Jody Latham talks about reprising his role as Lip Gallagher in the final series of Shameless. Episode 8 will be broadcast on Tuesday 16th April at 10pm on Channel 4.
How important has Shameless been to you in the context of your career?
Oh wow! It’s been a massive part of my career. I’ve been acting for 15 years, and I was first involved with Shameless ten years ago. I was the first person ever cast on the show. In fact, I was the first person ever to be seen for the show, weeks and weeks before we started shooting. I’d been working for a few years before I started Shameless, but it was the biggest thing that I’d done. It put me out there. It’s opened the door for many other opportunities as well. It’s so true to life, people can relate to it. And it set the example for so many other shows to follow. It’s been a huge privilege to be part of it.
When you were started on the show you were only 20 years old. Do you feel that you learned quite a lot in those early years?
Yeah. 20-years-old is considered quite young. I was just out of my teens, living in Manchester, on my own in an apartment, for the first time. I was a kid at the time. Now I’m about to be 30 years old. So in that time I’ve grown as an actor, as a person, as a father, as a man. I hope I’ve grown up quite a lot since I started on Shameless. It’s been a massive part of my life, not just in career terms. I’ve lived and breathed it. I’ve done high profile shows like EastEnders, The Fixer, I’ve made music videos with Tulisa, and yet 99 per cent of the people who recognise me do so because of Shameless. It’s always about Lip and Shameless, even now. A couple of years ago, when I’d been out of the show for a while, I found it a bit annoying, but then I thought “You know what? Shameless is a massive institution in people’s lives.” Some people have grown up with it – watching it aged 10 or 11, in their bedroom when they’re not supposed to – and they’re now 19 or 20. I do get people coming up to me saying they used to watch it in their rooms with headphones on because their parents wouldn’t let them see it.
When did you begin to realise you were in a show that was going to be a success?
To be honest, I knew from reading the script. I knew what Paul Abbott was capable of. I knew how massively respected he was even before Shameless transmitted – he’d been involved in The Lakes, Clocking Off, Band of Gold, all these massive shows. Everything he touched seemed to turn to gold, so I knew it was going to be huge. I read it and knew how controversial it was – storylines about gay 15-year-olds and that. Right from reading the scripts with all these huge storylines going on, I just knew it was going to be massive from day one. It was naughty and controversial and artistically brilliant.
When you were in the show originally, you filmed a lot with Gerard Kearns (who played Ian). Did you form a close relationship?
Yeah, we did. We were into similar music and similar films, and we came from quite similar backgrounds. We were also both strong, opinionated characters. We were definitely close, and I still speak to him every now and again. And I’ve got a massive amount of respect for him as an actor, and as a father, and with how he’s done in his career. He started off in amateur dramatics, like me, with no formal training, and he’s straight in there, doing it, and doing a really good job. That was the thing about Shameless, the younger members of the cast were all just raw talent, nobody had been trained. I think it may have been Gerard’s first ever part. It was all about finding new faces, no star names, making it seem more real. And it made stars out of the cast – Ann-Marie Duff, James McAvoy, Dean Lennox Kelly, Maxine Peake. Me! [Laughs uproariously]. Being in a show like that has allowed us to go on and make good, strong British dramas, and in some cases films – even blockbuster films, with McAvoy! So we’ve all done really well out of it.
There’s now a US version of the series. Have you seen it?
I watched the first couple of them, yeah. It was really weird! It was interesting, seeing it set in a different environment, but it was literally word for word the same as the English version, and I just found that really bizarre. I believe it’s a huge success over there, particularly the second series.
Why did you decide to go back for the last series of Shameless?
Because they asked me! I’d shared my desires to go back and do a little bit more, and they came back to me with an idea, and we just thought “Yeah, let’s do it.”
What’s it been like, being back?
Brilliant. It was quite emotional. It’s been five or six years since I’ve been there, so it was a real trip down memory lane. One irony was that the first scene I shot when I was back in the studio was exactly where I’d shot my last ever scenes when I left. So that was quite random.
Are a lot of the same faces still there, among the cast and crew?
The crew’s almost completely different – there’s a few from the original, but not many. But in terms of the cast, there’s quite a lot of the old gang there. It didn’t feel unfamiliar, put it that way.
Are any of the other old cast members coming back?
What’s happened to Lip since we last saw him?
I don’t know how much I can tell you. But Lip and Frank basically bump into each other on the street. Frank quickly discovers that this might be where Lip actually lives. So it turns out that Lip could be a lot closer to Chatsworth than everyone was led to believe. I think I can say that without giving the game away.
Lastly, how much of you is there in Lip? Are you like him?
I don’t think so, not really. When I was younger, I liked to think I was clever, and I liked to think I was popular with the girls, but I’ve grown up a lot now. I’m not as cocky as I used to be!