Cameron Monaghan must be a glutton for punishment.
In “Shattered,” the actor plays a wealthy tech guru named Chris who comes to really, really, sincerely regret his fling with the beautiful and mysterious Sky (Lilly Krug). Their meet-cute in the aisle of a supermarket quickly devolves into kidnapping and extortion, with Chris finding himself tied up and brutalized in creatively horrific ways. Think of it as “Fatal Attraction” with buckets of blood.
“Shattered,” which definitely isn’t for the faint of stomach, opens on Jan. 14. Monaghan spoke with Variety about what attracted him to the horror-thriller, working with John Malkovich, and saying goodbye to “Shameless,” the Showtime series on which he memorably played Ian Gallagher, the tough-talking gay man from the wrong side of Chicago who finds happiness with charming delinquent Mickey (Noel Fisher).
Why did you want to make “Shattered”?
“Shattered” came to me pretty late in the process of its development. In fact, I was offered the role right before filming was going to begin. They were swapping out their lead actor for somebody else, which happens. I’m not really sure the details of it, but I basically I had a meeting with Luis Prieto, our director, who said he thought I’d be great for this. But he told me if we were going to work on it together, I’d essentially have to get on a plane in the next couple of days to start shooting in Montana. I read the script and thought it was very comfortable in its tone — I liked how it shifts genre from being a romantic thriller to a more horrific and out-there movie.
Was it scary to have such a short turnaround?
Yeah, extremely scary. Any role is always a leap of faith. It’s a tightrope act. You have to have belief in yourself that you can accomplish this.
John Malkovich has a memorable supporting role as a sleazy hotel manager. What’s he like to work with?
He is really free in how he’s able to perform. He’s very generous as a performer, and he gives you something a little bit different with every take. He keeps you on your toes. In our scene together, I’m tied up in a wheelchair and Malkovich is leveraging the situation to his benefit. We shot that during my first two days of filming, and John really set the tone. I’ll never forget we had a set up and he noticed the floors were a little bit dirty and it’s supposed to be this beautiful house. So John goes to find a broom and then he spends the next 20 minutes while the shot was being set up, sweeping the floors and making sure that everything looked great. It was so wonderful to see someone care so much about their art.
Your character gets tortured in some gruesome ways. At one point, someone drills into his leg with a power tool. Is it exhausting to stage that type of scene?
It’s pretty physically demanding. We’re under time and budget constraints, so we had to work long hours and shoot within a few weeks. For two thirds of the movie, my guy is tied up and getting tormented or tortured. One of the hardest scenes was the drilling scene — specifically being kicked over in my chair and having my body over my head while I’m laying back on the floor. That was hours of blood rushing to my head. All you can do is use that discomfort. They tied me up for real. I stayed that way for 12 hours a day. I’m always game for finding the reality as long as there’s no permanent damage. Seeing how far you can go with something can be cathartic.
You’re kind of the damsel in distress in this film. Is “Shattered” trying to revert the typical gender roles for a horror film?
Totally. There’s a fun power dynamic going on between the characters of Sky and Chris. It is less common in horror films to see the female character have the upper hand. In a movie like this, you can have Chris be this really good guy who is a total victim or you can go the other way and give him this messed up dark secret. We didn’t do that. Instead, there’s something interesting in the dynamic where there’s almost a strange and dark give-and-take courtship that’s happening in these scenes. Throughout the torture and the violence, there’s still this strange chemistry between the characters that’s fascinating.
“Shameless” recently ended its run after 11 seasons. Are you sad not to be going back or were you ready to move on?
Look, after 11 years, you can say you had a good run. We did pretty much everything that we wanted to do. From an emotional standpoint, that cast is so close to me and so close to my heart. We are all really only coming to terms with the fact that it’s over now, because this is roughly the time when we would be starting to ramp up filming for another season. The funny thing is we haven’t stopped seeing each other. We haven’t stopped being a family in how we look out for each other. When you have relationships that are that close, there’s no way those bonds are going to go away. The show may be over but the connections aren’t. Who knows if down the road if we will revisit the Gallaghers or at the very least if some of our cast members end up working with each other in different capacities. If that happens, I do look forward to seeing everybody again.
Do you hope “Shameless” is revived at some point?
Not immediately. Down the line, absolutely. It would be really interesting to see Ian and Mickey’s relationship in a few years and to see how Ian has changed and grown into himself and to discover what the dynamic is with the people that he loves. That being said, I want to return to these characters at a different time and context. I want that show to find new things to poke fun and satirize, but it’s time to take a break from that character and explore other things.