'Shameless': Why Cameron Monaghan Left and Returned So Soon

Cameron Monaghan left and returned to Showtime's Shameless in the span of four months.

To hear the actor tell it, the decision was a mix of wanting to spread his wings creatively and "business," meaning his contract was up and he likely earned a pay bump to return to Showtime's highest-rated scripted original at a time when it was losing its leading lady, Emmy Rossum.

"I've renewed [my contract] a number of times, and it got to a point where I wanted to step away for creative reasons as well as business, which many other actors had done on the show years earlier," Monaghan told reporters Wednesday at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour, where he was supporting his role in the final season of Fox's Gotham. "I took some time away and talked to showrunner John Wells about possible things we could do with the character in the future, and we go to a place both creatively and financially where I felt comfortable coming back. Much of that had to do with what we are going to do with the story. I'm excited to go back and do that."

Monaghan has played middle child Ian Gallagher since the start of the Warner Bros. TV-produced dramedy. The actor was written out toward the end of the first half of season nine, when Ian was sentenced to time in prison. What's more, producers found a way to positively wrap Ian's story: his cellmate was former flame Mickey (fan favorite Noel Fisher).  

In his October announcement that he was leaving the series, Monaghan said he'd known since 2017 that he was ready to finish up as the openly gay and bipolar Ian. He did, however, leave the door open to return. And in its Jan. 31 season 10 renewal, Showtime announced Monaghan would return. The actor confirmed Wednesday that he has signed a one-year series regular deal and will be returning full-time to Chicago's South Side as Ian when the William H. Macy series is back in the fall.

Monaghan's return arrives as leading lady Rossum is exiting in the second half of season nine (currently airing on Showtime). In Ian's farewell episode, he was able to say proper goodbyes to everyone in the Gallagher family — save for big sister Fiona. Monaghan remained mum on if he would return this season to provide a proper farewell between the two characters. He also remained tight-lipped about how diehard fans should interpret Ian's return — without Mickey. (Showrunner Wells recently revealed he received death threats after Fisher's departure from the series.)

Instead, Monaghan hopes to explore what happens to Ian after he lost everything he worked so hard for, including a healthy relationship and a career as an EMT.

"Now that we've torn him down … [and] instead of just looking for a relationship or resolving relationship conflict [it would be interesting] to instead [see him] be working on himself," he said. "It's interesting that Ian worked his way up, got his life on track and completely wrecked it. … Seeing him learn to lead the family and take care of himself and be on the straight and narrow … would be an interesting arc for him. I'd like to see something outside of just him searching and being single and hooking up with people."

As for how Shameless exists without Fiona — who, for the bulk of its run, has served as the caretaker of the family — Monaghan believes the show's ensemble will step up to fill the void.

"Over the course of the last five to six years, characters have grown up and branched out and the stories have become very separate. It was very rare that I would get the privilege of even acting with Emmy anymore," he said. "It was just one of those things. We're going to lose that thread, and that's a loss for us. That being said, I feel like we have enough other characters and storylines that across the board they can absorb it and it won't feel like too much of a change to the overall fabric of the show."

For his part, awards season staple Macy has been open about wanting to do a 10th and maybe 11th season but suggested his time with the series could come to an end after that. Monaghan confessed that there has been final-season conversations every year for the past few years, though he has no insight if 10 is going to be the show's last.

"A lot of people have signed on for multiple seasons, and I don't know if it's going to be the last year or not. I think it depends if people want to keep watching it," he said, noting that he's unsure if he would return for more beyond his current one-year pact.