Shameless’ Emma Kenney On Being a Normal Kid & Working on Showtime’s Very Adult Show.



At 13 years young the New Jersey native is already making headlines with her performance as Debbie Gallagher, the youngest and sweet girl of the broken family on Showtime’s hit series Shameless.  I chatted with Emma, who’s enjoying her time at home in New Jersey while on Hiatus from the series–and we spoke about dreams for Debbie, and her life outside of filming. 

Dio Anhtony: This season as every season has been is an emotional rollercoaster. Is the atmosphere on set as hectic as what we see on screen?

Emma Kenney: It definitely gets very crazy on set, it’s always busy, everyone’s always moving around.  And it’s really loud on set, but it’s really fun too. We all have a pretty good work ethic, so we’re all extremely professional on set. We’ve all been together for 3-4 years. So we all have a very family, crazy Gallagher morning breakfast, you’ve seen those, on set too.

DA: You’ve had such great scenes this season. Any memorable or favorites?

EK: I have two. One for fun reasons, and one for professional reasons. The professional reason one—I loved doing the scene where I got to beat up frank (William H. Macy) with the pillow case.  But it wasn’t fun because I was beating Will up, because Bill is the sweetest guy in the world. But it was fun because I had never had an action scene before, so it was my first ever. It was a fun professional scene because it was kind of like the breaking point for Debbie. I think when Frank Broke Debbie’s project, I think that represented their relationship, and how it was wobbly forever, and it finally just came crashing down. That was a fun scene, and a big point for Debbie. It was like breaking into an actual moment of where she’s finally seeing Frank through a different set of eyes, and not holding on to that whole trying to make a perfect family thing happen. She’s moving on.


My fun scene; my favorite one was when I got to drown the girl in the swimming pool that you saw last week. That was the craziest action scene I had ever done. It was insane, it was totally crazy. The way we did it was, I did my own stunts, I did my own and I was proud of that! But the girl, we had a stunt double for her. I don’t really know the logistics but there was a stunt double for her. The way we shot the scene was super cool. We had underwater video cameras, and there were three camera men down there, with these little facemasks so they could breath underwater. The stunt double playing the other girl, I guess she took gas in her mouth, making air bubbles. She could stay underwater for about a minute. But I didn’t have anything so I kept coming up every 10 seconds because I could not hold my breath very long. It was an insane scene. And that day, our director, he showed me some of the footage and it just looked so cool. It was insane, and a very fun day.

DA: Were there actual bars of soap in the pillow case for that scene? 

There was. They were actually foam squares. We did do one take, where it was kind of a liquid soap that they put in I guess for a better effect. And then we did one scene where I was freaking out that I was going to hurt him. And he’s like “oh Emma don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine.” 

DA: I feel like Debbie is coming into her own person slowly but surely. Where would you see Debbie in say..10 years?

EK: In ten years Debbie would be 23, because I’m 13 and so is Debbie. In ten years I have a feeling Debbie would definitely graduate from high school. I feel like she would try to get into college but she wouldn’t be able to afford it so maybe she’d get a scholarship with her grades. She didn’t do any sports so she couldn’t get a sports scholarship. Hopefully she’d be getting a job. I think when she’s older she’d be something like an accountant. Something very mathematical and very educational. But maybe she’d be like a Fiona. She’d be taking care of Liam; he’d be like 10 or 12.  Yeah, definitely. I know that in the British version Fiona left after season one and Debbie became the Fiona. Maybe in the future. That’d be pretty cool, huh?


DA: Is it hard being on a show that deals with such adult content and matters? You’re definitely not the average kid.

EK: I mean bad language is something that everyone is exposed to it. Like at a younger age than I am now. So I guess that’s not a problem at all. Because I’d even hear that at school. So that’s not bad, but other than that, it’s not that hard I guess. You kind of get used to it because it has been like three years now. Plus I’m growing up.

DA: Do any of your friends watch the show? Let alone, are they even allowed to?

EK: None of my friends are allowed to watch it. They all want to. They say that they YouTube clips of it just to see me. And a lot of my friend’s parents watch the show, so they’ll call them down and be like “oh come here, it’ clean, Emma’s on!” A bunch of my friends saw the swimming pool scene and they all talked to me about it and said it was cool. But yeah not many of my friends, none of my friends actually watch the full episodes.  I kind of like it that way. I try to keep my professional life and my actual kid social life separate. So it’s kind of awkward. I don’t really like it when my friends watch the show to be honest. 

DA: Wow. Do you even watch the show? How does that work?

EK: I’ll only watch the episode if I’m live tweeting that night. But I’ll watch it with my mom and my dad or whoever, and I’ll close my eyes so I don’t actually see the bad scenes. I’ve never really seen any of those scenes.

Even if the show wasn’t so innapropiate, even if it was like a Disney show or something, I probably still wouldn’t watch it. I find it awkward, and annoying. I hate watching myself on camera. And I find myself saying “Oh my God, that wasn’t funny, that wasn’t sad, I couldn’ve changed that.” I hate watching myself on camera. I guess a lot of people feel that way though.

DA: From the outside looking in, if you were living Emma’s life, which character would you be most close to?

EK: I’d probably be closest to maybe Veronica.  You can see on the show that she’s really fun and in real life she’s amazing too. It’d be Kevin or Veronica. I love them. They’re so cute, and so funny. They’re my favorite part of the show to watch. I love their parts. 

DA: What can fans expect from the rest of the season? So much has happened already. More Shameless acts? 

The foster home scenes are really crazy. Their’s a lot of different things happening. Their’s a lot of  comedy and heart felt moments coming up.

Photo Credit: Teren oddo.

About The Author

Dio Anthony
TV Columnist, Features Editor

Hailing from Philadelphia, PA, child of the internet-age, Dio Anthony is a self-confessed pop culture observer, lending his expertise in story telling to various aspects of the entertainment industry. An avid television viewer, and columnist with a profound knowledge of the history of American TV & film, he has reported for many of entertainment’s top online-news sites. A connoisseur of old-timey sitcoms from Hollywood’s golden age and on, he believes the answers to life lie in a very well crafted scene.

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