How "Shameless" Built TV's Most Wonderfully Unique Gay Relationship
The dynamic between Ian Gallagher (Cameron Monaghan) and Mickey Milkovich (Noel Fisher) on the Showtime series remains one of the most touching, powerful, and atypical on television. The actors behind the groundbreaking characters and executive producer Etan Frankel talk to BuzzFeed News about the origins and staying power of “Gallavich.”
Ian Gallagher (Cameron Monaghan) and Mickey Milkovich (Noel Fisher) on Showtime's Shameless
Cliff Lipson / Showtime
No couple currently on television has endured more hurdles than Ian Gallagher (Cameron Monaghan) and Mickey Milkovich (Noel Fisher) on Showtime's Shameless, now in its fifth season. After unexpectedly coupling up in Season 1, Ian and Mickey — lovingly referred to as "Gallavich" by their very vocal fanbase — spent the next three years locked in constant battle with Mickey's small-minded and rageful father, their own inner demons, and the explosive neighborhood they both call home. Then, at the end of Season 4, "Gallavich" scored a big win as Mickey finally accepted his sexuality, stepped out of the closet, and declared his love for Ian.
But their domestic bliss was somewhat short-lived as Ian quickly discovered he inherited his mother's bipolar tendencies, a revelation that has presented an entirely new set of challenges for the couple in Shameless' current fifth season.
Both halves of TV's most perfectly imperfect couple — Cameron Monaghan and Noel Fisher — along with Shameless writer and executive producer Etan Frankel sat down with BuzzFeed News to discuss the couple's evolution, possible devolution, and how the most iconic "Gallavich" moments were brought to life.
Did you know from the beginning that Mickey would turn out to be the main love interest for Ian?
Etan Frankel: We all saw potential in a Mickey character. The English version [of Shameless] had done a lot with the Mickey character, but we also knew it early on that we would divert from what the English show had done, simply because we had different actors — our actors had different strengths, our writers had different strengths. For the sake of the American show, it had to find its own identity. We could have gone in any direction, honestly. Episode 7, which I wrote, where Mickey and Ian pair up for the first time...
Noel Fisher: We beat each other up in the bedroom! Right!
EF: And then it goes from fighting to fucking. Like any normal relationship.
NF: And then we just continued that for the rest of the show: Fight, fuck, fight, fuck, fight, fuck.
EF: Sometimes you reversed it — fuck then fight, just to shake it up a little bit. But once that episode happened, we all realized there was something super interesting there. I don't think any of us knew where it was going to go. Which, as a writer, is the most exciting thing, because it becomes very organic. You can surprise yourself. And then when you see these two on-screen and what they do with it ... if you don't have two actors who can play the characters the way they are written but also find really subtle moments to show what's going on below the surface, it doesn't give you anywhere to go. Noel and Cameron are so good at keeping the integrity of who these characters were from the beginning but showing you subtle moments where they begin to change along the way. If you watch them in Season 1 and Season 5, they're exactly the same people but they've changed so much. It's been incremental and it's a huge credit to these two guys.
NF: It's also a big credit to the writers, because you give us a lot of space in the script. Giving us the space for those moments.
EF: Thank you. As a writer, when you're gifted with working with actors who can actually do those kinds of things, you want to give them the space. Sometimes you try things and they don't work...
NF: But not with us.
Cameron Monaghan: Never with us.
NF: He's not talking about us.
EF: Never here. As a writer, you feel secure writing a scene knowing they're going to knock it out of the park and they'll find things you didn't necessarily intend, so you find beautiful moments. It's exciting to see those dailies come back and saying, Oh wow, that wasn't even a moment in the script, but they've made it become a moment.
Do you remember talking, from an acting perspective, about anything major in the early days of building this relationship?
CM: Did we?
NF: "I hope Mickey showers more."
CM: Yeah, that was definitely a conversation.
NF: The first couple of seasons he looked like a quasi homeless kid.
CM: Like a zombie. What's funny is Noel was cast [and] we never read with each other, so we're lucky we had good chemistry, because I think a lot of this comes from compatible ways of approaching the material. We gained a little bit of a rapport, a shorthand, by this point, which helps. At the same time, what's really great about working with Noel is I don't always know where he's going to go with a scene. He might throw something new in or approach it from a different angle or find those little idiosyncrasies that [Frankel] mentioned. That gives me an opportunity to throw something back at him, so I think a lot of the discussion is now nonverbal. A lot of it is in the moment, in the feeling.
NF: I think that's exactly right — what we've developed, on the day and with the writers, is that ability to be as present as possible, because we get to throw the ball back and forth to each other, and that's, as an actor, exactly what you want. That has happened really naturally between the two of us.