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April 26, 2016

Drama Gene

From an unusual childhood to a solid family life, with lots of acting in between.

Jon Matsumoto
  • Stephen Busken

Steve Howey is passionate about acting — so much so, one might suspect that he embraced the craft at an early age.

But for Howey, who plays bartender Kevin Ball on Showtime's Shameless, the idea of becoming an actor was of little interest while growing up — never mind that his father, Bill, was an acting instructor. When he decided to pursue it, he did so to improve his performance on his community-college basketball team in Colorado.

"My dad was friends with Patrick Swayze and George Clooney, and I couldn't have cared less," Howey says. "I took acting classes in college to help me with basketball. You're supposed to have a poker face when you play. I was very emotional on the court, kind of a drama queen."

When Howey talks about his six seasons on Shameless and its depiction of working-class dysfunction, it's clear that he continues to be a devoted student.

"If you're not constantly working on your sport or your craft, you're getting worse," says Howey, who relishes collaborating with such gifted Shameless costars as William H. Macy.

He also enjoys his relatively conventional family life — he and his wife, actress Sarah Shahi, are parents to three young children — which is a far cry from his own upbringing. Between the ages of five and 10, he lived with his parents on boats that they navigated up and down the coast of California, Mexico and even Central America.

"We fished for lunch and dinner and traded for eggs and different materials with local villagers," he recalls. "I would literally swim ashore and be gone all day in some random location on the coast of Mexico. My mom would say, 'Come back before dark.'"

His take on those unorthodox days? "It was a different childhood."

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