In television’s early days, people gathered around the tube to watch I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners and Leave It to Beaver, and later to get the “warm and fuzzies” from the Cosbys or the Keatons. Now prepare to meet the Gallaghers, Showtime’s rendition of the hit British television series Shameless, which could make Al Bundy look like Father of the Year.

“The prettier version of a modern family would be Modern Family, which I freakin’ love and laugh my ass off at every week,” says Emmy Rossum, who stars as Fiona Gallagher. “But the dynamics of our [Shameless] family are that no matter how bad it gets, no matter how messed up we all are, we love each other and we’re going to get through it together.”

Cinephiles who’ve been crushing on perennial “good girl” actress Rossum since her breakout role as Christine in The Phantom of the Opera (opposite a then unknown Gerard Butler) will get a serious shock to the system seeing the 24-year-old New York native—Shameless’ leading-lady (“lady” in the loosest sense of the word). “I haven’t usually been cast as such a feisty character in the past,” she says. “So it’s really fun to play such an opinionated woman who has such an internal vulnerability. The Gallaghers are unabashedly in-your-face; this is who we are and if you don’t like it, suck it. They can hardly pay the bills, but they’re fiercely loyal and have so much fun—and they really, really love breaking the law.”

 

>>Slideshow: Emmy Rossum's Cover Look

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>>Slideshow: Emmy Rossum Out & About

 

William H. Macy's Shameless Brood
Her family of cons is led by Oscar-nom William H. Macy as the brood’s alcoholic, narcissistic patriarch. (Read Michigan Avenue magazine's interview with the star here.) In the show, which has already garnered fawning reviews from TV critics, Rossum plays a randy 21-year-old who has to run the family when her dad checks out of fatherly duties, often to hang out with a companion (and future love interest) played by audience favorite Joan Cusack. “There’s something that pulls this family together all the time, and that’s the load that Emmy has been given to carry,” Macy says. “She is the workhorse of our series. She’s in almost every single scene, and she’s got two distinct roles to play. First is her relationship with the new boyfriend, Steve [played by Justin Chatwin]. And it is so sexy; they’re such a winning couple. But because the mom has left and the father—my character—is an addict and an alcoholic, she’s the mom; she keeps the family together. And she’s doing it magnificently.”

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