On Monday evening via Instagram, Cameron Monaghan announced his exit from Showtime’s Shameless. Known for portraying Ian Gallagher, Monaghan had been part of the series for nine seasons. Regarding his departure, Monaghan wrote, “The next episode will be my last. I have known since last year, but I didn’t want to give it away too early as I wanted this season to be a surprise for the audience, allowing them to experience Ian’s unsure journey with his character.”
Monaghan’s leave follows closely behind that of his co-star and on-screen sister, Emmy Rossum, who announced her own departure from the show in August. This makes Monaghan the second major actor to be leaving the series, with his exit planned even sooner than Rossum’s, whose run will last until the end of the current season. But with two of the show’s staple characters now parting, where will Shameless go from here?
According to Newsweek, showrunner John Wells stated around the time of Rossum’s announcement that he looked forward to “continuing the stories of this wildly unpredictable family.” While the series has not been officially renewed for a 10th season, it seems likely that the show will move forward beyond its currently airing ninth. This will leave the series to be spearheaded by William H. Macy, who plays Frank Gallagher, the negligent, alcoholic father of the six Gallagher kids.
Whether or not the show should continue with two of its main characters not returning is the question. Rossum plays Fiona, the eldest of the Gallagher siblings who raised the other five in place of their absentee father. Rossum’s character often acts as the connecting force between the show’s other characters and is the female counterpart to Macy’s, if not higher than (prior to Season 8, she eliminated the pay gap between her and Macy and negotiated for a salary that exceeded his own).
In other words, it is quite hard to imagine Shameless without Rossum in it. However, many shows have continued on without their original leads and stayed afloat. But what happens when two crucial characters are taken away at once? Monaghan’s Ian Gallagher is another vital element of the show, having become a beloved character amongst the LGBTQ+ community for his story as a youth growing up gay in a poor neighborhood. Many of the show’s most moving and memorable moments came from Ian’s storylines, so it will be interesting to see how the show makes do without his character, as well.
Of course, many other shows have been in situations similar to the one Shameless now faces, but the shows often lose much of their acclaim as well as their viewership. This was the case with the fantasy series Once Upon a Time that went on to do a final season after a whopping five of its lead actors departed from the show, as well as with Grey’s Anatomy after its seemingly constant dismissal of original lead characters — this can also result in a series being too dragged out. There are shows that have survived fine enough when leads have departed, but these cases usually consist of only one actor leaving and an ensemble cast containing strong enough characters to make up for the absence, such as with Steve Carrell’s departure from The Office two seasons before its conclusion.
In order for Shameless to overcome this potential downfall, the series will have to find a way to make its narrative just as engaging with Monaghan and Rossum’s characters absent. Frank’s character arcs typically rely on comedy, so that will have to be balanced out with the more serious storylines of Lip (Jeremy Allen White), Debbie (Emma Kenney), and Carl (Ethan Cutkosky). As long as a sense of stakes remains for the characters, the show might have a chance at surviving the loss of two of its main players. For now, we can only wait and see what direction the show goes in once these actors officially exit.
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