes off the rails. I think she’s still trying to define herself. She doesn’t seem to be able to spend any time with herself — to be able to check in with herself [or] practice any self love. She still seems to need to create chaos and to keep trying to understand herself as part of a duo with a man. I don’t think she’ll be able to figure herself out until she spends some alone time.

You've talked a lot in the past about how you see Fiona as an addict but one revolving on chaos instead of drugs. How much does that define her decision here?

She gets very swept up in this whirlwind. It’s sex and someone that pays attention to her when she has such a difficult time finding her way and being accepted. She meets this nice guy and they have good sex and he says, "My parents got married after three days," she figures, "OK, well this isn’t something that I’ve tried before so why not?" It almost seemed like they were daring each other to do it, like playing a little bit of a game of chicken. They do really like each other, but … it kind of feels like another one of these situations [in which] she has sabotaged herself.

There was a look on her face for a moment in the courthouse where it seemed like she realized she was making a big mistake but obviously went through with it anyway. Does she begin to regret getting married?

She honestly didn’t think that far in the future [past] "This person likes me so I’m going to get married and see if it works out." I mean, she’s from a broken upbringing, so I don’t think in the back of her mind she really thinks that marriage lasts forever. You know, when healthy people think of marriage, they enter in the small chance that things won’t work out but the vows they take, it’s supposed to be forever. I don’t think that Fiona thinks that way. And now she’s seeing problems between Kevin and Veronica, who are her only really solid relationship role models, so everything is breaking around her. This is a desperate attempt at some kind of stability and happiness when she’s going through rejection. The world is kind of upside down for her right now; she doesn’t really know who she’s supposed to be. She’s been taking all of these stabs at different attempts: can she be the buttoned-up girl who works in a corporate environment? Clearly not; she burned that house down. Can she begin the total f— up who goes to jail for drugs? She doesn’t want to be that person. So who is she if she just ends up working at a waitress and keeps getting rejected? This seems like a logical move for Fiona because it is so illogical for a [healthy] person.

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How is Gus and his relationship with Fiona different from the others she has had recently?

Gus is a very soulful, sensual musician — definitely a different type for Fiona. He’s neither the typical bad boy, nor is he the corporate pushover … I don’t think he’s as destructive in the way as some of the other men in her life she’s been drawn to are, but in the same time, this is a situation where a guy isn’t really going to f— her up; she’s going to really f— him up, She is obviously drawn to him, but ultimately I don’t know if he will offer enough pushback to keep her satisfied.

Sean has admitted that Fiona's recklessness turns him on; will he see a quick marriage as another checkmark on that list? Where do things go for their relationship?

Fiona is kind of a slippery slope [for him]. Later on in the season, we meet his child and learn that there are some custody issues there and he risks losing his kid, and he’ll be very tempted by drugs. It will be interesting to see when somebody else is suffering like this around Fiona: is she an enabler or does she step up and be a good friend? It will be interesting to see if she can separate herself from this chaos, which she needs to do if she wants to move forward in her life.

Now that they did go through with the wedding, what does life look like for theGallaghers?

After she makes the decision to get married, she’s hesitant to [even tell them]. Something tragic happens in episode five and her plans to tell the family at this big dinner get derailed. Lip (Jeremy Allen White) decides he doesn’t want to be in the neighborhood for the rest of the summer and he goes back to school early and that’s something that has never happened. And Gus, he’s a really good guy, but she’s not sure she didn’t make a huge f—ing mistake in marrying him. And she tells Lip in a really sweet scene in episode five and he asks if she’s happy, and she says, "Do I look happy?" And she is happy, but at the same time she’s looking to everyone else to tell her what to do, to tell her what the right road is, because she can’t listen to herself yet. If she had listened to herself she wouldn’t have married him; she would have gotten up at the courthouse and said, "Look, we have great sex, but we’re not getting married because that’s what crazy people do."

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What does life look like for the new couple in the coming episodes?

The relationship will evolve where she starts spending more time at his place and starts living a life like an adult, and just as they’re trying to decide whether they’ve made a mistake in getting married, we see the re-emergence of Jimmy/Steve (Justin Chatwin). When it rains it pours.

Shameless airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on Showtime. Do you think Fiona can find true happiness this season? Sound off in the comments below.

Twitter: @danielletbd