Shameless’ Emma Kenney Reveals Why Emmy Rossum’s Exit Was Probably Actually A Good Thing

emma kenney debbie gallagher shameless showtime season 11 screenshot
(Image credit: Showtime)

Late August of 2018 marked a sad time for fans of Showtime’s long-running hit, Shameless, as star Emmy Rossum announced that Season 9 would be her last. While there was some doubt at first about whether or not the series would go on without the actress who played the character that many considered the (sometimes broken) heart of the show, the family dramedy did, in fact, run through Season 11, and wrapped earlier this year. Now that the series is over, Rossum’s co-star, Emma Kenney, has revealed why her exit was probably a good thing.

Emma Kenney and Emmy Rossum worked together for quite a long time, and through Kenney’s formative years, seeing as how she started the show when she was just a little girl. While Rossum’s Fiona frequently tried really hard to lead Kenney’s Debbie along a straight and narrow path, it sounds like the same wasn’t always true in real life for the young actresses who played siblings on Shameless. Kenney was interviewed on the Call Her Daddy podcast recently, and when asked if their relationship ever felt sisterly off camera, she said “one hundred percent, in good and bad ways,” and added:

We were both so young, I was obviously a lot younger. There were times where she would try to be a good influence and then there were times where she would be blatantly giving me…not the best advice. Maybe she was struggling with her own inner problems and taking it out on other people. But we all handle situations differently. Growing up I took note of — not just from her in particular — things I want to carry on in my life and things I do not want to carry on in my life.

The Shameless cast has always appeared to be a very close one behind the scenes, and even though Emma Kenney’s words about Emmy Rossum make it sound as though that’s not true, she does seem to still be able to offer a lot of grace to the show’s former lead. One can only guess at what the “not the best advice” was that the younger star received from her on-screen big sister, but it sounds like Kenney believes that there may have been things Rossum was dealing with that impacted how she interacted with her much younger co-star.

Overall, it does sound like Kenney has been able to reflect on what went on with Rossum, and others, on the Shameless set, and take away some good lessons on how to handle things in her own life, whether professionally or personally. Kenney also noted that, for the most part, the cast felt and still feels “like a family,” and said that co-star Shanola Hampton, who played Fiona’s best bud Veronica, was always there with solid advice.

As you can see, Kenney kept her comments about Rossum pretty respectful, but didn’t hold back when it came to telling the truth. When reflecting on what things were like once Rossum left Shameless behind, Kenney said:

It was weird at first, for sure, but the set became a little bit more of a positive place, I’m not gonna lie. I remember pre-her leaving, I’d go to set some days and I’d be very anxious about having a scene with her because if she had a bad day, she made it a bad day for everybody.

Emma Kenney added that while she and Emmy Rossum haven’t kept in touch, she has “a lot of love for her,” so it’s good that she’s been able to put her Shameless experience into perspective and see it as a largely positive experience. 

You can still watch Emma Kenney on The Conners, but for more to see this season, check out our 2021 fall TV schedule.

Adrienne Jones
Senior Content Creator

Covering The Witcher, Outlander, Virgin River, Sweet Magnolias and a slew of other streaming shows, Adrienne Jones is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend, and started in the fall of 2015. In addition to writing and editing stories on a variety of different topics, she also spends her work days trying to find new ways to write about the many romantic entanglements that fictional characters find themselves in on TV shows. She graduated from Mizzou with a degree in Photojournalism.