I was always a huge fan of Shameless since the very beginning. So, you can imagine my joy when I was asked to audition for the part of Avril. Especially, as (few people realize this) I played a small role in series five as a completely different character.
When I actually got the part of Avril I had just stepped out the tube station and checked my phone, as you do, and there was a message saying I'd been offered the role. I have to say, I literally screamed in the street. I was asked "if I was ok?" to which I replied, "thank you, I'm more than ok, I'm ecstatic!" It was all a bit of a blur after that until a few days before the first day of filming I was invited up to the set beforehand where I was shown around by the producer, the entire set, including The Jockey (gulp). Then I was shown the set of the Powell household, (gulp, gulp).
We then set about with the costume and make up departments creating Avril's look! The day before I started, I was in my hotel room getting my 'Avril' hair done and I got a phone call to say the amazing Tina Malone (Mimi) wondered if I was around to say a quick hello! It was so great to meet her as all my scenes the next day involved Avril and Mimi establishing a friendship. When she left, it all seemed so real, so imminent. I thought 'no pressure then!!'
My first day, I forgot to mention my very first scene on Shameless was a dream sequence involving a rather... intimate moment, shall we say, with Mimi! THAT was when my real Shameless experience began. I thought "just go for it Karen, head first!" no pun intended! Once the scene was complete I got a huge round of applause from all the crew who said "Wayhay, welcome to Shameless".
The rest of the Shameless cast welcomed me with open arms, the actors Emmanuel Ighodoro (Jackson) and Kira Martin (Letitia), The Powells and I immediately jelled. David Threllfall (Frank) who had directed the episode I had done previously, I knew. But Elliott Tittensor (Carl) and Qasim Akhtar (Chesney) when introduced to them, I stood staring at them open mouthed! I'd seen them grow up on the show and before me were the two young men!
There were so many priceless moments with what I now - and will always call my Shameless family. The scenes in The Jockey where we all got together as a cast. Technically, quite long, difficult scenes to shoot, because of the sheer volume of people. They were usually big party scenes, which culminated in a old good dance! Or the time we all did a flash mob type dance for Mimi's wedding, it took us a while to learn but we got there in the end....after getting together in groups practicing the bits we remembered and sharing it. All of us were so eager to get it right, it was priceless to observe. More recently we filmed a festival at 2am in the pouring rain. There seems to be a theme here on the Chatsworth we know how to have a good time! In the words of Frank Gallagher: "This is our England now! Partyyyy!"
Photo by Sebastian Bednarksi / Styling by Leroy Dawkins
One of the magnificent things about Shameless, that seems to be overshadowed in favor of discussing whether the 'underclass' are being represented or patronised. That debate could go round and round in circles, it's way too subjective to fall on side or another! But one of the undeniable pluses was the constant stream of strong female characters from the very beginning. Women who are matriarchs, opinionated, brash, witty, bright, feisty, caring, loyal, sexy, the list goes on. The fact that Shameless was unafraid to show these women exploring their sexuality past a size 10 and over the age of 30, actually, to celebrate it!
Now it's all drawing to an end, it feels a little sad, Shameless has almost become part of our unconscious psyche. Whether you watch the show or not we're all to familiar with the title of the show or at least seen the image of Frank with his unshaven face and greasy hair....It's great we're ending on a high.
When I look back at my time on Shameless over the last three years, I honestly feel a warmth. The shows spirit, the characters, the writing, the crazy story lines, the constant pushing of boundaries. I am filled with a sense of pride that I was part of such a groundbreaking iconic show. Like they say... "All good things, come to an end."
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