W Dish Exclusive: Shanola Hampton Talks 'Shameless,' Sex And Body-Shaming
W Dish Exclusive: Shanola Hampton Talks 'Shameless,' Sex And Body-Shaming
Fans of the long-running Showtime dramedy Shameless can recognize that the series just wouldn’t be the same without Shanola Hampton. For five seasons now, Hampton has starred as the hilariously loud, strong and sexy firecracker Veronica Fisher.
As a dark comedy, Shameless prides itself on depicting the raw realism of a poor American family. It features Hampton in a stand out role as a kinky, sex loving, web cam girl turned mother, as well as the best friend and confident of Emmy Rossum’s character, Fiona Gallagher.
On a recent press trip to Toronto to promote Shameless on Showtime and Movie Central, we had a chance to chat with the sweet and always-upbeat Hampton about her hit show, kinky sex, body image and the recent trend of celebrity body-shaming.
W Dish: Wow, five seasons of Shameless have wrapped, with a sixth on the way next year. Where the heck has the time gone Shanola?
Shanola Hampton: Oh my god it’s crazy, especially when you’re on cable and the seasons aren’t as long. All of a sudden you look up and the kids you met when they were 9 and 10 are now 15 and 16, and you’ve had babies, and more babies, and all of this life has happened to this family on Shameless and you’re like, “what the heck happened?”
WD: Six seasons is an impressive run for any T.V. show these days. What do you think it is about Shameless that has connected so well with Canadians and Americans?
SH: I think what’s done well is that we’ve shown a very raw group of people. A very unfiltered and unapologetic group of people that don’t come from much and don’t have much. It’s really not something that’s been shown on TV before. We have a tendency on TV to glamourize things, and that’s not how people are living. I think people have tapped into this family and this group of people because they not only have heart, they’re funny. And although some of the situations are a little crazy, people are able to relate to these characters. And if there’s one character on the show they hate, there are ten others they love. It all just comes together in a way that makes people excited about the characters they’re watching.
WD: There’s something about the Shameless cast and how you interact on screen that genuinely translates as a real family bond. Does it feel that way from the inside?
SH: There was a priority created way back at the beginning, before the pilot episode. We did a week of bonding together. We played Guitar Hero and miniature golf and really embraced each other as people. In the casting process, most of us were called back at least five times. I even asked John (Shameless producer John Wells), “why so many call backs, don’t you know that I’m Veronica?!” And he said, “I’m not just casting characters Shanola, I’m casting people. And I want there to be a certain synergy created.” And when you look at this group and see how close we are, I was like, oh, I get the process. Because now we really do love each other. We really are a family. Yes we have lunch outside of shooting and go to each other’s homes, we have relationships and we’re very involved in each other’s lives. There’s a love and respect we all have. There’s none of that fighting or craziness on our set.
WD: Any time you’re featured on television or online chatting about your role as Veronica Fisher, you seem so passionate and excited to portray the character…unless you’re really good at hiding the fact that you hate it. Why is playing Veronica so special for you?
SH: It’s such a blessing. When you’re an actor and your dream is to be on a series after doing guests spots and recurring roles, then you get on a series that’s so well written and that has a cast and crew that are like family, and you go to work every day and it never feels like you’re working, it cannot get better than that. After a hiatus of shooting or when you come back from other projects, you realize what a special situation you’re in with this group of people. And I love Veronica. She’s so beautifully flawed. I think she doesn’t apologize for her feelings, whether it’s the popular or unpopular choice. She feels the way she wants to feel in the moment and reacts the way she wants to react. She lives the way that people want to live but are afraid to, and I get to be her for those few minutes on the screen. I love that she embraces her body. I think people, especially women in America are especially very…urghhh…touchy touchy about nudity. Sex happens in relationships. She doesn’t make an apology for being a woman who loves sex! How about that? A woman loves sex…and kinky sex at that! Yea! And that’s what I love about Veronica.
WD: Speaking of embracing your body, it seems that celebrity body-shaming has been an extra vicious trend with social media as of late. Celebrities like Selena Gomez, Britney Spears, Kelly Clarkson and Pink have all been targets. As an actress in the spotlight who’s depended upon to portray a sexy role as well as a heavy social media user in real life, what’s your take on that dark side of Instagram?
SH: I have an amazing following of people who have been more kind than not. And you’ll find that’s the case for most people with social media. You can get 10 “your body’s the bomb” comments, but one negative one will keep you up at night for certain people. For me, (I) have a button called ‘block.’ I also have a button called ‘mute.’ And on my Instagram page you will see that I do not do mean. You’ll never see me speaking of someone in a bad way. I try to keep things positive and that’s what I want to attract in my life. So as soon as you say something mean about myself or my family, you’re gonna get blocked, and I don’t have to listen to you. So how about that? It’s deplorable. People abuse social media. They abuse it in a way that’s unacceptable because you don’t have to show your face. Things are said that you would never say to someone face to face. Those people are cowards and unhappy with themselves. Take a joy pill!
WD: I agree. What’s the best advice that you would give a fellow female celebrity or any young woman dealing with that kind of bullying? Follow what you do?
SH: Well yea, you should do everything I do because I’m a genius! (laughs.) Honestly, what I tell the young girls that I’ve mentored in a project called ‘Saving Our Cinderellas,’ which deals a lot with bullying on social media, is don’t engage. Because people want you to engage. They want your attention. It’s like a child throwing food across the room while you’re on the phone. They want mommy to get off the phone and pay attention to them. If you don’t engage, they won’t keep throwing food across the room. So you press the mute button or the block button. Say you’ll only attract good and only put out good. M-U-T-E, MUTE!
WD: Alright Shanola, if for some despicable reason a Canadian hasn’t caught an episode of Shameless yet, why should they tune in to your show on Movie Central?
SH: Because it will take you on the ride of your life and it’s something you’ve never seen on television before. I promise you won’t be disappointed…unless you’re a prude. Then don’t watch. It’s tough as nails. Don’t watch if you’re prude.
Watch Shameless Monday nights at 9pm MT/8pm PT on Movie Central or On Demand.