Showrunner John Wells opens up about Emmy Rossum’s potential return (“I would love for her to come back”), exploring racial injustice and the plight of the working class amid the pandemic.
The first half of the 11th season of Showtime’s Shameless was already written and the John Wells dramedy was three days away from shooting its final season when the world changed in March.
When the novel coronavirus pandemic forced film and TV productions to shut down around the world, many showrunners — including Wells — used the time as an opportunity to imagine how COVID-19 would impact their characters. For Wells, it meant turning a lens on the working-class Gallagher family and their friends as they struggle to get by. It also meant rewriting the first six or seven episodes and changing things on the fly to keep the Chicago-set series as timely as possible when it came to the impact of the pandemic.
Below, Wells talks with The Hollywood Reporter about how COVID changed the final season (on-screen and off), exploring racial injustice and how Frank (William H. Macy) “can’t have survived forever without any consequences.”
We’ve talked over the past few years about how, for the last couple seasons, you crafted a season finale that could have doubled as a series ender because you weren’t sure if Shameless was coming back. How did the knowledge that this is the final season impact the type of series finale you crafted — and how did the pandemic change that?
Wells: We were three days away from shooting when everything went to hell in March. We rewrote the entire season over Zoom. To be honest, I haven’t written the finale yet because we have been adjusting the show as we go along to events on the ground because we thought it was important that Shameless deal with the issues of the pandemic and the economic and health consequences for a community like Shameless takes place in.