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Showtime Actor Says Show Became a "More Positive Place" After Co-Star Quit

Shameless star Emma Kenney just opened up about working with Emmy Rossum.

It sounds like it's been a bumpy ride for this actor on a long-running Showtime series. In a new interview, Shameless star Emma Kenney talked about working with former co-star Emmy Rossum and their relationship, which was apparently full of highs and lows. Kenney and Rossum played sisters on the long-running series for eight years, until Rossum left the show in 2019 after the ninth season. The show then concluded earlier this year after its 11th season.

In an interview on the podcast Call Her Daddy, Kenney said that she and Rossum had a sisterly relationship "in good and bad ways." The 22-year-old went on to share more about her time working with the older actor, including how she sometimes felt anxious around her and why the set felt "more positive" after Rossum walked away. Read on to see what Kenney had to say.

Kenney said Rossum was like a sister to her from he beginning.

Emma Kenney and Emmy Rossum attend the Los Angeles Confidential and The Art of Elysium Celebration of The 2011 Emmys
Jesse Grant/WireImage via Getty Images

When Kenney was asked on the podcast whether it felt like she had a sibling relationship with Rossum, she said, "One hundred percent—in good and bad ways, to be honest." Kenney continued, "We were both so young. I was obviously a lot younger." When Shameless premiered, Kenney was 11 and Rossum was 24. Rossum played Fiona, the oldest sibling of the Gallagher family, while Kenney played Debbie, one of the younger members of the family.

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She doesn't think Rossum always gave her good advice.

Emma Kenney at the ABC Winter TCA Party in January 2020
DFree /

"There were times where she would try to be a good influence and then there were times where she would be blatantly giving me not the best advice," Kenney said on the podcast. "Maybe she was struggling with her own inner problems and taking it out on other people, but we all handle situations differently."

Kenney also said that being around the older actors on set, Rossum included, showed her "things I want to carry on in my life and things I do not want to carry on in my life."

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She felt like she was competing with Rossum.

Emmy Rossum at the 2019 Critics' Choice Awards
DFree /

Kenney was also asked if she felt like there was a competitiveness between herself and Rossum. "I felt that dynamic for sure," she said, "and I never understood it because I was nine and she was over 10 years older than me. So I was like, 'Why is there a weird competition here when I'm not trying to compete?' I don't know if it was other people on set trying to create that or if it was her creating it, but I know I wasn't creating it."

She felt a sense of relief when Rossum left the show.

Emmy Rossum and Emma Kenney in "Shameless"
Shameless on Showtime / YouTube

Kenney filmed the final two seasons of the show without Rossum, which she said changed the way things felt on set. "It was weird at first, for sure, but the set became a little more of a positive place, I'm not going to lie. I remember pre-her leaving, I'd go to set some days and I'd be very anxious about having a scene with her because if she had a bad day, she made it a bad day for everybody."

Still, she described Rossum's departure as "bittersweet." She explained, "I had known her for so long. And I have a lot of love for Emmy … We haven't spoken in years. But that's OK, I have a lot of love for her. I hope she finds her happiness. I heard she had a baby and that's beautiful. I'm sure she's going to be a lovely mother." Rossum welcomed a baby with her husband, Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail, earlier this year.

Rossum has said that she loved having fictional siblings.

Emmy Rossum, Jeremy Allen White, Emma Kenney, John Wells, and William H. Macy at PaleyFest Fall TV Previews Los Angeles in 2017
Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images for Fashion Media

When Rossum announced she was leaving the show in 2019, she reflected on her time with her cast-mates in a Facebook post. "See, in real life, unlike Fiona, I'm an only child," she wrote. "I never had a big family. Being ensconced in that messy Gallagher family love is something I'd always dreamed of. But even off set, it feels real. We've watched the kids grow up into the strong, talented, independent human beings that they are. I taught Emma to shave her legs. I was there when Ethan [Cutkosky] learned to drive."

She also wished Kenney a happy birthday on Instagram in 2018. "Happy birthday, little cupcake," she wrote. "This is one of the first pictures of us together. It's been a privilege to know you for almost a decade. You are a talented classy strong bad*** virgo woman!"

Best Life reached out to a rep for Rossum regarding Kenney's interview, but has not yet received a response.

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Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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