‘Shameless’ EP Nancy Pimental on Showing Another Side of Teen Pregnancy

Spoilers: Do not read this interview unless you and watched the first episode of the new season of “Shameless,” which is in the above video player.

Showtime’s “Shameless” returns for its sixth season on Jan. 10, bringing with it a whole new season of raunch and absurdity mixed with high-class wordplay and serious and topical social issues as the Gallaghers of Chicago’s South Side find unique ways to survive.

The first episode of the new season was released early on digital outlets. While it does mark the return of Ethan Cutkosky’s Carl (I’m sorry — White Carl) emerging from juvie as a changed man and continues to explore Fiona’s (Emmy Rossum) and Lip’s (Jeremy Allen White) messed-up dating lives, the new episode suggests that this year will focus on high schooler Debbie Gallagher (Emma Kenney) and the news that she is pregnant.

Ahead of the show’s premiere on Showtime, “Shameless” showrunner and exec producer Nancy Pimental talked to Variety about Debbie’s storyline as well as others that will be plaguing the Gallaghers this season.

“Shameless” season 6 airs at 9 p.m. Sundays on Showtime.

“Shameless” frequently will concentrate on a central character or theme, whether it’s Fiona’s downward spiral or Ian’s (Cameron Monaghan) battles with mental disorder. This season, it seems you’re concentrating on, well, teen pregnancy.

(Laughs) Yes we have.

Every year, our aspiration is to take on something in a way that’s different from what we’ve seen on television before or that’s in the zeitgeist or in the culture.

We wanted to have it be more than “oh my god, it’s a drag and your life is ruined” — and we certainly have that point of view with Fiona — but we really wanted to show the point of view with Debbie that it’s actually really empowering for her. It’s a choice. She made this choice. She doesn’t understand why people aren’t on board with this choice and that she can do it. It’s a strong woman’s choice.

She feels like, in the area that she lives, this is a good goal to have. Family is really important to her. Maybe other people have other goals for her, but this is what she wants. She has an opportunity to reinvent herself.

It comes at such an interesting time, given the U.S. House of Representatives’ bill to defund Planned Parenthood. And “Scandal” has done an abortion episode this season.

In some ways, we don’t think we’re being so risky and controversial. We just feel like there’s different sides to every story and when we’re writing, we feel like we’re in our own little bubble. We’re not sitting there going “Oh, we’re on the cutting-edge here.” There’s other sides of the topic that haven’t been explored. To have each person take on a different point of view, especially points of view that haven’t been explored, is what’s important.

We’re not wagging the dog. I think it’s just coincidental with what’s going on.

You’re also carrying on with the theme of gentrification, something that was brought up last season.

We thought that we should definitely keep it alive because it certainly is what is happening in lots of big cities in the country. Gentrifiers are pushing into areas that you never thought that they would. We’re figuring out what to explore for our family … how does that affect the neighborhood?

It’s so funny too, because we were like, “What exactly defines a hipster?” We were making fun of this one guy … “Yeah, you are because you’re coming in with that weird coffee drink that’s made with butter in your little jelly jar.”

”Shameless” is one of several well-written dark comedies on television now. How do you think the scripted comedy world is changing?

I think it’s becoming more real. I think people are making comedy out of tragedy more. People aren’t afraid to take on topics that you might not have seen in the past. Everyone’s representing “All in the Family” in a way.

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  1. Denise says:

    Gentrification was written last season? I remembered the commercials and previews for the 5th season being very gentrify heavy, even the promo pics had included it, then when the season aired the story was dropped after 1 or 2 episodes. So I’m confused as to why they’re bringing it back again? Will it be dropped like last season? Does Shameless have the ability to tell a story in its completion anymore? (No.) Shameless has proved time and time again that they’re incompetent to tell a honest story and make it relatable, a little ridiculous, and funny. They’re excuse that they’re “Shameless” coupled with the description that its “so real” are contradictory idea that no one seems to argue. Frank having sex with the ground, for example, is part of a show that’s “so real” but I’ve never heard of/seen an actual human do something that absurd. Then they (show producers) say “oh well it’s Shameless, and that’s just Frank” It seems they want to negate any real responsibility and explanation yet still be taking seriously as this “its so real” show when it’s not. Shameless fails to produce truthful, progressive, honest, complete and relatable writing anymore. I assume their time will be up soon, which is a shame because they had so much potential to be great had they followed the trajectory they were going s1-4. I hope this season isn’t like the last, I don’t think I saw one tied up end last season, all the story lines seems to float around, some were left completely neglected, others made very little sense and were hard to follow. I’ve watched television for a long time, no show has baffled me as much as Shameless season 5 did and I hope they find their way again.

  2. Shirley says:

    is the ep characterizing 15-year-old debbie as a strong woman? or, is she saying that deb’s decision is one that would have been made by a strong woman? in regard to the former question, deb’s behavior is typical of a teenager experiencing normal, middle adolescence, which ranges from age 15 to 17. A few examples of such behavior are her stronger emphasis on her friends’ beliefs and behaviors, her testing of fiona’s rules and boundaries, her changeable emotional state as a result of her experimentation with romantic relationships and her lack of empathy for fiona’s point of view.. testing can benefit deb, but she still requires rules and boundaries if she is to achieve her potential..
    in regard to the second question, my response is : “it ain’t necessarily so.” when the ep says that “she can do it.” does she mean that deb has the wherewithal to assume full responsibility for her child? or, does the ep just mean that deb can have a baby? I have friends, well over 21, who are financially independent and emotionally and socially secure and who have made different decisions related to choice–to have, not to have, or to adopt a child, I would characterize all these women as being strong and as having made the decision that is best for them and their child.. in contrast, i view my classmate, who was the valedictorian of our 8th-grade class and who became pregnant at 14, as one who lacked the skills needed for motherhood and adulthood. Nine children later, her potential was never in reach, and the poverty cycle continues to recycle.
    in sum, deb’s deliberate effort to get pregnant is not a reflection of a strong woman but a reflection of a teenager’s unstable sense of self. deb herself has not formed her identity and prepared for adulthood, so how can she help prepare this child? did she consider the following: becoming a high-school dropout, getting a job, finding someone to stay with the child if she works, having a limited social life and having no partner as support? in other words, being a woman means much more than being physically capable of having a baby.

  3. Erica says:

    Well Written…. LOL!

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