Every character to appear in Shameless is unique and flawed in their own way, but some are standouts among the extensive and evolving cast of the long-running show. The Showtime series came to an end with its eleventh season, where beloved fan-favorite characters exited the show alongside newer, but equally as interesting additions.
Shameless is never short on originality, and as such, the characters of this series are some of the most intriguing to grace the small screen. All of the characters are well-written, performed, and special, but some leave a more lasting impression than others. Given the show’s content, these characters are shown in all of their inglorious moments, which leaves them no room to hide their humanizing flaws.
10 Kevin Ball
Kevin has always been a fan-favorite thanks to his unfailing compassion and empathy. He may appear formidable on the surface, but for a South Sider, he’s soft. Kevin sets the mood at the Alibi, which is home to some of the show’s most memorable scenes.
He may not be the smartest character, but he always has something interesting – if not totally accurate – to say. He’s one of the show’s funniest characters, but he also encourages Veronica to think about the life they’re building together. Kevin can be relied upon at the most unexpected moments, like when Fiona breaks down in her laundromat.
9 Liam Gallagher
Liam undergoes one of the greatest transformations of any Shameless character. He begins as a baby and doesn’t become a fully-formed character until the middle of the series. As he grows, he gains more autonomy and reveals himself to be one of the most industrious and resourceful Gallaghers.
Liam pokes fun at the show by calling his family out for not paying enough attention to him. He shows them that he deserves to be valued. Being the youngest, he’s still attached to Frank, and their relationship is one of the most interesting in the show. Liam wants to be loyal to his father, who half-tries to give Liam a decent shot at life by getting him into a private school. However, at the same time, Liam knows Frank’s history and knows he can only rely on himself.
8 Svetlana Yevgenivna
Svetlana offers a fresh perspective to the other characters of Shameless. She comes from a totally different background to anyone else, and she shows everyone the knowledge she’s acquired from her tough upbringing.
Svetlana is full of surprises, always revealing more layers to her character and her troubled past. At the beginning of her time on the show, she’s often objectified and not really treated like a real person, so it’s a welcome surprise when she shows a more human side of herself later on. She’s wonderfully nuanced and adds a lot to the show, especially to the lives of Kevin and Veronica.
7 Mandy Milkovich
Fans have often felt that Mandy’s time on Shameless was too short. After being recast in season 2, she evolves in a slightly different trajectory than may have been originally expected. Emma Greenwell’s Mandy is a little tougher, a little rougher around the edges than the sweeter, coy Mandy played by Jane Levy.
Both are intriguing iterations of the character, but it’s Greenwell who remains on the show for longer. Despite the hostile environment she’s grown up in, Mandy is very different from her relatives. She’s kind, considerate, and selfless, giving everything of herself to help Lip get into college. Her relationship with Lip is one of the sweetest in the show, and it’s clear they both love each other a lot. Mandy is also a great friend to Ian and encourages Mickey to act on his feelings for him.
6 Ian Gallagher
Ian’s evolution throughout the series is one of the most interesting to watch. He begins as a shy and quiet teenager, often oppressed or facing struggles that his peers can’t understand. He slowly begins to take ownership of his identity and use his voice to help others. Unlike the other Gallaghers, Ian does a lot for the community.
He’s kind and selfless to everyone, which is why he becomes an EMT, but he’s also compassionate with his siblings. Ian feels terrible when he does anything wrong – like kidnap Yevgeny, for instance. He’s afraid to be a burden to his siblings and Mickey because of his bipolar disorder, and Monica is the only person who can support him in this journey. Because of this, Ian feels different from the other Gallaghers. He’s also the only one whose father isn’t Frank, and the one who looks most like Monica. He keeps her legacy alive by loving and missing her long after she’s gone.
5 Frank Gallagher
Frank is the head of the family – sort of – and someone who adopts many different personas across his time on the show (Frank, Daddy Frank, Francis, and even Saint Francis, to name a few). Though he’s a terrible person, he’s a great character. As he says in the pilot, there’s a piece of him in every one of his children, reflecting his many layers.
Even if he’s drunk or high most of the time, Frank often has a lot of interesting things to say. He’s an educated and opinionated person, and his many spiels at the Alibi demonstrate the detail that went into creating his character. Between his many scams and the sticky situations he often finds himself in, Frank is one of the most entertaining characters to watch, and that’s what television is all about.
4 Monica Gallagher
Monica doesn’t have a lot of screentime, but her presence is the most commanding, which is a testament to Chloe Webb’s performance and the way the character is written. She’s loud, energetic, and desperate for her children’s love. She wants to be a good mother, but she also wants to lead the life she believes is best for her.
She impacts each of her children in very different, but palpable and lasting, ways. Most of them end up resenting her or pretending she doesn’t exist. Fiona has given up on both of her parents and would prefer if Monica stayed out of their lives. But after her death, Fiona mourns her mom and reads one of her books in an effort to get to know who she really was. Every time Monica reappears, it’s like a hurricane – in fact, one of her episodes is aptly titled “Hurricane Monica”.
3 Sheila Jackson
Sheila is one of the most original characters on television. Her struggles are not often represented on screen, and Shameless utilizes her character and her single setting – her house – to their full potential. As an agoraphobic, she almost never leaves her house, but a lot of interesting things happen inside those four walls.
Frank is a frequent visitor, as is Lip, and soon enough, the entire Gallagher clan. Sheila almost becomes a part of the Gallagher family herself, and her unique way of dealing with Frank would have made things very interesting if she’d remained on the show. There’s truly nobody else like her in Shameless, and she’s extremely entertaining – often unwittingly.
2 Fiona Gallagher
Frank is often treated like the main character, what with his opening and closing monologues, but during her time on the show, it feels more like Fiona is the protagonist. Her arc is the one with the most obstacles – a true hero’s journey. Fiona often subverts audience expectations when it comes to her choices and who the world thinks she should be.
As a young woman in her position, one might expect her to accept handouts from people like Steve, who often try to “help” her, but she doesn’t. She forges her own way, looking after her family as she does. However, after years of being taken for granted, Fiona finally puts herself first. Also, of all the Gallaghers, she has the most developed and intriguing relationship with her parents.
1 Mickey Milkovich
Mickey is a fan favorite and the character who changes most from his first to last appearance. At first, he doesn’t seem like someone who fans would like, but he soon reveals more layers to his character.
Mickey’s evolution is very gradual and feels the most realistic given the environment he’s grown up in. He isn’t a simple person and he isn’t easy to love, but the Gallaghers come to accept him. Of course, his relationship with Ian is one of the highlights of the series, but even on his own, Mickey is funny, entertaining, rough around the edges, and always purely himself.
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