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March 10, 2011

Pretty Witty: Emmy Rossum of 'Shameless'

Until Shameless debuted on Showtime, Emmy Rossum was best known for her stellar turn in the Phantom of the Opera movie. She now gets to flash her heretofore untapped wit in the gritty comedy series, which revolves around a down-and-out family and also stars William H. Macy headed as its alcoholic dad.

By: John Griffiths | Additional Reporting: J. Bolden

Emmy Rossum of Shameless,
pictured above performing
a three-song set at an intimate,
invite-only grand-opening gala at
the new J.W. Marriott Hotel in
Chicago. Rossum treated guests,
including J.W. Marriott Jr. himself,
to a live rendition of “Think of Me,”
from her Golden Globe-nommed
performance in the 2004 film The
Phantom of the Opera
. She spends
quite a bit of time in the Windy City
filming the Showtime series.
Photo Credit: Barry Brecheisen
(picture above and Rossum on home page)   

Asked what it’s like to be Emmy while being interviewed by Emmy®, actress-singer Emmy Rossum is standup comic-quick.

“It’s like an out-of-body experience,” she said.

After all, “everyone asks me if I’m named after the Emmy. I wasn’t." She was named after her great-grandfather Emanuel.

"But my joke was always, ‘Yeah, and I have brothers named Tony and Oscar,’" she continued. Like our parents messed us up by naming us after trophies. ‘Oh, little Obie’s adorable. He’s such a rascal!’”

Rossum — who recently wowed an intimate audience at the J.W. Marriott Hotel grand opening gala in Chicago with a three-song set, including "Think of Me" from her acclaimed Phantom of the Opera movie performance — is best known for belting it out in 2004's Phantom.

Now though, she gets to flash her heretofore untapped wit in Shameless, the gritty comedy about a down-and-out family that debuted in January on Showtime.

She plays Fiona Gallagher, a teen who’s had to grow up fast — mom’s AWOL, dad (William H. Macy) is an alcoholic, and her younger siblings need a de facto mom.

“She’s gutsy and determined to be loyal to her family. But underneath her bravado, she’s got this fragility of wanting to be a kid.”

Rossum has long been on the fast train herself.

Raised with “so much love” by her mom Cheryl, the deeply rooted New Yorker — Gramps was an engineer on the Holland Tunnel — was just seven when a teacher encouraged her to join the Metropolitan Opera’s children’s chorus.

There, “I found a place where people were weird in the same way that I was!”

Soon she had kid roles on TV in everything from As the World Turns to The Audrey Hepburn Story. She blossomed into big-screen bait in films like Mystic River and The Day After Tomorrow.

Shameless has her on the radar now, especially after clips of her brief topless scenes started rushing the internet. “People thought that was my own footage, like a sex tape, which is completely horrifying. Can I say that again? Horrifying.

“The sex isn’t gratuitous,” she adds, “and a lot of it’s really funny.”

Seems Rossum can find a wry laugh and lesson in anything.

She’s long estranged from her father — “It’s good source material for any meaty scenes I might have to play” — and has recently found herself single. Major rule: “No second dates for guys who are rude to waiters.”

Her support group includes a Yorkie and chihuahua. Their names? “This is so not indicative of my personality. I don’t know how I ended up with two small dogs named Cinnamon and Sugar.”

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