After spending a beautiful spring day on my bedroom floor patiently staring at my phone and waiting for it to ring, it finally happened. Jeremy Allen White’s New York area code popped up on the screen, and my heart began to race. For all of you who are crazy enough to have missed out on the new Showtime hit Shameless, White plays Lip, the brilliant son of burnout Frank Gallagher (William H. Macy) with a propensity for excessive cigarette smoking, casual sexual endeavors and constant mischief-making.
And after months of religiously tuning in to the show that is slowly but surely making Jeremy a household name, my phone was ringing. Expecting the badass and slightly sardonic demeanor he exudes on the show, I answered casually with a, “Hello?” as if I hadn’t been staring at my phone anticipating the call. I was surprised when I was greeted with a cheery, “Hi Samantha!” Right, on the casual first name basis with my TV crush. Absolutely no big deal.
How It Began
White’s parents moved to New York City to study theater in their early 20s. After meeting, performing on stage for several years, and having a child (Jeremy), they chose to get jobs that would bring in enough money to support their family.
“I’d always known that [acting] was something they were always very interested in,” said White of being born into a family of performers.
Fun fact about White: before he took his talents to the acting sphere, he actually danced for several years. It is here that we discover a particularly expressive side of him: his forte was ballet, jazz, and tap. At 13, Jeremy entered a new middle school in New York, where he had a change of heart.
After joining the dance program, “I didn’t like it very much, so I thought I’d give acting a try. I was very lucky. I had a wonderful acting teacher at the middle school who would send out kids he felt very passionate about on cattle calls for film, theater, and commercial.” It was thanks to these open calls that Jeremy was able to book his first play and film and eventually get an agent.
“And things have been moving along ever since.”
As a relatively new actor on the map, it must feel strange to no longer be a member of the audience, but instead the one everybody’s watching:
“It’s nice. I feel like I’m not very much out there, but I definitely get approached on the street, and everyone’s always very kind.”
White described a time he was walking down the street with a friend in Los Angeles when Shameless first started airing, and, in passing, a man walking by told him he was doing a great job and to keep it up.
“My buddy and I were like, ‘wow, that’s so sweet,” said White. “Why doesn’t everyone just walk down the street and congratulate each other on [stuff], you know, even if they have no idea what they do, it’s just a very nice, reassuring thing.’”
Lip And His (Sort Of) Woman
Lately, Lip has had strained relationships with his father, sex buddy and crush Karen (Laura Wiggins) and even his caretaker and oldest sister Fiona (Emmy Rossum). For White, it’s the relationship with Karen that has been presenting him with the biggest acting challenge.
“I think what’s been really hard, especially this season, is making the way Lip feels for Karen still realistic,” said White. “Sometimes I read the script and I’m like ‘geez, Lip, she doesn’t want to be with you! It’s not going to happen.’ It took me a very long time to wrap my head around the idea of Lip throwing everything away to be with a girl who, most of the time, doesn’t want to have anything to do with him.”
And the direction White would like to see his character go in as the season progresses?
“I think that he has to get over Karen at some point. It’s just too unhealthy for him to continue pursuing her. It’s incredibly masochistic and just no good for anyone.”
What about his most recent falling out with Fiona regarding their contradictory expectations for his education?
“I hope that Lip comes back to his family. It’s where he belongs. I think there’s a lot of people out there who want to see Lip go to college. I think Lip has a real love and respect for the blue-collar working class people that he’s grown up around. I’d like to see him borough into his own environment instead of being thrown into a new one.”
The Shameless Life
From following the live tweets of Emmy Rossum, it seems like White and all of his cast mates are very supportive of one another.
“It’s a very healthy balance,” White said of working on Shameless before reminding us how committed he is to his blossoming acting career. “We all get along very well and see each other when we’re not filming. But at the end of the day, when we’re at work, it’s very much about the work.
“We all really love acting, and having Macy watching over you at all times makes you try that much harder to impress. So yeah, we definitely have a good time, but we’re also very focused on our work and want to make the show as good as it can be!”
With that kind of work ethic, it’s probably easy for White to get lost in his character. Does he see himself at all in his character, Lip?
He laughs: “I think Lip is much smarter than I am. I love playing the character because I get to do these things that I’ve always had in the back of my head but I could never get the confidence to go through with something like that.
“But no, I don’t think I’m that similar to Lip, other than obviously I care for my family very much. I think that’s part of Lip and what he’d do for his family. I’m definitely a protective brother to my sister and even my parents. But for the most part, it’s just acting.”
Of course, I had to ask the million dollar cheesy question: what’s the most shameless thing you’ve ever done?
I hear him suck in his breath on the other end and exhale with a profound “ummmmmmm” before saying, “I’m trying to think of something I can actually say that wouldn’t get anyone in trouble.”
After a couple more umms and thoughtful tongue clicks, he finally admitted, “I’ve definitely had people write essays for me. I had my Lips all around me. But yeah, I guess I haven’t been living shamelessly enough!”
Tune in to Showtime at 9pm EST on Sundays to watch Lip in all his shameless glory on Shameless!