Cameron Monaghan Reflects On The Ending Of Shameless And His Character's Future - Exclusive

There's familial dysfunction, and then there's "Shameless." For fans of the iconic series, "Shameless" occupies a space in the pop culture ether that is difficult to beat. Following the Gallagher family, the South Side of Chicago-based series saw its main characters succeed, fall in love, get arrested, join the military, evade prison, sneak across borders, become parents, and — in Frank's case — die. The series not only catapulted its young cast members to new heights of critical success, but it brought the likes of William H. Macy and Joan Cusack back to the screen. With every twist and turn, heartbreak, mental institution, jail cell, and STD along the way, "Shameless" presented its viewers with raw, unapologetic characters who simply wanted to provide a better life for themselves and the people they cared about.

"Shameless" simply wouldn't have been "Shameless" without Ian Gallagher, the easy-on-the-eyes, red-headed middle child of the Gallagher clan. Brought to life by the charming Cameron Monaghan, Ian had an arc that was anything but easy. From mental health struggles to sexual identity to career aspirations (and a stint in prison), Ian worked tirelessly to provide a life for himself that was authentic — and of course, where there was Ian, there was Mickey. "Shameless" not only allowed Monaghan to flex his acting chops but gave viewers a chance to see his talent up close. Clearly, Hollywood took notice because Monaghan is starring alongside Morgan Freeman in the newly released film "Paradise Highway." Ahead of the film's premiere, we sat down with Monaghan for an exclusive interview, and he dished about his 11 seasons in front of the camera and what Ian Gallagher might be up to now.

Cameron Monaghan's Ian is likely still trying to figure life out

When we left Ian Gallagher and Mickey Milkovich at the end of "Shameless," the married couple was trying their best to live a new life on the West Side of Chicago, embarking on a (legit) business venture and even exploring the possibility of having kids. When we sat down with Cameron Monaghan ahead of the "Paradise Highway" premiere, we had to ask him what Ian would likely be up to these days, and he told us that the beauty of "Shameless" exists in the open-ended nature of the characters — you just never really know what's going to come next for them.

"So much of their lives are unsure. They don't necessarily have grand plans. They're trying to live from moment to moment," Monaghan said of the "Shameless" characters. "I don't think that there's any universe in which you tie up a nice little bow and say, 'Everyone gets their perfect happy ending,' and that's it. Instead, you have to find a point at which you can walk away from these characters."

Shameless Season 11 battled COVID-19 timing

What set Season 11 of "Shameless" apart from the crowd was largely its integration of COVID-19 into the storyline. Not only did patriarch Frank end up dying of the illness itself, but the pandemic forced the production to get creative.

"When the closures happened, everyone had this question of whether or not we were going to be able to come back," Cameron Monaghan told us. "I'm glad that we were able to. ... In many ways, it's this victory lap of being able to celebrate 11 years of the show, and to find some sort of closure with these characters was important."

So what were elements of that closure Monaghan referred to? The actor told us that while it's hard to put a bow on the "Shameless" characters, he's comforted by the fact that "you could be walking down the street in Chicago and you could see Frank, or you could see Debbie, or you could see Ian."

He told us, "The idea that these characters are still alive and out there in the world and trying to make ends meet is probably the best way that you could end those stories, or at least walk away from them."

"Paradise Highway" is now available in select theaters and on digital and On Demand.