Setting a precedent. Shameless graduate Emmy Rossum did not expect that her fight for equal pay in the Showtime series would cause such a furore, but she is happy that it happened.
The 35-year-old actress looked back at her struggle with wage inequality in an article for the cover of The Hollywood Reporter published on Wednesday, May 11. I’m not avoiding the question. I just really need to go.”
Having playfully danced around this issue, Rossum plunged into a frank conversation about contract negotiations in 2016. “Of course, I’ve never tried to make some grandiose political statement,” she told the publication. “I was just trying to do what I thought was right.”
The New York native played the lead role of Fiona Gallagher, the eldest child of Frank Gallagher (William H. Macy’s), for nine seasons of the acclaimed drama. Although her character was often the center of attention, she received only a fraction of what 72-year-old Macy was paid. At the end of 2016, Rossum threatened to quit Shameless if she wasn’t offered more money than Macy.
“The idea of not continuing ‘Shameless’ was never something I wanted to entertain,” she told THR. “So when it worked out, I was thrilled—thrilled that my little victory was part of a much bigger tide. But my story is not unique. It was just public. Wage inequality becomes even more pronounced when age, race, body size and orientation are taken into account.”
When the “Beautiful Creatures” star’s contract first made headlines, Macy supported her efforts to ensure equal pay. “What a male colleague on my show said:”Yes, she deserves this and more” was such a confirmation,” she previously told THR in June 2017. “And after it became public, it was a quick decision.”
The Golden Globe nominee later gave fans an idea of what was going on in her head, telling IndieWire in January 2018 that she “should be ready to leave to get what I think is right.”
At the time, she explained, “When you love your show and you love the people you work with, obviously you want to keep doing it. … We won, and thanks to this, many people got new opportunities. I support all women who are fighting for pay equality and for everything they deserve — and this applies not only to our very small isolated industry, it concerns the government, doctors, nurses, teachers and agricultural workers.”
Despite her public fight for equal compensation, Rossum announced her departure from Shameless in 2018 and left the following year when season 9 ended. The series came to an end in April 2021 after 11 seasons, and co-star Emma Kenny later hinted that the scenery had changed after Rossum’s departure.
“I remember going to the set for a few days before she left and being very worried about the scene with her, because if she had a bad day, she made it bad for everyone,” the 22—year-old actress said. Auld recalled during an October 2021 appearance on the podcast “Call Her Daddy,” adding that “there’s more positive space on the set” without the Mysterious River actress.
Kenny, who played Debbie Gallagher, noted that “at first it was strange” not to star with her older sister on screen. “We haven’t spoken in years,” she admitted. “But that’s okay. …I hope she finds her happiness. I heard she had a baby, and that’s fine. I am sure she will be a wonderful mother.”