'Shameless': Not the obvious choice, Emmy Rossum on fighting for Fiona

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After seeing how convincingly  Emmy Rossum plays Fiona, the sister-turned-matriarch in Showtime's "Shameless," it's strange to look back now on our reservations about the casting. And, apparently, we weren't alone in that opinion.

"I really had to fight for it," Rossum, 24, tells Zap2it. "Because in the eyes of the production people and our producers and director, I wasn't an obvious choice at all. So, I really had to prove myself. I made a tape in New York and sent it in. I really tried to be unafraid."

Rossum has an impressive resume ranging from singing opera from the age of seven alongside masters like Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti, starring in the 2004 film adaptation of "Phantom of the Opera," a stint on the soap,  "As The World Turns," as well as appearances in several blockbuster movies. 

She is best known, though, for period pieces and for the lack of a better term, for being a glamazon -- things Fiona isn't. But, Rossum was in the market for something that would stretch her acting skills.

"I had been kind of looking for something like this," she says. "I really wanted to find material that was challenging, that wouldn't just have me as period or glamour, something like that. Strangely, this character came easier to me as an actor than others that I played."

Once she got the part, executive producer, John Wells, had an interesting idea for helping the cast get into their roles. He made the on-screen Gallagher family kitchen the actors' kitchen, as well. In preparation for the role of Fiona, Rossum would make sandwiches for the kids playing her siblings, which she says she still does at times.

"There's kind of a circus that is in this house that kind of revolves around Fiona," Rossum says. "She's kind of the sane one, the linchpin that holds everyone together. And I kind of function that way on-set, too."

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Of course, there's the other side of Fiona, the one who has rough sex in that same kitchen with the mysterious Steve (played by Justin Chatwin), a guy she just met at a club. And we'll see more of Fiona's sexual exploits as the season progresses. Again, this is new territory for Rossum that she finds integral to playing the part.

"I've been reluctant to do it in other situations," she says. "But, to me, this show is so unglamorous in every other way. So, to hold back in that sense seems so counterintuitive. And I knew I was with great actors and never felt exploited in any way. There's a very fearless sexuality that's very indicative of where the characters are in their lives and that is a big source of happiness."

So after actually meeting the actress, we see now that she shares more in common with the character than anyone expected. "I love that the character shows such duality," Rossum says. "She's so strong, but has this vulnerability underneath that I thought she was very much a modern woman."

"Shameless" airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on Showtime.
Photo/Video credit: Showtime