From 2011 to 2018, Emmy Rossum starred as eldest daughter Fiona of the perpetually troubled and dysfunctional Gallagher clan on Showtime’s dramedy Shameless. After nine seasons and a Golden Globe nomination for playing the organizational heart of the Gallaghers, she announced in 2018 that she had wrapped her final episode of the series and was moving on to other opportunities as a director and executive producer.
Though she had already seen success in films like Phantom of the Opera and The Day After Tomorrow, Shameless propelled Rossum’s visibility to a new level. The series receives regular recognition as one of the best Showtime original series ever; every one of its first nine seasons are certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, and four of those seasons (the second, fourth, sixth, and eighth) sport a sterling 100% score.
Rossum left the series on perfectly good terms, describing her fellow cast and crew as family and rhetorically leaving the door open for a possible return at some point. Her presence will certainly be missed: for a while, people weren’t sure if Shameless could carry on without someone so central to the workings of the family.
Though the news came as a surprise, Fiona’s departure was wrapped up with a bow on top for viewers, as she decided to start over after years of dealing with the financial and alcohol issues that had plagued her in past seasons. In her final appearance, she hopped on a plane out of Chicago with the blessing of the family; it was the perfect send-off for a character originally introduced as an overworked handler for her barely-functioning father (William H. Macy) and siblings.
Now that all is said and done, just how good an investment was Rossum’s time on Shameless? Let’s take a look at the numbers.
No shame in Emmy Rossum’s Shameless paycheck
In 2016, Rossum made headlines as the show began pre-production for season 8 by plopping herself down at Showtime’s negotiating table and asking to be paid more than Macy (a move he wholly supported, by the way). While Macy was in just as many episodes as Rossum at the time, Fiona’s personality and narrative had long been the primary focus of Shameless, so Rossum rightly felt that she deserved leading lady money.
The negotiations dragged on for so long it delayed the start of production on the season, but ultimately, they ended with Rossum getting a raise that put her salary in line with Macy’s: $350,000 per episode. At twelve episodes a season, that makes for a tidy $4-ish million (pre-tax, naturally) dollars each for seasons eight and nine. There’s not a lot of information available as to what exactly Rossum was making per episode before the renegotiation, but given her top billing, it probably wasn’t exactly peanuts; as of 2019, her total net worth is about $12 million dollars.
That’s a boatload of money, far more than most of us will earn in our lifetimes, and it’s likely that the figure would still be a respectable one had Rossum been happy with her pre-season 8 salary. It raises the question, why was the actress hailed as a hero among many of her peers just for demanding a fat raise?
Well, because there still exists in our society a serious problem with equal pay for equal work, even at that level of income and notoriety. You could be the most skilled and famous actress in the world, and you’re still unlikely to be compensated on par with your equals — or even with actors nowhere near your caliber who just happen to be male. It’s an issue that exists among all demographics and income levels, and one which must be confronted on all socioeconomic fronts.
Hollywood loves to present itself as a bastion of progressive values, and income parity is a nice low bar it could step over with ease, if it only had the will. Until it discovers that will, though, women like Emmy Rossum will continue to do the work of establishing their own value, and making the world catch up with them.
The Rossum-less tenth season of Shameless is currently airing on Showtime.