'Shameless' season 9: Cameron Monaghan on Ian Gallagher's greatest strength and biggest flaw
For the last nine years, Monaghan has been able to build the character of Ian from scratch - from a confused, lost, scared adolescent teenager, to a confident, powerful, sassy gay Jesus.
It has been a couple of days since fans and followers of the hit Showtime dramedy, 'Shameless' were hit by a yet another massive blow in the form of a fan-favorite actor quitting the show. This time, it was Cameron Monaghan - the face behind the quiet, yet erratic storm that is Ian Gallagher. The other is Emmy Rossum, who had earlier let fans know that 'Shameless' season 9 would be her last.
For the last nine years, Monaghan has been able to build the character of Ian from scratch - from a confused, lost, scared adolescent teenager, to a confident, powerful, sassy gay Jesus of sorts who was able to take over almost half the entire nation with his beliefs. And while the writers and creators might have had their own contribution in helping Ian evolve into the strong character he is today, if it wasn't for Monaghan's expertise at portraying a messed up bipolar man so articulately, then things could have easily fallen apart.
But Monaghan has been a pro at dabbling in messy characters for a while now; his portrayal of the Joker in Gotham has been one of his most widely critically acclaimed performances, and his work as Luke in the recent film 'Anthem of a Teenage Prophet' is equally remarkable. So the fact that he was able to bring and play out the nuances of a character as sensitive as Ian Gallagher, truly doesn't come as surprising.
"Ian, I think, is a well-meaning person who is somewhat emotionally sweet. I think he's a person who shoots a lot from the heart, and so a lot of these decisions that he makes are based on this idea of what he desires or likes best," Monaghan shared exclusively with Meaww. "He wants things to be moral and for people to be correct and for them to be treated well and I think on that journey, sometimes he goes a little bit overboard, or loses his way simply because he's following his heart too much."
But having gushed about the character, he doesn't shy away from acknowledging the underlying darkness within him, and the reason behind it. For those wondering how or why a character as potentially harmless as Ian could be considered flawed, Monaghan shares: "He's very caring, he cares about his brothers and the people that he loves - whom he loves a lot - and that's one of his greatest strengths, and also one of his greatest faults."
Playing a messy character on the screen comes with its own fair share of perks and drawbacks. If portrayed accurately, the criticism can get you soaring higher than the clouds, but there's also the very valid risk of doing it wrong - and there could be nothing worse than coming off as an ableist after messing up your performance in the role of a mentally ill person. But worry not - Monaghan has that bit sorted too.
"I don't believe in prescribing to one specific method; I think that at the heart of most methods is that you attach your own emotional stakes to a part. You are able to relate it to your own personal life or experiences that you had or people that you've met," he told us. "I think that's what feels most honest and that's something that I always try to do. I try to find what relates me to it personally. But the process for every role tends to be completely different, and a lot of it is simply mechanical, of learning it and repeating it and reading it over and over and over again, so it becomes something that is kind of second nature. And from there I can learn to play and to experiment or change it."
So after nine years, as emotional and hesitant as 'Shameless' fans are to let him go, somewhere deep down we just know that with ideals like these, there can only be greater, much more wholesome performances to come from the man who made us laugh out loud and cry in heartbreak, as we tried to understand the inner workings of a bipolar teen's troubled mind. Saying goodbye to Ian is definitely going to be a tough ask, but we can't wait to see what lies ahead for Monaghan.