Exclusive: SHAMELESS’ Shanola Hampton Interview

Shanola Hampton

SHAMELESS, Showtime’s raucously funny dramedy based on the same-titled British series, brings the incorrigible Gallagaher family to our televisions on January 9.

Shanola Hampton (Miami Medical, Related) plays Veronica, the Gallaghers’ neighbor and Fiona’s best friend. Smart, sexy, and devoted both to her man Kevin (Steve Howey) and the entire Gallagher clan, Veronica proves there is more to this seeming party girl than meets the eye.

Daemon’s TV talked to Shanola about why she knew she had to play Veronica, what’s in store for her character this season, and why she sometimes feels sorry for the show’s directors.

The pilot of ‘Shameless’ was great and I can’t wait for the premiere in January.

Shanola Hampton: Thank you so much. We’re very excited about it. It’s been like a love project. It’s been so good.

How did you get the role of Veronica? Was it a matter of auditioning?

Shanola Hampton: It was a matter of a lot of auditioning. I went in there about seven times. I had six callbacks and then a test session. It was definitely a fight to get it, but it was definitely worth it. I walked in there knowing that I had to play this character. I walked in there knowing at the initial audition when I’d read the script that this was a character that I had to play.

What was it about Veronica that made you feel that way?

Shanola Hampton: She had so much energy that she brought to the show. She was this bright light and had this love for the family and her not being a biological part of the family, but still so much a part of it and wanting to keep Fiona happy, the relationships and the passion that she had with Kev was really appealing. I loved her whole vibe.

She’s very layered. She comes off as a party girl and then you find out how smart and loyal she is –

Shanola Hampton: Exactly. She has so many layers to her and it’s just not what you see on the surface. I love this role so much and she just keeps revealing these other layers to herself, too. Throughout the entire season you’ll get to see different parts of her.

From the pilot there looks to be some great chemistry with the cast. Was that instant or did you have to work at it?

Shanola Hampton: Very rarely can you say that it’s instant, but in this situation it really was. Emmy [Rossum] and I met each other and just automatically clicked. We just got it and we just laugh a lot off set. We laugh and we sing and we definitely add a rowdiness when it’s time for us to shoot our scenes together. It’s so nice to have that and it wasn’t a lot of work. Now we do all really hangout outside of being at work. So that also helps with that.

Steve Howey and I actually met at the auditions, one of our auditions and then we had callbacks and mix and matches together, but from the first time that we did our improv at the auditions it just kind of worked. He’s so funny and he’s so easy. So we really had great chemistry from our initial audition together. It’s really funny because he and I are such opposites. He’s so big and I’m smaller. It’s funny to look at us together, too.

What does the first season hold for Veronica?

Shanola Hampton: You’ll really see the development of she and Kev’s relationship as they struggle with where to go next as far as being married or to keep things the way that they are. You’ll definitely see that. You’ll see some of the jobs that she does. You’ll see the relationship that she and Fiona grow and how she helps Fiona with her love stories or love triangles that she’ll have on the show.

So you’ll see a lot and you’ll also her relationship with the rest of the kids and how she takes care of them which I think is also something that’s really nice. You’ll see the bond that she has not only with Fiona, but with the younger Gallagher children as well.

I read we’re going to get to meet Veronica’s mother. Is that true?

Shanola Hampton: Yes, played by the wonderful Vanessa Bell Calloway. She is fantastic. When she comes to the scene it is funny, hilarious, you would think that we were actual mother and daughter. That will happen as Kev and I are doing our wedding thing. Not to give anything away, but if it is to happen that’s when she’ll come on.

Had you seen the British version before you auditioned?

Shanola Hampton: I saw the British version, only the first episode, what I could. I got clips of on youtube.com before I auditioned just because it was good to see what the vibe was of the show and just kind of that rhythm because it’s a very different script. So it was nice to see the British version, but what we act with now is so different.

Do you have a favorite episode or scene you’ve shot so far?

Shanola Hampton: My favorite episode right now is episode five because it really highlights and really goes into the relationship that Kev and I have and some of the adversity that we’ll go through and how we get past it together.

What’s been the biggest challenge of playing Veronica?

Shanola Hampton: Kev and I have some very intimate scenes together and because of our connection it makes it easier, but it’s always a challenge to reveal yourself in that way. You want to see the chemistry, but it’s not always the most comfortable of circumstances. You have a lot of people in the room even when they close the set. You still have a lot of people that are there and you’re in a relationship outside of your real relationship and then you have to play these characters on TV. So it’s always a challenge to do the more intimate scenes.

Was this the first time you had to do a scene like that?

Shanola Hampton: Absolutely. It was my very first and it wasn’t the last, lets just say. Kev and Veronica love each other very much for several episodes.

What’s been the most fun?

Shanola Hampton: Well, the most fun is the relationship with the cast. We have such a good time. It’s what you don’t see onscreen, the singing. You’ll see a lot of scenes where there’s pretty much full cast because it’s about the family and about these relationships and it’s about the love. So those scenes where you see multiple characters, just imagine what’s happening when the cameras are not rolling. It’s a blast and everyone is one upping and it’s a comedy hour and it’s dancing and it’s loud and I feel sorry for the directors.

This is just the best job in the world. It’s amazing what we have. It’s not just myself and Steve Howey or myself and Emmy, but every single person on the show, we love each other very much and we have a good time together outside of work.

You’ve been paying your dues in Hollywood and I think you’ve earned this. You had recurring roles on ‘Miami Medical’ and ‘Related’ and the shows didn’t take, but now you’re on billboards and there are ads everywhere. Is it a little surreal?

Shanola Hampton: It really is a dream come true. I know that sounds so generic, but I do visualization for my life and the things that I want to happen and the kinds of parts that I wanted. This I couldn’t have molded out. In some of my visions some of these things are almost like, ‘Wow. I saw that sitting in my bedroom when I was meditating and now it’s here.’ It’s exactly what I wanted and this is the kind of show that I wanted it to be. It really is surreal, but I feel like I’ve put my time in as well. You don’t want to say that you deserve it, but I mean I feel like I really put in the work. I wasn’t found in a coffee shop. I’ve had a lot of nos. I got a lot of rejection. I got a lot of things that didn’t go. This was the time and I’m so happy and grateful for it. I’m humbled by it. I’m just so excited. It’s a ride. I love it.

Are you still shooting the first season or are you done?

Shanola Hampton: We are still shooting the first season. We just wrapped episode ten before the holidays and so we have to do eleven and twelve and then we’ll be flying to Chicago to do the exteriors for the last half of those. So we’ll be doing seven to twelve in Chicago just for the exterior shots. So two more episodes and we’ll wrap at the end of January.

Do you have anything planned for the hiatus?

Shanola Hampton: I’m hoping to work as soon as we go on hiatus. I don’t want to stop working. So I’m hoping to work a lot. I will be going to Vegas with Emmy and we’ll have a girl’s weekend which will be fun, but that’s it. Work, work, work.

Are there any other shows that you’d love to guest star on?

Shanola Hampton: Glee’, ‘Glee’, ‘Glee!’ I grew up singing gospel music. I grew up in musical theater. Ryan Murphy gave me my very first job on a show called ‘Popular’ and that’s how I got my SAG [card]. So I’d die to be on ‘Glee’. I also love ‘Dexter’. I could lay on his table and he could chop me up. I don’t care. I think that Michael C. Hall is a genius. But ‘Glee’ for sure because the whole idea of singing and dancing and acting on TV is, like, when you’re a musical theater person it’s like, ‘Yeah!’ It’s like a stage on TV. So, yes. Call me, Ryan.

I’m looking forward to ‘Shameless’. Best of luck.

Shanola Hampton: Thank you so much and I think that all your readers will love this show because it’s so raw and so different and there is a character in there for everyone, for real. It’s so awesome.

Shameless premieres on Showtime Sunday, January 9 at 10pm eastern/9pm central. You can read all our Shameless coverage here.

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Shanola Hampton

Photo Credit: JOSH MADSON