The hit Showtime series “Shameless” is nothing if not that: Ribald, raw and unabashedly real.

Star Emmy Rossum calls it “very ballsy.”

“They’re a band of crazy outsiders,” explains Rossum of the characters in the show, which revolves around Frank Gallagher (William H. Macy), a drunken drop-in dad, and his brood of six kids left to raise themselves in the bum parts of Chicago.

“If you tell a human story, you tell it irreverently,” says Rossum, who plays Fiona, the eldest Gallagher and the glue that holds the dysfunctional family together. “You don’t have to dwell on the pain. You don’t have to stoop to pity.”

Rossum’s character takes on everything from making the kids lunches to scrambling to find cash for the electric bill to working a series of odd jobs to keep her baby brother — he’s black, and nobody knows quite how given his parents are both white — in diapers.

“Fiona is such a noble character,” says Rossum. “It’s fun to play somebody who’s so strong and fierce. Fear is the enemy of the show. Fiona is like a stray feral cat. She will scratch you and bite you but if you treat her well, she will give you a kiss.”

Fiona also spends a lot of time naked: having sex with her boyfriend, stripping out of her clothes, walking around unshowered in her skimpy underwear.

“Sexuality is a big part of life,” Rossum declares. “If you’re going to show poverty and family struggle in a realistic kind of way then you need to show sexuality. I wasn’t scared of it. Fiona has a masculine attitude about sex. It all comes fro a dude’s perspective. It’s a physical need. It’s not emotional mushiness.”

“Besides,” Rossum adds,” I figured if Macy was going to do it, I was going to do it.”

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Lead Actress
Laura Linney | Martha Plimpton | Kathy Bates | Mireille Enos | Alexander & Harmon | Emmy Rossum | Sarah Shahi | Melissa McCarthy