Coming off the first season of Showtime’s Shameless, Cameron Monaghan talks with Paste about working with William Macy and about playing a gay teen in the acclaimed TV series that truly lives up to its name. He also discusses his love of music (see side bar on his 10 favorite songs) and his nerdy role in the new teen film Prom.
Paste: You worked with Matthew Broderick as a kid?
Monaghan: The made-for-TV movie of The Music Man on ABC.
Paste: How long ago was that?
Monaghan: That was nine years ago. I played the Ron Howard role. It was great!
Paste: You guys really have a chemistry on Shameless. Everyone seems to work well together.
Monaghan:We all get along well and really like each other. I think it shows. [The Gallaghers] are such a close unit. This family sticks together through thick and thin, always behind each other.
Paste: I guess there was a normal audition process for the part?
Monaghan: When I saw the sides, I saw that they were really different from anything else I’d seen before. They were a little bit shocking, the first time you see them. I loved it. They brought me back to read with the director and the producers, and they brought me back again for a network session. Then, at that time, I also “chemistry read” it with Jeremy who plays “Lip” on the show. A couple days after, I heard back and I got the role.
Paste: Must have been exciting.
Monaghan: You have no idea.
Paste: Over the years in television we’ve had so many gay roles in TV and I don’t think American television originally knew how to present those roles. It’s progressed over the years. But I don’t think in television, in a series, I’ve ever seen a role quite like yours. It’s a pretty brave one. It’s an “out there in your face” kind of role. There were some very explicit sex scenes. I’m curious what your parents thought about that.
Monaghan: My mom was absolutely fine with it when I got the role and I sat down and talked to her about it. She thought it was a great project. When you get into playing these teen roles many of these projects deal with sexuality. It’s a very important part of teen development. We had talked about it. She was cool with it.
Paste: It’s got to be challenging to you as an actor, in a good way, to sink your teeth into something like this.
Monaghan: Definitely. There’s more going on with Ian’s character. He has all these different layers, and experiences. I get to play all these different facets of his personality and experience all the drama that comes along with the storyline. It’s kind of an actor’s dream role I have to say.
Paste: Working with William Macy, how’s that?
Monaghan: It’s amazing. Fantastic. He’s a really, really great guy. He’s very focused on the job. Very much a family man. I’ve watched him in so many movies before this. I looked up to him as an actor. So being able to actually be in a scene with him and see how much he adds to the script and how much character he develops. And all the intricacies he does in a scene, it’s really fascinating. It’s pretty crazy that I’ve gotten the opportunity.
Paste: When you do each episode do you know what’s going to happen on the following episode?
Monaghan: No. Sometimes I get a vague, general direction of where the character in the script is going when I talk to writers and I hear whispers of what’s going on. I really don’t know what’s going to be happening in the next script until I usually get it a couple of days before filming. It’s just as surprising for me as it is for an audience.
Paste: Do you have any kind of idea about next season’s plotline? It’s a long way’s away. [The second season is scheduled to start sometime in 2012.]
Monaghan: Umm, you know, it’s funny, because I’m not even able to hint at anything because the writers don’t even have an idea of what’s going to happen. Not even a single word of the second season has been written. Nobody knows what’s going on yet. But I’m really curious to find out.
Paste: I’ve never seen the British series [the show that the American series is based on]. Do the actual episodes follow the storyline that was in that series?
Monaghan: Yes and no. At the beginning of the first season many of the storylines were very close to the British series with only minor changes here and there. But those minor changes become more and more major as the series progresses. Even before the fifth episode there were some major, major divergences. Basically, we can pick and choose any storyline we want for ours. Like, even Mickey’s storyline doesn’t happen until, I think, the fourth season of the U.K. show. So, we’re kind of restructuring and reorganizing and making our own changes, putting a whole twist on what the U.K. series is doing.
Paste: Tell me about Prom.
Monaghan: Prom follows a bunch of high schoolers, their social pressures, all the difficulties leading up to the big prom. I play Corey who’s a sophomore who can’t actually go to the prom which causes some frustration for him. He’s kind of the nerd of the movie, really, really into music, actually—specifically, a band called Stick Hippo which is kind of this indie rock band that no one’s heard about. He wants to be part of the cool, popular crowd. He’s not, but he thinks he is.
Paste: How’s the soundtrack?
Monaghan: It’s really good, actually. The music choices add a lot of character to the movie.
Monaghan: And there’s a series of YouTube videos I’m doing called “Corey & Lucas for the Win”. It’s basically following my character and his friend, just telling stories before the Prom movie. That’s at youtube.com/thesowhat. There’s some great music references in there. He references Bob Dylan and his transition from acoustic to electric. Corey is making all these videos because he wants to become a YouTube celebrity. They’re music nerds.
See Cameron Monaghan’s Top 10 Songs