When “Shameless” returned for its ninth season last month, the character of Lip had noticeably shorter hair than in years past. That’s because actor Jeremy Allen White has been juggling some other roles along with his work on the Showtime series.
He stars in the new indie relationship drama, “After Everything” (at Facets and the Pickwick in Park Ridge starting Friday).
And that new haircut is courtesy of the forthcoming Julia Roberts Amazon series “Homecoming,” a psychological thriller in which he plays a soldier attempting to resume life stateside.
“I wrapped ‘Homecoming’ on a Friday in May and I started ‘Shameless’ Season 9 the following Monday,” White said with a laugh, “so I didn’t have much time to grow my hair out.”
When we spoke earlier this week, it was just hours before his “Shameless” co-star Cameron Monaghan (who plays Lip’s younger brother Ian) announced that Sunday’s episode will be his last. That’s in addition to Emmy Rossum’s recent announcement that she would be leaving the show as well at the end of this season.
White was unavailable for comment on the Monaghan news, but when we spoke about Rossum’s departure, he did address whether he thinks the show is likely to continue for future seasons.
The following is an edited transcript.
Q: “Shameless” is wrapping up the first half of its ninth season in the next couple of weeks. It sounds like as far as executive producer John Wells is concerned, the show could go on for the next 10 years. What’s your take?
A: You know, I think the show is bigger than any of its characters and that’s why it works. It’s about the place where they grew up — the neighborhood — and all these characters are just a way to let the audience see that.
So yeah, I think we can do more — and I think we’re gonna do more.
And I think it could be interesting. We’ve been doing the show for so long with this kind of structure of Fiona being mom to everybody, and I think it could be really interesting when that piece is removed to see how everybody reacts. I’m interested to see what they write.
Q: Last year when I interviewed Steve Howey (who plays Kev), I asked him about the show’s future and at the time he thought this would be the last season because everyone’s contracts are up. He wasn’t sure Warner Bros. and Showtime would want to negotiate new contracts with higher rates. What’s your sense now?
A: I think we will do more. I don’t know that, it’s not official. But yeah, I think there’s more story to be told and I think Warner Bros. and Showtime are willing to go a little longer.
Q: You and your girlfriend are expecting a baby in real life. On the show, Lip was contemplating the idea of becoming the guardian and parent of Xan. What is it like when the show you’re working on mirrors some of the thoughts you might be having in your own life about impending fatherhood?
A: It’s a trip, ya know? But it’s something we’re kind of — we’ve been doing the show for a long time and John Wells knows us all really well (laughs), he’s seen us all grow up.
So it’s not uncommon that he sprinkles in things that I think reflect what we have going on in our own lives. And I have mixed feelings about it. Sometimes I think it runs the risk of being a little exploitative. And other times I want to dive in completely because I’d love to find out something about myself while playing a character.
So it’s been an exciting way to kind of explore yourself. Especially in the case of “Shameless,” because we’ve just grown up in these characters, I think it’s impossible for them not mirror our own lives in some way. When you’ve been playing a role for that long, you’re always drawing from yourself.
Q: So John Wells knew you were having a baby when he was writing that storyline with Xan?
A: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
Q: This is the requisite “Shameless” question: The show is filled with all these outrageous moments and frequently they are sex scenes. What goes through your mind when you first read a script and see what the writers have come up with?
A: I don’t know, I think I’m numb to it now!
I’ve had times in which — I think there was an episode in Season 3 or 4, where there was a teacher shaving Lip’s pubic region and I remember reading that and I was only 19 or 20 years old at the time, and I couldn’t believe I was going to do that on television. It was really daunting and really frightening.
But at this point when I see a sex scene, the only thing that reminds me it’s strange is when there’s a guest actor on set preparing themselves and I see them looking nervous and I go: “Oh right, this is something to be nervous about.” And then I kind of talk them through it to make them comfortable, which I guess kind of helps self-soothe me as well.
Q: Let’s talk about “After Everything.” Your character, who’s 23, gets a cancer diagnosis right as he starts dating someone new and their relationship moves so quickly, they end up getting married. Once he’s in remission and their lives normalize a little, they realize maybe they rushed into things.
A: I think what’s so interesting is, we aren’t really trying to pull on anyone’s heartstrings. It’s not about illness, it’s just a very honest portrayal of two young people kind of breaching adulthood a little too early, and that’s what struck a chord with me when reading it. I’m close to that same age and I’m in a similar place.
I think my character, Elliot, was really, really in love with this girl, which makes sense. I mean, she’s been taking care of him and nurturing him and really being his person through this incredibly stressful and scary time in his life.
And then the second half of the movie, it’s interesting to see the fallout when regular life sets in. The honeymoon phase is over and they’re on an even playing field again.
They got to know one another in a situation where it was just about taking care of Elliot, taking care of Elliot, taking care of Elliot. And then when it needed to be more of a mutual relationship where they’re taking care of each other — like most healthy relationships work — it’s harder to find that balance.
Q: You’re also in the new Amazon series “Homecoming,” which comes out Nov. 2 and you play a returning soldier named Shrier who suspects that there is more going on than meets the eye.
A: The show is about a facility that’s supposed to help soldiers re-acclimate to civilian life. Julia Roberts plays a counselor there. So you’re meeting all these young men coming off of long tours in the military and they’re a little bit on edge. And Shrier is particularly so. He’s very anxious, even a little paranoid. And he doesn’t trust the system. He doesn’t understand where he is, why he’s there, and he starts asking all these questions very early on in the story.
Q: The episodes are directed by “Mr. Robot” creator Sam Esmail, who is married to your “Shameless” co-star Emmy Rossum, so I’m guessing you were already friendly with Sam?
A: Yeah, I’ve known Sam for a couple years now. He did this great movie with Emmy years ago (2014’s “Comet”), that’s how they met. I saw that and loved it and talked to him about how much I enjoyed his movie. And then we just ended up hanging out; we spent a couple Thanksgivings together at mutual friends’ homes here in LA.
So it was really nice, I had never been directed by someone I considered a friend first. He’s a genius, I’m so happy I got to do something with him.
Q: Julia Roberts doesn’t do television much, what was your experience like working with her?
A: She was fantastic. Over the course of the whole show I maybe only shared one glance with her on camera, but it was a fantastic glance!