“Shameless” is notable for its brutal honesty and disturbing over-the-top moments, so when producers realized just how blunt and dominating Isidora "Izzy" Goreshter could be, they jumped at the chance to turn her Russian prostitute character, Svetlana – originally scheduled for just one scene – into a potential story line. The role of her dream resulted from what she called an "audition from hell." Now she can't imagine her life outside of the show, and fans can’t imagine it without her.
Goreshter grew up in Long Beach, California, and at a young age was pushed into acting, along with other activities, like playing the piano and violin, as well as participating in ballet and gymnastics classes, as she says is common with many Russian children. Despite having once flirting with the idea of becoming an Olympic gymnastics, Goreshter recalls that acting was the one creative aspect of her childhood that stuck through early adulthood. She eventually went on to major in theater in college, and after more than a few random television commercials, she focused all of her energy on acting, finally making the decision to be "real" about it.
While shooting an episode for “2 Broke Girls,” Goreshter heard about an open audition for “Shameless” that was happening on the same lot.
“I had called my manager after the audition and said, ‘I am really sorry for the feedback you’re going to get because that was probably the worst audition of my life,’ ” she told HNGN exclusively. “It was so awkward and painful for me...I had to fake massage a wooden chair and touch my own boob. It was so awkward. I thought that was it – this is where my career dies. And then she [her manager] called me a day later and was like, ‘You’re crazy. You’re on hold.’ So I had what I thought was a really terrible audition, but I guess something stood out because here I am four years later.”
Once Goreshter got the call-back, she knew she had to catch up on the American version of “Shameless” because she had only ever seen the English version, which she thought was “fantastic.”
“So I learned about the show and I binge-watched season one and season two in three days. I was hooked,” she said. “I became a hardcore fangirl and I couldn’t believe I was about to go work on that show. Those first two seasons were some of the best television I had ever seen.”
The audition was for a one day co-star for a character that didn’t even have her own plotline. “She didn’t even have a name!” she explained. “There was no Svetlana. The sign on my trailer said ‘Russian Prostitute.’ There was no name, and I was just thinking how I was going to be that girl that shows up and gets naked…It was one of those ‘one day co-star, possible recurring,’ which in TV language means it’s never going to happen. So I was just that one percent that it happens to.”
In this first episode, Mickey Milkovich’s (Noel Fisher) homophobic dad, Terry (Dennis Cockrum), hires Svetlana, a Russian prostitute who works at a massage parlor/brothel, to rape Mickey after he catches him with Ian (Cameron Monaghan).
A few weeks later, the show brought her back for another scene – but she still did not have any lines or even a name. Eventually, once season three wrapped up and there was a long hiatus between filming, she heard back from the producers who said they loved her sex appeal, her brains and her captivating performances.
“They said they wanted to have me back and Svetlana was born,” she continued. “It was a really, really crazy journey how that all happened.”
Svetlana’s character eventually becomes pregnant with Mickey’s child and is forced to marry him despite the fact that he’s gay and in love with Ian. The attraction for Mickey is that she’s the first person ever to tell this bad boy how things really are.
“She’s the ultimate hustler. She’s incredibly strong – a survivalist; and she will do whatever it takes to protect her family and herself,” Goreshter said of her character. “That’s just my dream character to play, really. Somebody who doesn’t take shit from anybody. I think that’s why the dynamic works so well with Noel as Mickey, because nobody had ever come into Mickey’s life that could give it to him like she gives it. I think that’s why watching them was like watching a great tennis match that goes back and forth. He’d never had anything like that. It caught him off guard.”
Goreshter says she and Fisher are the same after the cameras stop rolling, and it’s amazing to see such a large cast get along so well. “We’re both just like the biggest dorks on the planet,” she said, laughing. “We make the stupidest jokes; we have to because sometimes the material gets so dark, and you just have to chase Noel around with a strap-on. Like, that’s just what you gotta do. That’s the show. That’s how we make those 12-hour days on set bearable…We’re just one big happy family. We can’t say it enough. We all love each other, we hang out in each other’s trailers. We really do love each other, and I think that it’s so rare for such a big cast. We’re very supportive and everybody knows what’s going on in each other’s lives. We don’t really have anything to hide. It makes for fun days on set because when you’re with these people for 15 hours a day, every single day, you want to like them.”
On a show that takes such dark turns but also has the makes viewers laugh out loud, the assumption is that it's difficult to handle such emotional highs and lows. Last season, for instance, we saw her character's baby, Yevgeny, get kidnapped.
“Funny enough, I had just given birth to my baby, and I had to work nine days later. So nine days after I had gotten out of the hospital, we were filming that scene where I’m going nuts,” she explained. “But I was basically a hormonal mess. I didn’t even have to imagine myself in that situation because I had my 9-day-old in my trailer. There I was going nuts that my child had been kidnapped. It actually ended up being one of the easiest scenes for me because my emotional balance was very unpredictable at that point. It was crazy.”
Last season, viewers were treated to Svetlana's independence as she moved away from Mickeyand became more involved with other characters – a turn that made for a hilarious storyline. Svetlana ends up moving in with Kev (Steve Howey) and V (Shanola Hampton) to help out with their babies, promising to pay rent with housework and babysitting, which she ends up misinterpreting for sexual favors. This is a relationship fans never thought they’d see on “Shameless,” and one Goreshter never expected either.
“I had no idea that would happen. I never know what to expect with what they’re going to do with her,” she said. “They slowly integrated her with the other cast members, which I think is fun because she has a different dynamic with everyone on the show. I think it’s really fascinating to watch how she navigates these different relationships. You’re going to see a lot more of Kev, V and Svetlana this season. Their dynamic gets really interesting and I think it’s going to be hysterical and shocking. It’s going to be really funny and I think people are going to love it…The most important aspect of the season for Svetlana is that she’s working hard at the Alibi. She’s very mean to all of the patrons, and they love it. She’s also in mom mode because she loves babies, which I think is hilarious. There’s also a couple of characters on the show that she gives a run for their money.”
While Goreshter can't give too many details away – upcoming sixth season cast is pretty tight-lipped – Goreshter couldn’t help but obsess over just how good things are about to get. “It’s going to be a wild ride; I can promise you,” she concluded. “I think it’s going to be a throwback to earlier seasons. You know how the earlier seasons were just like crazy chaos and there was just this beautiful balance between comedy and drama? I think this season is going to be a a lot like that. If you think about it, we kind of needed last season because season four got so dark, and I think season four, again, was some of the best television I’ve ever seen.
The work that Emmy [Rossum] did, when her character got arrested was beautiful. I think we needed a season where not a whole lot happened, which I think was season five. Now we’re kind of getting back into the swing of things where we left off in season three, if that makes sense. Season four was really dark and depressing, so we needed this kind of weird, filler, "what’s happening" kind of season with a lot of set up. It will be fun, though. I think fans are going to be really happy, even straight out of the gate. Watching episode one, you’re going to be like, what is going on! Frank (William H. Macy) is out of control – you’re going to love it.”
Season six of "Shameless" premieres on Showtime on Sunday Jan. 10 at 9 p.m. EST.