Though the series ended last year, Showtime’s 11 seasons of Shameless remain beloved. Amongst the crude humor, unhealthy amount of alcohol and general chaos of the show’s many seasons, one cherished staple of Shameless is Emmy Rossum’s Fiona Gallagher. Acting as a mother figure for the troubled Gallagher family, Fiona added a sense of stability and warmth to the show’s vulgar view of the Chicago South Side. Alongside the clan's father, Frank (William H. Macy), Fiona acted as a protagonist for the majority of the series. Though a favorite character to many, Rossum’s character, unfortunately, didn’t see Shameless through to the end, permanently exiting the show at the end of Season 9.
How Was Fiona Written Off?
At the start of Season 8, everything was going swimmingly for Fiona. With the Gallagher clan all grown up (sans youngest brother, Liam), the family’s pseudo-matriarch finally took an opportunity to focus on herself. She gets a stable job running Patsy’s Pies, a new relationship, and is finding success in the real estate game. She even manages to move out of the Gallagher family’s South Side home in favor of owning and landlording an apartment complex on a gentrified side of town. But just when it seems that Fiona may have finally broken free from the cycle of poverty, everything comes crashing down.
A buyer backs out of Fiona’s newest investment and without his support she is unable to purchase the property. Unfortunately, she’s also unable to get back the money she already invested. Financially back to square zero, Fiona realizes she has no choice but to foreclose her apartment building and move back in with her family. Faced with her old reality, Fiona begins drinking heavily, becoming a reflection of the father she despised. She loses her job at Patsy’s, doesn’t pay her share of the bills, and is constantly getting into fights. At one point she even gets into a chase with the cops. How Frank of her.
With everything she worked for down the drain, Fiona’s relationship was next on the chopping block. After tracking her boyfriend’s phone to an unknown house, Fiona is met with a surprising sight: A secret wife and child. Understandably, she’s shocked. This is the last straw for Fiona. Running away in a fit of drunken anger, she wrecks her car. The last shred of her idolized life destroyed.
After reaching her absolute rock bottom, Fiona’s life has nowhere to go but up. With assistance from her brother, Lip, who is also in recovery, Fiona gets sober and begins going to AA meetings. She gets a job at a local convenience store, reminiscent of the character’s beginnings: working any job she can to survive. Soon after settling into her new role, Fiona’s life of luxury makes a reappearance when her old investment partner stops by her place of employment. He informs her that the investor who had pulled out of the real estate deal earlier in the season has decided to purchase the entire property and has agreed to give Fiona her payout – $100,000.
With a new outlook on life, Fiona decides it's time to move on from the South Side and start a new life for herself. With a heartfelt goodbye to all her family, even Frank, Fiona sets off, but not before one last maternal gift to the kids she raised: half of her newfound fortune.
Why Did Emmy Rossum Leave Shameless?
Ahead of production for the show’s eighth season, outlets reported contractual issues amongst Shameless’ cast. Rossum reported making significantly less money than costar William H. Macy, despite both contractually receiving equal billing. According to Variety, Rossum requested not only equal pay to Macy, but an increased salary to compensate for years of unjust pay. In a now-deleted tweet, Rossum later said, “Playing Fiona Gallagher has been one of the great privileges of my life. I’m so happy to continue with my Shameless family! Back to work in May!” confirming her involvement with Shameless Season 8.
The apparent resolution didn’t last long, though. In 2018, after appearing in Seasons 8 and 9, Rossum announced her departure from Shameless. In a thoughtful Facebook post, Rossum cited her exit as an opportunity to move onto other projects. “The opportunity to play Fiona has been a gift. There are few characters — female or otherwise — as layered and dynamic” she said. “She is a mother lion, fierce, flawed and sexually liberated. She is injured, vulnerable, but will never give up. She is living in an economic depression but refuses to be depressed. She is resourceful. She is loyal. She is brave. I knew it the second I read the pilot script, this was different, this was special.”
In her post, Rossum detailed the profound memories made on the Shameless set before somberly saying goodbye to the series: “I know you will continue on without me, for now. There is much more Gallagher story to be told. I will always be rooting for my family. Try not to think of me as gone, just think of me as moving down the block.”
Where is Emmy Rossum Now?
Since her exit from ShamelessRossum has continued her career within the entertainment industry while focusing on her personal life. In 2019, Rossum appeared in the film Cold Pursuit alongside Liam Neeson – her only film role since her departure. Rossum made a guest appearance in the final season of Mr. Robotthe acclaimed series created by Rossum’s husband, Sam Esmail. Rossum has also tried her hand at work behind the scenes, directing an episode of TNT’s Animal Kingdom in 2017 and an episode of the Amazon Prime series Modern Love in 2019. The actress has also made achievements off-camera; In early 2021, Rossum and Esmail welcomed their first child together, a daughter.
As of now, Rossum has continued to flex her skills both in front of and behind the camera. She has been credited with directing 2 episodes of her beloved Shameless: these being “I Am A Storm” (Season 7, Episode 4) and “Frank’s Northern Shuttle Express” (Season 8, Episode 8). Since other sporadic directing jobs on shows mentioned earlier, she has taken a longer-term role this year. The mini-series Angelyne sees Rossum assume the eponymous starring role, as well as the show’s executive producer. This role proves a great contrast to the dark-haired, loud-mouthed Fiona: Angelyne is a blonde bombshell surrounded by fame and admiration, but makes a point of remaining secretive and elusive. The show gained very high praise from critics and audiences alike, proving that Rossum’s strive to enrich her career since her breakout in Shameless is absolutely coming to fruition.
In regards to the future and what it holds for Rossum, she has been confirmed to play a main role in the upcoming AppleTV+ series, The Crowded Room. For those of us who miss the complexity and heart she poured into Fiona, this series sounds like an opportunity to see her in the rough-around-the-edges character that she has become so well known for. Her role as Candy Sullivan will (from what we know) be exploring the effects of mental health issues and other social struggles. These topics were explored tenfold in Shamelessmeaning we can expect to see some emotionally raw moments in Rossum’s performance. The Crowded Room will see Rossum starring alongside the likes of Tom Holland, Amanda Seyfriedand Jason Isaacs. Its release date has not yet been confirmed.
Overall, Rossum’s reason for departure very much mimics that of her character on the show. Despite many fans and publications searching for a salacious story or angry arguments, none of these appear to be the truth at all. Rossum has been very vocal in her love for Shamelessreferring to the cast as her “family” on multiple occasions. Just as Fiona represents loyalty but the desire to grow, so does Rossum. Just as Fiona has a whole unknown but exciting future career ahead of her, so does Rossum.