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Shanola Hampton

Shanola Hampton

Our shamelessly favorite girl-next-door returns to Showtime for an all new and all intriguing season of the hit drama-turned-comedy series, Shameless. This is the sixth consecutive year Shanola Hampton has played the dysfunctional Gallagher family’s neighbor, Veronica Fisher. And boy, oh boy, a lot sure has changed since we’ve been introduced to her as a hustling webcam model in season one. As viewers, we’ve been sitting along side her on the roller coaster of becoming a good wife and good mother in a poverty-bred neighborhood of South Chicago. Will those two female needs ever truly be satisfied in such an environment? How are the Gallagher’s and all their messy problems impacting her and her family? What in the heck is gentrification and what is happening to the neighborhood!?!?!

While on her holiday break with family, Shanola took some time to talk with Rogue on what to expect this season on Shameless and the similarities and differences she shares with Veronica as a new mommy herself.

Let’s talk about Shameless. Can you believe this is your sixth season on the show!?
Oh my gosh, I am so excited. It’s crazy to even be on a show and then to have it be like six seasons is almost unheard of. We are so proud of this season.

What are you proud of?
I feel like we went back to the roots of really working things out together, the things that made this show so popular in the first place. I can’t wait to see the audience’s response. You know, the kids have grown up so much and these characters have evolved so much in six years and everybody has been able to grow with them. Some of the kids started on this show at nine years old and now they’re sixteen! It’s a different mindset. They’re in a completely different place in life and we’ve been able to display it in the Shameless world.

Um, yeah. Debbie is pregnant and refusing to get an abortion. What!?
Wait a minute... are you trying to catch me on that question or has that been revealed?

It's been revealed. I watched a couple promo clips on what to expect in season six. It’s cool, I promise.
Haha, okay. Well, as you can imagine, that’s going to be handled in a very Shameless way and it won’t be anything you expect. As with any teen pregnancy, you know, it’s really hard for a family when the kid is so young. They don’t feel prepared and the family isn’t prepared for a teenage daughter to have a baby, and you will see Fiona really take a stance on that and what that responsibility means. I think we do a really great job in showing Debbie in this new light.

Talking about seeing a character in a totally new light, what's with Carl’s corn rows!?
Listen, seeing him like that, after spending time in the juvenile prison, that’s exactly where it goes... No, actually, probably not even where your mind can take you. He goes beyond that! I’ve seen Ethan grow as an actor so much and he really is such a lovely young man. He definitely gets to do some fun and exciting stuff with his character. He’s involved with a whole other side of neighborhood that we really haven’t seen. It is so "thug life!"

It seems like we’re not only discovering a new area of the neighborhood this season, but the whole neighborhood itself is changing and everyone is trying to adapt to this change, right? What’s going on?
That neighborhood is being gentrified so you have a balance of the wealthy hipsters taking over the neighborhood from the real OGs. You know there’s going to be a clash there. It’s a whole different world because we’ve been just stuck in a bubble of poverty and everyone trying to get ahead. Now there’s these people coming in with money and putting up houses with well-maintained gardens and opening up coffee shops and those people want to come to the bar. We’re just looking at the neighborhood as where we grew up and they see us and it’s a spectacle to them. They want to take pictures of us and put it on Twitter and Instagram. You will definitely see those two worlds collide.

What’s changing for Veronica and Kevin?
Veronica and Kevin are taking over The Alibi and you’ll see firsthand how they deal with being business owners. The thing is that everybody in our Shameless world wants to be successful and they are not lazy people – except for Frank because he is just as lazy as he is an alcoholic – and they are fighting to connect with this new world they’re in and really thrive. There’s a lot of adjusting and balance for the two of them, not only in business, but as parents to twins too.

How is Veronica doing as a new mommy?
Veronica has really adjusted to motherhood and it’s so lovely to see after her hardships last year when she wasn’t feeling great as a mother. When she wasn’t feeling like she was able to be a wife; not getting the attention and the love that shifted and changed. I think she, just like a lot of women, was afraid to admit that the struggle was real and it’s so good to see her go beyond that. If we didn’t have this sixth season, her story would’ve ended there and we would have never been able to see how she got out of that or how her relationship survived. So that’s another advantage for me being able to play this character for so many years. After going through the struggles they went through in past seasons, like any couple, they’re in a brand new chapter. It’s really fun to finally see them in an ownership role this year. I mean, Veronica has always been a boss, but not like THE BOSS of something big like this.

So since you are a new mommy in real life, do you feel like it makes playing your role as a new mommy easy to channel into or is it more of a challenge?
It’s actually pretty funny. Veronica and I are both very different mothers and we live in very different worlds. So when I struggle as a mother in real life, it really happens on-screen when I’m dealing with the babies on set. I’m more of a really strict mother in real life. [My husband, Daren Dukes, and I] may live in California, but we’re raising our children to say “yes ma’am, no ma’am,” like we had to do growing up in the South. There’s a real structure there and that is not Veronica’s world. She’s in the streets, she’s in the hood, you know? But it’s been really nice to adjust with the kids on set because I know how to handle them. I know what to say to get a shot so we don’t have to deal with crying. That’s not an easy task, but I found a great way to deal with them because I am a mother. I mean, it’s very hard to work with babies!!

And how old are your babies?
Well, I have my daughter, Cai, who turned one year old in January and I’m expecting a son this May.

Congrats! So, do your maternal instincts ever kick in on set when you don’t want them to while in scene?
Yes! Especially when [the babies] are pitching a fit and not happy to be there and I know that the crew wants to get this shot. My maternal instincts are like, “Nope, we can’t do this because they don’t want to be here right now!” I have to be two completely different people in my mind because they don’t react the same type of way to their children.

That’s funny. What genre would you say this season of Shameless could possibly win an Emmy in: a comedy or a drama television series?
It’s so crazy we have just these two categories. Living in the world that we have now of television, we really shouldn’t have the categories be so black and white or that specific. I consider this show as a dramedy, really, because it’s a show with so much heart. There are a lot of shows like it that kind of have dark comedy or comedic aspects to it but [are] also really, really dramatic and a lot of hard, real life stuff goes down. And I think we’re one of the best dramedies out there, I mean, come on. Can we get some praise for that, please!?

Yes, of course it is! I mean, people seem to be watching because your audience is huge. Shameless is hands down one of the hottest shows in television right now. Otherwise you wouldn’t even be working on season six, right? Can we give some praise to the fans?
Yes! You know, I’m so excited that Shameless has such a large fan base that has grown so much in the last six years and that they are still so excited about the show. I’m so grateful that we have fans and that you and I am able to even talk about season six!

Shameless season six premieres Sunday, January 10 at 9pm on Showtime.

story by Lexi Brown
shot by Catie Laffoon
styling by Kelly Johnson
hair and makeup by Kimberly Bragalone

Essence of Wit

Essence of Wit