For six seasons, actor William H. Macy has been through the mill. As Frank Gallagher, patriarch of the highly dysfunctional Gallagher family on Showtime's hit series "Shameless," it appears there's nothing the show's writers won't throw at him. However, Macy insists when it comes to Frank, he does have standards. But is there really anything Frank wouldn't do?
"I hope so," Macy tells Headlines & Global News exclusively. "I'm too afraid to say what they are out loud, though, as the writers would do it. Frank does have his standards. He just does what he needs to do to live the best life you can. He's not a violent man; he doesn't want to hurt people, although that does exist in him."
Over the course of the show, Frank's journey has been fraught with every emotion possible. Things culminated last season when he learned his beloved girlfriend Bianca had terminal cancer and chose to abruptly take her own life. The ramifications are still taking a toll.
"This season he's sort of recovering from being brokenhearted," reveals Macy. "I know it was genuine that Frank gave his heart away, it's the first time he's ever let his guard down like that. When she died, he is bereft. I think Frank has had enough brushes with death, those he loved, and he almost died himself. I think he's trying to find out what's important to him."
For Macy, one aspect of the show's current season also proved the most challenging, when Frank chooses an unconventional method of paying tribute to his deceased girlfriend - donning her thong underwear. It's something the actor reveals won't be repeated anytime soon.
"There's just barely enough room, well actually there wasn't any room to keep 'young Will and the twins' out of the picture," he says with a laugh. "That's why I had to stand like that because I was spilling out all over - it goes right up over your butt!"
With a seventh season of "Shameless" recently announced (and likely to start shooting as early as June), Macy sees no immediate end in sight for the show. In fact, the show's endurance doesn't surprise him.
"I was pretty sure about this thing," he says. "I'm a bit of a Pollyanna, but I also don't jump at everything, so when I jump, I jump pretty hard. I thought let's do this for 10 years, and I haven't lowered my wish for this. Next year we do seven, then another three, that's what I'm saying."
New episodes of the sixth season of "Shameless" air Sundays at 9 p.m. EST on Showtime. For more of our exclusive interview with Macy, continue reading.
Congratulations on a seventh season. How are you feeling about that?
I know, what are the odds! It's so rare; Felicity and I were just pinching each other that we should each get a series that should go the distance.
You said you saw 10 seasons for the show. Are you done after season 10?
Yeah, I'd like to make an announcement - I'm done after 10! That's a joke! I can't imagine leaving the show; I am in it for the long haul.
What brings you back year after year?
Jobs aren't that easy to come by [laughs]. But the writers keep coming up with it, it's consistently true and truthful, on a level outrageous; it's very funny and still unexpected and surprising. The characters are also still developing. I just love it.
What can you tease about this season?
I think Debbie is pregnant, I hope that doesn't happen because it so upset me when I found that out. I know it's imaginary, but it upset me as a father, and I found that interesting. Fiona is looking for love, Frank remains heartbroken from his love affair last season, and some outrageous stuff is coming down the pike. They did write an episode where Frank does the most altruistic thing that's outrageous and so wrong that is very funny.
Is the women's underwear thing a through line for the entire season?
No, that was a one-shot deal. I missed my girlfriend, and now I've moved on. But it was a really funny scene, it was an experience, and it does take a lot of cajones to do it. I gotta say there's nothing to be done, and if we're talking about nudity you usually wear a sock on your business, but still, there it is, you're naked as a jaybird and there's nothing to do except say, "OK, here I am. This is it."
You didn't get used to it?
No human being could ever get used to that! It's just wrong, it's so wrong on so many levels
So it hasn't become part of your wardrobe and your wife Felicity is not losing thongs?
I would do anything for that woman, but not that [laughs].
What was your initial reaction to having to do that?
I walked in my first day. In the trailer they had laid out all these lacy women's underwear so I could choose what I wanted to wear on Friday because Frank is wearing women's underwear.
What process goes into the selection of such undergarments?
I chose one that's not butt floss because the first one I put on was, and that is one of the worst ideas mankind has ever head. Lord, I like it on women, but don't try it yourself at home - it's bad. But truthfully I originally went with this fetching little red pair that are called "boy shorts" or something. But my ass did not look good so I went with the butt floss.
What are your thoughts on the nudity on "Shameless." It seems real and never really gratuitous.
Well maybe a little gratuitous, but they do love to watch those young folks, and when I say they I mean I like to watch those young folks walking around without their knickers [laughs]. But it's always a part of the conversation, and there's such calmness to the way we deal with sex. It's very matter-of-fact, it's titillating in that we have really good looking young people, but everything, like in real life, there is copious amounts of it, especially with young people, and it's sort of matter-of-fact, which is not to say it's not incredibly romantic sometimes. There's also all kinds of sex: boring sex, hot sex and even some ugly sex, but there's a lot of it, and it's just dead-on honest. When it comes down to it, you can't be self-conscious about that stuff or it becomes really something else. You have to be natural, and I love that there's so much of it. I feel it might be good for this world if everybody just stripped off all the clothes and we stayed that way for 10 days. Just get it all over with. Then we can just go back to our lives and get some work done.
After six years of playing him, do you like Frank?
I do like Frank. Frank doesn't have many friends, and I am one of his best friends. Also it's important that I don't judge him that much, I mean everyone has their foibles, so I don't judge him, and I love the show and the things he gets to do. The acting challenges are just great. I still support Frank politically, and at the end of the day he says things that are really, really true. He's still the bravest male in the room and will say anything, and sometimes what he says is right. He's still happy and finds and does see the humor in the world. I just love him.
Do you ever get the scripts and think "this has gone too far?"
Oh brother, about 12 times a season! Beginning with this season and the stage direction that John Wells, thank you John, wrote that said essentially, "Frank has sex with her grave." I read that thing, and as a matter of pride I didn't call anyone and say, "What is wrong with you people?" Still, I liked my version of it and the way it worked, I thought OK, they never covered how you made love to dirt in acting school, but I think I know what to do. It's very funny, and they really hung me out on a limb there, but I'd buy it.
Is it the unexpected that makes the show as good as it is?
Oh always, it's one of the most important things to me, I love a film where I don't expect it.
Do you think we'll ever go back to just seeing the old messed-up Frank?
I think you might be onto something. We've established it, my character got a new liver, and they require some care. So what we've done since I got my liver, about a season and a half ago, is he doesn't drink that much. But because of all the surgeries he's able to get prescription drugs, and he's still as high as a kite, just doesn't drink that much. Could he get drunk again? It could happen. We sort of held ourselves, and I requested it of the writers, that we play true to a guy that had a liver transplant. The truth of the matter is if Frank goes out and drinks himself silly he will pay a dear price and be sick for weeks. If he does it too many times he'll end up in the hospital or probably dead. There are no more livers for Frank, so it's serious. I have a couple of times drunk too much and played it that I was sick as a dog.
Being a family man, what's it like playing a character whose family hates him?
I'm thick-skinned, and I have to admit that sometimes some of the things that happen to Frank on the show hurt my feelings. Sometimes, it's happened a lot, when he's blasted himself out of the family and they won't to have anything to do with him. So I'll watch the show, and there will be scenes of the family loving each other and Franks out of the picture, that makes me sad, and it does hurt my feelings. The part about walking down the street and people saying, "Oh, 'Shameless,' I hate you! I hate you man, you're great, it's not you, but jeez you should be euthanized." I usually just say thank you, what can you do?
People actually say that to you?
Yes, and they will usually catch themselves quickly but will say they can't believe the crap I do.
That just proves you're doing a good job.
Bull's-eye - yes it is, absolutely! I love that I get under people's skin and will call that a success. That's the way I measure things. I got some acupuncture recently, and the first time you do it, or if you haven't had it done for a while, it does get you emotional. I pulled a muscle and needed it so I got stuck a lot. Anyway, it does make you a little wonky when you get off the table, so I got home and watched the movie "Brooklyn." I was so wonky and emotional from the acupuncture, and there was a scene where I had to leave the room. I didn't even pause it, I just left the room, went to the back of the house to where Felicity was, and she asked, "What's wrong?" I just screamed, "She's falling in love again and she just met this guy, he's so sweet and I think she might be pregnant, and they are in Ireland." I was just a mess. I had to watch the whole movie standing up walking around weeping my eyes out.
But you're doing that without having to have acupuncture?
I know, and I'm the luckiest palooka. Felicity and I talk a lot about the responsibilities, not just as actors, actors are fairly low on the totem pole in terms of the stories getting told and how they get told. Film is a writer-and-director medium, actors have a huge imprint, but we do talk a lot about our responsibility to tell the truth about stuff we do and particularly violence. Just the way violence is depicted in movies, I think we have to start telling it more truthfully and quit glamorizing it. I think we're doing harm to ourselves and to our community.
Are you watching Felicity's show "American Crime"?
We actually watched one today, it's just so good. And that's exactly what I'm talking about, there's drama in dealing with these things as they actually are. We don't have to do this operatic violence or pornographic violence. Violence is dramatic enough, and it's common sense. If you kill someone, that is dramatic, but if you kill 40 people, it's nothing. It doesn't mean anything, you just get numb and it's pornographic, it's just more and more and more explicit, there's no where to go, and it's not dramatic.
Felicity is doing a phenomenal job. I can't imagine how taxing it was on her.
Isn't she, she shot that down in Austin, so she was there without her family and that helped a lot, although she came back so often she spent a lot of time on airplanes, God bless her, so she could be with us. But she didn't have time to herself and worked like a dog, I knew she did. Just the number of times she'd asked to read a scene with me and what I thought. She went over stuff, and that woman is prepared when she shows up on set, it's pretty stunning. In the scene we watched today she was just dead-on, it's so simple and calm, and don't you love the way she looks?
Which look do you prefer, the blonde or brunette?
You know I like them both, do I have too choose? I'm voting that she flip-flops back and forth [laughs].
How do you guys make it work when you're both apart working?
It hasn't been too bad in the last couple of years, she's does "American Crime" in Austin, and that truthfully sucks. She's gone six months out of the year, and I hate that. We have two children, and that means I have to raise them, and that's a lot of pressure for anybody. We only film in Chicago twice a year for a week on "Shameless," although it looks like we're there. They make snow at the Warner Bros. lot; you can buy it [laughs].
When do you go back into production for season seven?
Rumor is it's going to be early, we've started as late as September, but we might start as soon as June. It depends on John and the writer's room and actor schedules. I'm sure it will be announced soon, maybe within a month or so. For the moment I have a break, and then back to it. I love it; it's just a great way to spend your day.
Are you working on anything else?
I shot a film in the hiatus, and I'm cutting it at our house. It's an independent film that I directed called "The Layover" with Kate Upton and Alexandra Daddario. We are working on the score and have another two weeks of that, then all those people that you see listed in a movie's credits come in to do their thing. There are many hands that go into this thing.