Cameron Monaghan started acting as a way to focus his excess energy as a kid.
Cameron Monaghan doesn’t feel constricted. “I didn’t see him being gay as defining the character or the character’s main trait,” he says of his role as Ian Gallagher on Showtime’s Shameless. One of the very few openly gay teenage parts on television at the show’s inception, Monaghan’s role has slowly evolved into much more than a teenager trying to come to terms with his own sexuality. Now in its fourth season, the show has taken a somber tone, tackling deeper issues in more meaningful ways. “This entire season is very dark and we kind of continue into that darkness a little bit, before we get to have fun again next season,” the actor says.
Monaghan takes his talents to the big screen next with a starring role in The Giver, a science-fiction movie boasting a stellar cast, including Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, and Katie Holmes. We chat with the actor about what to expect on Shameless, jamming with Jeff Bridges, and more.
What brought you to acting in the first place?
CAMERON MONAGHAN: I grew up loving movies and television from a very young age. I had a lot of energy as a kid and we wanted to find some way to focus that energy—well, my mom wanted to. I said I wanted to be an actor so she got me involved in [the] local community theater, [I] moved on to commercials and print, and then she got me an agent. [I] did my first movie role at 8 years old and really loved it. I’ve been doing it ever since.
You play Ian Gallagher on Shameless. How did you get that role?
CM: I got the call from my agent, got the appointment, saw the script, and it was very unlike anything I had ever seen before. It was exciting because I had a chance to work with William H. Macy, who was a person I’ve looked up to pretty much my entire career.
Monaghan now boasts a starring role on Shameless and a part alongside Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges in a coming-soon film.
Your character has been undergoing a major change throughout the season and has a completely different attitude. What can you tell us about that?
CM: I don’t think it’s much of a secret now, so I can say it. Ian is bipolar, pretty severely. He is self-medicating with drugs and he probably went through some sort of traumatic event in basic training. Not to mention, the exacerbation of his illness from the stress from his relationship with Mickey’s character has left a pretty large wound on his psyche at the moment.
I’m excited about the change. I think the whole reason we do these shows is because we want to see our characters evolve in interesting ways. Sometimes those ways are not necessarily positive, but that can be fun, too, because we need conflict. So I was excited about being able to take this character a way that most people wouldn’t expect him to go.
You star in The Giver, with Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, and Katie Holmes. How has working with them been?
CM: Definitely an honor. I’ve looked up to Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges for my entire life. They’re two people who I’ve always wanted to work with. So, having an opportunity to be in a movie with them has been amazing.
Besides that, the movie itself is something really exciting. It’s based off of a very successful novel. The character is something interesting [that] I haven’t had the chance to do before. The whole world in which these characters live is removed form our reality. It takes place in a community sometime in our future where they’ve gotten rid of emotion and love. It’s basically all logic-based. My character is turning into what they consider an adult and he’s kind of a bit of a square peg in their round hole. He’s a little bit of a rebel so he doesn’t really fit in with this community very well.
Monaghan and Bridges jammed while shooting The Giver.
Any funny stories from the set?
CM: We would all play music with Jeff Bridges. We would have jam sessions with him. A couple of times, we went over to his hotel room and we ended up playing until 3 o’clock in the morning. Stamping on the floor and screaming and having an amazing time. I’m sure his neighbors probably hated us, but it was amazing.
You live in Los Angeles. Where do you like to spend most of your time?
CM: I live in Burbank, so you would think that I would spend most of my time in the Valley, but I honestly find myself going to Venice a lot. I find Topanga really interesting. I like how there’s so much nature there and I like to go over there to read or write. I think there’s some really cool, fun coffee shop-kind of vibe in Silver Lake. I’m kind of all over the place.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JSQUARED PHOTOGRAPHY