Every character to appear in Shameless is unique and flawed in their own way, but some South Side residents have earned a place in fans’ hearts over the course of the long-running show. The Showtime series came to an end with its eleventh season and beloved fan-favorite characters exited the show along with newer, but equally as interesting additions.
Shameless doesn’t hide the uglier parts of being human: making mistakes, dealing with disappointment, and facing harsh realities. As such, the characters of this series are some of the most intriguing to grace the small screen because of their relatability and imperfection. All of them are well-written and performed, but there are some that leave a more lasting impression than others.
Updated on November 8th, 2021 by Amanda Suarez: With the introduction of new and nuanced characters for the final few seasons of Shameless, there are more people on the South Side that have become some of the best characters on the show.
15 Jimmy Lishman
Jimmy was wildly interesting from his first appearance on the pilot episode, and he had enough secrets, schemes, and charisma to be a part of the Gallagher family himself. Although Jimmy wasn’t always honest with Fiona about his life, he loved her and her family very much and would have done anything for them.
At the end of the day, though, Jimmy had the best intentions but bad follow-through. His repeated dip into less-than-legal work and shady behavior made him a complicated and thrilling character, but not a very reliable one, causing Fiona to cut ties with him for good.
14 Sandy Milkovich
Sandy was a relatively late addition to the Shameless cast of characters. She’s Mickey’s cousin and Debbie’s girlfriend during the last season or so on the show. Sandy is one of the most loyal and understanding of the bunch and she repeatedly supports Debbie in the Gallagher house but isn’t afraid to be brutally honest with her when she’s truly in the wrong.
Fans’ hearts broke for Sandy when she revealed the secret that she had been hiding: a child from an unhealthy relationship she rushed into as a young teen. Although her attitude about her son may not be understandable to some, she was obviously in a very difficult and complicated situation and she has done a lot to turn her life around.
13 Svetlana Yevgenivna
Svetlana offers a fresh change of perspective from the other South Side natives on the show. She comes from a totally different background, and she shows everyone the knowledge and adaptability 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 with Mickey, she’s often objectified and not particularly valued. It’s a welcome surprise when she’s appreciated as a business-savvy and ambitious character when she lives with Kevin and V.
12 Tami Tamietti
Tami’s entrance into the show was an erratic relationship with Lip, but when they discovered that she was pregnant with their child, Fred, she mellowed out significantly and took her role as a mother very seriously. Tami and Lip are a true team as parents and they do their best to provide a good life for Fred.
Tami double-tasks as a mother and hairstylist and even battled through contracting COVID-19 in the final season of the show. She likes things to look nice and put together and has particular standards for her life that she doesn’t budge on. She is fiercely loyal and rolls with the punches, even helping Lip when he and other ex-employees steal the supplies of the auto shop.
11 Kevin Ball
Kevin has always been a fan favorite thanks to his unwavering compassion and empathy. He may look tough on the surface, but for a South Sider, he’s a softie. 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 on Shameless, especially when he has his daughters roll blunts for the Alibi, but he always has something interesting – if not unexpectedly wise – to say. Kevin is always there for a good laugh, but he also encourages Veronica to think about things from a different perspective and can be counted on in hard situations.
10 Monica Gallagher
Monica doesn’t have a lot of screentime, but her presence is one of the most impactful, which is a testament to Chloe Webb’s performance and the way the character is written. She’s loud, energetic, and desperate to feel loved. She wants to be a good mother, but she also wants to lead the life she believes is best for her.
Most of the Gallagher kids 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 would reappear, it would be like a hurricane – in fact, one of her episodes is aptly titled “Hurricane Monica.”
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 skilled hustlers in the Gallagher family, in addition to having one of the biggest hearts.
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 really rely on himself.
8 Franny Gallagher
Franny, Debbie’s kid, is one of the youngest characters on Shameless, but they still do a lot with their plotline on the show. Franny routinely sticks up for themself and is very vocal about their identity from a young age. Franny expresses distaste for princess dresses and girly things and doesn’t want to participate in the pageant that Debbie pushes Franny into.
Franny is also a benchmark in inclusivity for the show, as they share with Frank that they don’t feel like a girl on the inside, but truly identify with being a boy. Franny is still young and has a lot of exploring and understanding to do, but this level of self-expression and identity is impressive for someone so young and is an admirable trait in a character.
7 Veronica Fisher
Veronica is a strong woman who doesn’t let herself be put in a box. From the very start, she and Kevin defy relationship expectations and simply do whatever makes them happy, even entering into a throuple with Svetlana at one point. Her strained and yet still loving relationship with her mother is complicated and makes her character that much more relatable.
In addition to wanting the best for her relationship and kids, V also wants what’s best for her community. She routinely advocates for the South Side, even going door to door to urge black citizens in the area to vote for upcoming bills. After seeing the thriving neighborhoods in Louisville, she makes the difficult decision to leave the South Side and move for the opportunities for her family.
6 Carl Gallagher
Carl has been through a lot over the course of the show and his perspective on life has completely changed. At the start of the show and for a large chunk of time on the series, Carl leaned into breaking rules and committing crimes. Then, he turned his life around and entered military school before eventually becoming a police officer.
Carl is very protective of his friends and family and has even been a physical protector for them when people have threatened to do them harm. Carl has a strong sense of justice and isn’t afraid to confront authority when he’s doubtful about certain police officers’ practices.
5 Mandy Milkovich
Fans have often felt that Mandy’s time on Shameless was too short. Despite the hostile environment she grew up in, Mandy is very different from her relatives. She’s kind, considerate, and selfless, offering a listening ear to Ian and 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 care about each other a lot.
Mandy is also a great friend to both Ian and Lip and has no problem telling Mickey when he’s acting stupid or not taking things with Ian more seriously. Mandy is also tragically strong, having to endure physical and emotional abuse from her romantic partners on the show.
4 Ian Gallagher
Ian’s evolution throughout the series is one of the most interesting to watch. He begins as a shy and quiet teenager, struggling with his identity. He slowly begins to be more confident and uses his voice to help others. Unlike the other Gallaghers, Ian does a lot for the community. He’s kind and truly wants to do something more with his life, even becoming an EMT for a time.
Ian feels terrible when he does anything wrong – like putting Yevgeny in danger, for instance. Although he’s sometimes afraid to be a burden to his siblings and Mickey because of his mental health, they show unconditional love and support for him. His relationship with and eventual marriage to Mickey were some of the best things to happen to Ian on Shameless and fans couldn’t be happier that their favorite South Side couple got a happy ending.
3 Frank Gallagher
Frank is the family patriarch and adopts many different personas across his time on the show–Frank, Daddy Frank, Francis, and even Saint Francis, just to name a few. Though he’s a terrible person, he’s a great example of a realistic and complex character. As he says in the pilot, there’s a piece of him in every one of his children, reflecting his and their 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 Frank’s ridiculous schemes on Shameless and the subsequent sticky situations he finds himself in, Frank is one of the most entertaining characters to watch, and that’s what television is all about.
2 Fiona Gallagher
Frank is often treated like the main character, but during her time on the show, it feels more like Fiona is the leader of the Gallagher pack. 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. Even though she’s intensely likable, she makes just as many mistakes as the less favorable characters.
Fiona forges her own way, and works tirelessly to provide a life for her family, often overlooking her own interests and dreams. She’s had the largest number of jobs of all the characters on the show. However, after years of being taken for granted, Fiona finally puts herself first and leaves the show to focus on her own happiness.
1 Mickey Milkovich
Mickey is a fan favorite and the character who changes most from his first appearance to his last. At first, Mickey seems like a one-dimensional and angry person, 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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