Actress Emma Kenney discusses her roles in the hit show Shameless and the revival of Roseanne.

Tell us a bit about what your life was like growing up. Some basic background.
I grew up splitting my time between filming Shameless and going to public school in New Jersey. It was an interesting experience, but I had my parents and good friends/cast mates to support me through it.

Is there a contribution or achievement that you are most proud of?
I’m the proudest of Shameless. I’m proud of our cast, writers, directors, crew, DP, EVERYONE. I am so, so proud and blessed.

How would you describe Shameless in your own words to someone who has never heard of the show?
It’s a show about a family of 6 kids with an alcoholic father and an AWOL mother and how the youngins’ bond and work together like a pack of wolves. It’s a close-knit family.

What is your favorite thing about playing Debbie Gallagher?
Her motivation and her character growth. It’s insane how my own ideas of where I saw Debbie’s life going (which I never verbalized to the writers) was actually created. It’s crazy how in sync we all are and how connected the writers and cast have gotten with our characters.

Shameless delves into topics such as poverty and substance abuse. Do you think media has a responsibility in tackling these issues and opening up these conversations?
Yes, because it’s REAL and it’s happening; if not in our own lives, close around us–whether we are aware or not. Alcoholism is a serious disease and it needs to be treated with love, even tough love.

With the revival of Roseanne, is there anything you can share with those who are not familiar with the original sitcom?
I play Darlene’s daughter. I’m so excited about it but can’t say too much! I watched a lot of episodes of Roseanne and really studied Sara’s mannerisms on camera. She has great comedic timing that I strive to achieve. Harris is very sarcastic, and she messes with the family a lot as a joke. Her sense of humor is very dry, similar to Darlene in the original sitcom.

How did this project come about for you?
I had a chemistry read with Sara and the producers/directors, then a test with ABC the next day and I booked it!!!

 Tell us about your character Harris Conner. How do you relate to Harris?
She’s a teenage girl finding herself. I can’t share too much, but I can find similarities with any character I play. Harris is very sardonic yet protective of her little brother Mark, played by Ames.

What is the cast dynamic like on set of Roseanne?
Everyone is rad and SO nice, and I have a lot to learn from such class acts. I would observe the cast and questions a lot of questions to Laurie, Sara, Rosanne, John about the original sitcom and what it was like to do a live taping. Everyone gave me such great advice. We were all really connected as a unit over the course of filming and I miss them dearly and I’m hopeful for another season.

How would you say your character in Roseanne differs from your previous roles?
I made a point of her being very different than Debbie, who I play on Shameless. Harris has much more of a dry, yet light sense of humor; which is very different from Debbie. I had to learn about comedic timing and how to successfully shoot a sitcom.

Was there anything you had to do to prepare yourself to play Harris?
I watched a lot of Roseanne to get the energy and vibe of the show. It was so great. This season is too!

Do you have a favorite episode?
Definitely! I think it’s episode 3 or 4. It was so fun to film! I had a few stunts and got to go face to face with Roseanne which was a thrilling experience.

Is there a person or moment that deeply influenced who you are?
My dad. I look up to him so much. He’s my hero.

What’s next for you?
I just wrapped a film called The Bruce which is kind of a follow up to Braveheart. It’s a 1300s period piece. I had the best time filming!



Read more in Volume III, Issue No. 002 – Spring 2018.

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