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‘Shameless’ Actress Emmy Rossum on Casting Transgender Actors, Directing Her First Episode and Taming Fiona’s Sexuality (Listen)

Welcome to “Remote Controlled,” Variety’s new podcast series featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front and behind the camera.

This week’s episode features Variety executive editor of TV Debra Birnbaum in conversation with Emmy Rossum, star of “Shameless” on Showtime. Rossum reveals what is was like to direct her first episode, the biggest challenge she faced behind the camera — and the advice she got from her fiance, “Mr. Robot” executive producer Sam Esmail.

Rossum admits that she had harbored the ambition to direct an episode for while, and had mentioned it off the cuff to showrunner John Wells.

Emmy Rossum photographed exclusively for Variety’s Remote Controlled Podcast
Dan Doperalski for Variety

“He said in his friendly way, ‘So what makes you think you can do that?’ And I said I have no idea but I think I can. I’ve been watching everyone doing it for so long and I took this hiatus off and I took cinematography at NYU, so I felt much more ready this year than ever before,” Rossum says. 

The actress was assigned an episode which turned out to be the most expensive to shoot because of location and weather-related issues. “I thought they would toss me a bone and go easy on me, but they threw me into the deep end without any waders and were kinda like, ‘Swim, child,'” Rossum reveals.

Listen to the full episode with Rossum below:

Rossum’s episode, which aired last Sunday, brought the series’ first transgender character into play.

Rossum says at first she was worried she wouldn’t be able to find the right actor for the part of Trevor, Ian’s new love interest, because of the small pool of transgender candidates to choose from, but soon realized she had plenty of excellent choices for the part.

Emmy Rossum and Variety editor/podcast host Debra Birnbaum photographed exclusively for Variety’s Remote Controlled Podcast
Dan Doperalski for Variety

“We got so many incredible tapes that all of the anxiety dissipated, and we thought, are there more roles we can write for all these incredible people?” she says. “Elliot Fletcher was an immediate yes. He was charming and had a naturalism that fit the show perfectly and had a raw edge, a vulnerability and a fire inside him that suits the rough Chicago community.”

In terms of directing herself, Rossum says she found it easier because she was the one who chose when to roll the camera, allowing her to reach the right emotional place on cue.

“Directing other people in a scene which I was in was harder because you’re simultaneously making notes in your head about where you want the camera, what you’re gonna tweak about their performance, when you also have to stay in the moment so there’s a little bit of brain-splitting that happens,” Rossum adds.

Rossum also discusses her character’s sexuality — Fiona’s single this season for the first time — as well as her hopes for an eighth season, given that the cast’s contracts all expire at the end of this season.

New episodes of “Remote Controlled” are available every Friday.

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