Interview with Emma Kenney, star of Showtime's 'Shameless'

By Genovia Lindo

The adorable Emma Kenney plays Debbie Gallagher on Showtime’s hit series had an opportunity to talk with Emma and find out how she got her foot through the door in showbiz and what she likes the most about being on the show Shameless.

TheCelebrityCafe: Can you start off by giving me a little background? How old are you? When did you start acting?

Emma: I’m 12 years old. I live in New Jersey. I’ve always lived in New Jersey. Well actually, I was born in New York. I lived there for two years of my life, but then we moved to New Jersey. I started acting when I was 5 or so. I just did acting for fun, not actually to be an actor. I did improv classes just like any kid would do soccer or gymnastics or swimming. At one of my showcases, my manager came to my mom and said, “We would like to represent your daughter.” My mom asked me that night if I would like to actually act and I said, “why not, I’ll give it a try!” Shameless was the first project I’ve ever booked and I’m really happy for it!

TCC: How was your experience filming Boardwalk Empire?

Emma: I was on Boardwalk Empire. I did that during my hiatus from season 1 to 2. Oh my gosh! I had so much fun. It was the second biggest project that I’ve done and I learned so much on set. I had such a blast! It was so good working with Kelly MacDonald and everybody.

TCC: What was it like being a character in a show that took place in a different time period?

Emma: It was so cool! You know, I got to wear all these vintage clothing and stuff and it was really cool. It was weird to see all the different furniture and all the different picture frames and all the different black and white photos and stuff. It was just really, really cool! We filmed on the street. In one of these scenes, the first scene I think, we filmed on this big street that had all these amazing horse and carriages and clothing on clothing lines. They transformed this regular New York street into this 1920s like world. It was so cool it was just amazing.

TCC: That sounds awesome! So let’s talk about Shameless… What have you enjoyed the most about playing the character Debbie Gallagher?

Emma: Probably just that Debbie’s so different from me and that you really get to get in the mindset of a person that you normally wouldn’t if you weren’t an actor, if that makes any sense. If I wasn’t an actor, I never would have known who Debbie Gallagher was. I never would know how her feelings are or how her emotions are, or her family. But you know also, I’ve got to work with such great cast and such great crew. I just love the vibe from everyone on it. It’s such a great learning experience and I’m having a lot of fun.

TCC: That’s great!

TCC: Emma, what has been your most memorable moment with the cast and crew one set while filming this season?

Emma: Probably just hanging out, I guess, on our lunch breaks. A lot of the cast and crew will just hangout. It’s just the small moments and the big moments, because we all get to talk. We all get to know each other. We’re all really really close. It’s a lot of fun.

TCC: Would you say it feels like a family?

Emma: Definitely! We’re all like a really big family. With the cast and stuff, we’ll all hangout on like the weekend. Especially when we’re in Chicago. The whole cast and crew stay in the same hotel. So we’ll all go to dinner or we’ll all go see a few movies.

TCC: That sounds like a lot of fun…

Emma: It is!

TCC: What is it like growing up on set as another person?

Emma: I guess… I don’t want to say it’s different. I guess it is different, but not so different because you’re not Debbie Gallagher 24/7. When I’m not filming and stuff I’ll go back to being Emma. It is kind of a challenge, because I’m nothing like Debbie. You really have to think about what her emotions would be and her feelings. Even the small things like how she would walk or how she would hold her backpack when she’s coming home from school. It’s completely different from how Emma would hold her backpack or how Emma would walk.

TCC: That’s true…

TCC: You are one of the youngest actors in the show. How do you deal with the adult issues happening around you? (i.e. a drunken father and relying on older siblings to support her)

Emma: I guess that Debbie’s used to it because this is how it’s been since she was 1, not even 1, since she was born. She’s just used to it. It’s just kind of like her normal life. Like how you would wake up and go to work in the morning, that’s your normal life. This is just her normal life.

TCC: Debbie develops a crush on Carl’s friend, Little Hank. Can you tell me more about Debbie’s crush? Have you had a real life crush that helps you relate to Debbie?

Emma: Yea, but I guess as I said, I was trying to do different things than Debbie would do around him. So I guess that it’s kind of different because we all act differently around people. You know, we’re all more comfortable or more uncomfortable. I think Debbie’s more awkward around Little Hank than I may be.

TCC: How does Debbie adjust to the move from childhood to the teenage years without the advice of parents?

Emma: I don’t want to say Debbie goes downhill because Debbie has a lot more common sense than really, any of the other characters in the show. But since she didn’t really talk about it with Fiona or Veronica, she just started doing everything on her own. She’s not getting the advice that she should be getting as she’s going through changes. I mean she kind of took it to the next level, wearing those inappropriate clothing and the make-up. She took it to a more extreme step!

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