Isidora Goreshter chats with us about how she became part of the Shameless cast and the ridiculousness of doing a sex scene nine days after giving birth.
As Svetlana on Shameless, Isidora Goreshter brings a healthy dose of honesty and hard-edged resilience to a show that often leaves us with varying degrees of post-episode emotional whiplash. A Russian prostitute forced into marriage with Mickey Milkovich (played by Noel Fisher), Svetlana is an integral part of the show’s South Side Chicago community with her no-BS, survivalist mentality.
With the series in the throes of season six, we talked with Izzy about the creation of her character, her thoughts on the show’s continued success, and the real-life struggles of playing a Russian prostitute nine days after giving birth.
How did you get involved with Shameless? ISIDORA GORESHTER: You know, what’s funny is that I was a fan of the original version. I had seen the English version and I was like, “God, this is really fantastic television,” but had never gotten around to seeing the US version. And my manager was like, “Hey, you should go in for this,” and I saw the breakdown: no lines, nudity required, possible recurring… and I was like, “Are you kidding me?” It said “Russian prostitute”—she didn’t even have a name! It got cut, but the scene we actually ended up filming was in season three, where Ian comes into a massage parlor and I have to massage him and make him touch my boobs. I had to pretend to do all of that in the audition room and it was soawkward. I was massaging the back of a wooden chair and feeling myself up [laughing]! Really bizarre. And lo and behold, I got the part!
Your character, Svetlana, can be blunt, strong, and at times a bit cruel, but she’s definitely a badass. How did you craft this character? IG: It’s so interesting because she’s kind of made from nothing. She literally started out as this flash-in-the-pan, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, even though the way she’s introduced is so horrible and painful to watch. So we got to craft her from nothing. The writers have so much fun writing for her and are just like, “Here, do what you want with her.” I made her into this monotone, super-dry, sarcastic-sounding… b---h! But none of her cruelty is actually coming from a bad place. She’s such a survivalist and anything she does is to protect herself, protect her family, and survive. Everything comes from such an honest place, and I think that’s why people have grown to love her so much. What you see is what you get and that’s refreshing. I want to hang out with her.
Do you have a favorite memory from filming? IG: One of the funniest days—it wasn’t actually that funny. I went back to work nine days after my baby was born and because he was sixteen days late, the schedule kept getting pushed back and they were like, “When is your baby coming?!” And I was like, “I don’t know! It doesn’t want to come out!” So finally, they just had to schedule my work day. I was scheduled to come in nine days after I gave birth and that day was the scene where I had to do my “wifely duties” on Kev. Bill Macy was directing and was like, “Yeah Izzy, let’s get in there! Let’s really make this believable.” And I’m like, “Bill, I’m wearing a diaper. A human just came out of me maybe a week ago.” And I’m bent over, under the covers, trying to give a “blowjob.” It was one of the most ridiculous moments of my life. I was just like, “This is what my life is going to be like now. As a working mom.” I’m lactating through my costume and trying to pump in between takes. It was a nightmare, but looking back, it was pretty hilarious.
Why do you think Shameless has had so much success? IG: Because I think that these people really do exist. There are a lot of Fionas out there and there are a lot of Frank Gallaghers out there. There’s an Ian and a Lip and a Kev and a V and a Mickey. And if you’re not a Fiona, you know a Fiona. Even though our circumstances are ridiculous and over-the-top, we’re very real people in very real American circumstances, dealing with addiction and poverty and mental health and college and being gay. It’s all very truthful and people like that and I think people yearn for that in TV.
Why is the sixth season of Shameless a must-see? IG: I think it’s just because we’re still doing what we do best. We’re mixing that fine line between comedy and drama so well. You can be crying in one scene and then rolling on the floor laughing in the next scene and I think that’s what brings people back. We feel like we’re almost part of the family at this point, six seasons in. You want to be there for them and see them through their struggles. Every character has their own arc and storyline and journey and evolution and I think it’s rare for such a big cast to all have such personal journeys.