The ‘Shameless’ kids: Cameron Monaghan on playing Ian Gallagher

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(Part 4 of four in ShowTracker’s ‘The ‘Shameless’ kids’ series.)

Cameron Monaghan is quite the TV boy. He’s appeared on Fox’s ‘Fringe,’ FX’s ‘Terriers’ (may it rest in peace), CBS’ ‘The Mentalist’ and USA’s Monk ... to name just a few. And he’s adding to the list. In the coming weeks, Monaghan can be seen on CBS’ ’NCIS.’ But for a steady fix of the red-haired actor, one need only look to his role on Showtime’s ‘Shameless.’

The 17-year-old (who will also appear in the upcoming Disney feature film ‘Prom’) plays Ian, the third eldest kid in the rambunctious Gallagher clan. He’s in Army ROTC at school and spends his nights stocking shelves at a local grocery store -- oh, and he’s having a secret affair with the store owner. Only it doesn’t stay secret for long.


Here’s what Monaghan has to say about his initial thoughts on the show, what sets Ian apart from other gay characters on TV and which character he sympathizes with. ...

What did you think of the show from reading the script?

When I first read the script, it was definitely a little shocking. It’s something that you don’t get handed on a normal basis. It’s raw; it can be crude. As I kept reading more and more of it, I realized what the show was trying to do: It’s being very truthful and to never hold back, to never hide anything.

What do you think is preventing Ian from coming out to his family?

I think that Frank could definitely have a problem with it. He’s very close-minded and set in his ways. And it’s the neighborhood too — it’s not really something you want known. And I think he thinks the family kind of has an idea of who he is and if he comes out to them, they’ll feel different about him.

What sets Ian apart from other gay characters on television right now?

He goes up against the negative stereotypes typical of gay characters out on TV right now. He’s smart and he’s tough and he’s brave and he’s really caring and responsible—and I think that’s not always shown in one character.

What do you think Frank thinks of Ian?

The relationship is definitely, I’d say, a little bit antagonistic. Frank doesn’t like Ian. It could be because he reminds him of his wife. You’ll see more of their dynamic as the series goes on.

How will we see your character develop?

I don’t want to give too much away. Ian is really responsible and really caring, and he’ll stick his neck out for people he cares about — and that can get him in trouble and maybe endanger him.

Do you think the family still has hope that Frank will change his ways?

Honestly, no. Perhaps Debbie does, since she’s the most optimistic of the siblings, but I think the rest of the family has lived with him as a drunk for so long, they wouldn’t be able to imagine him any other way. I can’t really speak for the other characters, but I think Ian would love Frank to be an honest, sober man. But I don’t think Ian would ever allow himself to expect or hope for that from him. The only consistent thing about Frank over the past years has been his constant relapse into alcoholism.

Is some of their tolerance toward Frank due to the fact that heʼs stayed even when their mother left?

I suppose we give him some credit for not physically leaving. However, let’s face it, Frank checked out mentally a long time ago, escaping into a world of booze and whatever drugs he can get his hands on. I guess the kids just desperately want a parent, and even though Frank is a terrible one, at least he’s existent. He’s still their father, and they’ve grown to love him and want him around, for better or for worse.

We see the family deal with their struggles in different ways. What other character do you sympathize with and why?

I definitely feel bad for Debbie. She’s a sweet girl who has had to grow up without parenting, and she doesn’t get the attention she needs because her siblings are too busy trying to make ends meet. Because of this, she’s grown starved for affection, to the point where she’ll steal a baby for companionship!

Describe the dynamic between Ian and Lip. How might things be different if Ian had no strong male in his life?

Ian and Lip have a very close relationship. Being only a year apart, they’ve grown up looking out for and taking care of each other. One can always count on the other to watch his back, help him in times of need, or keep him from doing something stupid. If Ian grew up without Lip, he’d probably be in a lot of trouble, perhaps finding solace in serious crime or drugs, it’s hard to say. One thing is for sure, though: He would definitely be a very different person from the Ian we’ve come to know.

What has been the reaction from fans to your character?

Overwhelmingly positive. I’m excited to say, I’ve been receiving a lot of mail from fans, especially gay teens and young adults, via Facebook and Twitter saying how much they relate to and appreciate my character.

-- Yvonne Villarreal