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Emmy Rossum on Beautiful Creatures and Shameless Pranks

Emmy Rossum. Photo: Getty Images

In the world of Beautiful Creatures, where witches (or Casters) are claimed for either the Light or the Dark when they turn 16, Emmy Rossum plays the ultimate bad girl, a dangerous, alluring Siren named Ridley. She can persuade any mortal to do whatever she wants, even if it means death, just by indulging in some sweets (lollipops, cookies, berries) — which she’s constantly doing. (In one scene, she pays homage to one of her favorite films, The Witches of Eastwick.) Rossum chatted with Vulture about the goddess who inspired her, her best prank ever, and why she still has no sympathy for telemarketers.

I heard you became Twitter pals with the books’ co-author Kami Garcia. How did that start?
I kind of talked to her secretly, because [director] Richard [LaGravenese] didn’t really want the cast to read the books. I direct-messaged her, and I said, “Hi! Thanks for the great book! I’m going to be your Ridley, so maybe you can clue me in on some behind-the-scenes tips?” And I did secretly tweet her pictures from the set, so she could be a part of it, you know? I thought it was a very sophisticated take of what a Siren would look like, so she’s like an old Hollywood movie star — Rita Hayworth, Sophia Loren, Marilyn Monroe. So I kind of got Kami on my side, kind of picked her brain a little bit. We brainstormed about what Ridley’s life had been like before her Claiming, who she was as a kid, the kind of things she did with [her cousin] Lena, magic in the sandbox — making other girls cut their braids off. Silly stuff.

Did you ask Kami what the Claiming itself should look like? Because that scene is not in the book.
No. I just tried to think about what an erotic seizure would look like, and that’s what I played, I think. I spent a lot of time practicing it in the mirror, and I’m sure a couple of times in my hotel when the maid was cleaning up, she saw me Claiming myself in the bathroom, gasping and clawing. She was probably like, What’s going on in there?! I was definitely going to the dark side. [Laughs.]

Ridley is a Siren, but you based your idea of her on the Norse goddess Freya, the goddess of sex and war? Not to be confused with Frigga, the goddess of love and destiny. They already have a Frigga [Rene Russo] in the Thor movies, but they don’t have a Freya, so you could …
… be in a Thor movie? I think I got to stick to one franchise at a time! [Laughs.] But I have never heard of Frigga! Frigga, that sounds like a curse word: “Oh, holy Frigga!” I’m going to use that next time I swear. I was definitely in the Freya camp. Sex and war. I do a lot of Googling when I’m researching, because you never know what you’re going to stumble upon, and so I was looking up goddesses and female power, because I was searching for a way into her power.

Did you feel like the odd (wo)man out on set, since it was a bunch of kids and older distinguished actors? Less of a chance for pranking?
I was just in the middle, because there were all the 19-year-olds and then the Emma Thompsons. So I was like, [sad voice] “Where are my friends?” But it was good, because Ridley’s kind of the outcast anyway. Plus, to really do pranking, you have to be together for a much longer time. We probably didn’t really hard-core prank each other on Shameless until the second season. Although a good prank would have been to lock someone in the spinning room! We were all taking Dramamine to survive that scene. It was pretty intense. It’s better that they do the shaking and spinning for real, and that you don’t have CGI. It’s kind of hard when you have to imagine things that aren’t there, even if that is a fun challenge.

What are some of the more recent ones you’ve pulled on Shameless, since you were going back and forth to the two sets?
Okay, so you have to understand that this one was a retaliation for another one. Justin [Chatwin] had pulled a prank on one of our location advisers on a Chicago shoot day. He pretended that he didn’t get the call sheet and he wasn’t working that day. He said that he had taken the day to go out of state on a road trip with his local buddies instead. So our poor location adviser freaks out and calls the producer, sobbing and crying. So I said, “Let’s get him back for making that poor girl cry.” And this is where it got insanely elaborate. I called around, and I got them to write bogus pages and release them to the entire crew, where Justin’s character would come out as gay to his dad. The whole scene was put on the schedule as if we were really going to shoot this, and Justin didn’t know it was a joke! So when he got the pages under his door, he called everyone, frantic: “How am I going to play this scene?” And we were all in on it, the director, the producer, everyone, so I got him back really, really good. For twelve hours, he was asking everyone, “How should I deliver this line?” He had finally really embraced the whole idea of his character being gay! And we finally broke the news to him [that it was a prank] on-camera. It was amazing. The shock on his face. [Laughs.]

Fiona’s had a lot of odd jobs on Shameless. Since the other employees won’t join her on the no-blow-jobs-on-the-job strike at the grocery store, what’s next?
Telemarketing! I think she’s going to find some stability in this job. She’s going to work at a company called Universal Cup, which makes disposable coffee and beverage cups. So there’s a lot of “Hello! Thank you for working with Universal Cup!” I got to work on my telemarketer voice.

This give you more empathy for when telemarketers call you?
No. I’m still pissed. [Laughs.] “Rossum residence! No, she’s not here.”

Emmy Rossum on Beautiful Creatures, Shameless