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Justin Chatwin on Shameless, Twitter Perverts, and Fingering His Best Friend’s Girl

Justin Chatwin. Photo: Corbis

Shameless tells the story of six wild-and-crazy kids who do wild-and-crazy things while their alcoholic father gets wild and crazy at the bar. At the head of the household is Fiona (Emmy Rossum), a stubbornly independent sister-mom who only just started accepting help from her boyfriend, Jimmy, this season. Finally! He cooks breakfast for the family, he sends the kids to school, and he still manages to give Fiona her orgasms. Unfortunately, he’s also been lying to her: Fiona has no idea that his arranged wife, drug-lord daughter Estefania, is back in the picture — or that he fingered her in the backseat of a car in last week’s episode (the show airs Sundays at nine on Showtime). This cannot end well. We spoke to Justin Chatwin, who plays Jimmy, about what’s in store for his TV relationship, why he likes to tweet about his ass, and what made that aforementioned fingering scene especially awkward.

The end of last week’s episode killed me, when Fiona tells Jimmy, “I trust you. That’s bigger to me than ‘I love you.’”
Isn’t that a great line? When me and Emmy got that script and we read that, we went, “Oh my God, this is so good.” I think it was an aha moment that we both had about relationships. Everyone says I love you. [Speaking in a variety of voices.] “I love you,” “I love you,” “I love you,” “I love you.” What the hell does it mean? What do you love about me? Do you really love me? Or do you just want me to hug you and take you out on a date? You know? When you say, “I trust you,” it’s like, I could go away to war, and I know you’re not going to cheat on me. I trust you: That’s huge. That’s truth. That’s real love. Everyone uses I love you so loosely. I fuckin’ love my post office woman, my mail lady. Do I trust her? Not a chance. She’d rob me blind.

But the scene is sad because Jimmy is lying to her. Were you getting choked-up for real? I noticed your forehead veins were popping out.
Well, he didn’t lie to her.

He’s definitely lying, even if only by omission.
Jimmy’s the master of omission, you know? And I think he justifies things in his head. Like with Estefania [after she forced him to finger her], he goes, “I didn’t move my hand!”

Let’s talk about that scene. It’s true that your hand was sort of being raped.
Well put.

How did that compare to shooting regular sex scenes, which you’ve done a lot of on the show?
In this case, it was more awkward because my best friend’s now dating Stephanie Fantauzzi [who plays Estefania]. So I just kept thinking of my best friend watching this episode and seeing his girlfriend raping my finger.

Has he watched it?
I don’t know, I haven’t talked to him. He won’t talk to me! So maybe he has.

Who is your best friend?
I don’t want to say. He’s another actor. I don’t know if they want to keep it private.

That’s good of you. Okay, so it was more awkward to do this scene …
Yeah. I’ll tell you, I’ve ran naked down the south side of Chicago, where there’s more deaths than in Afghanistan at the moment, with 30 hood-women hootin’ and hollerin’ at me — and it’s not awkward. No problem. But then, you know, my best friend starts dating a girl that I have to do sex scenes with, and it becomes more of a challenge.

You tweeted about running naked through Chicago, and you tend to tweet about your ass scenes in general. Is that your way of making an awkward situation less awkward? Like, Look at how breezy I am about my nudity?
That, and I get a lot of Twitter comments on my ass. From the straight community and the gay community. Does your ass have its own IMDb page? I think your ass did a great job in the scene last night. I think your ass should win an Emmy. Nothing about me. Nothing about my performance. Nothing about the vein-acting that I’ve done in my forehead that you noted that I’m so happy about.

Are you actually happy about it, or did I offend you?
No, I’m very — my veins pop out when I get emotional. Not just on the show, but in real life. So I appreciate that you noticed that. Usually Emmy is the only other person who would talk to me about my vein-acting.

Emmy told us a while back that you’d purposely eat tuna fish before your love scenes. Are you still doing things like that?
No. I was trying to piss her off, and it was really childish of me. But there were a couple of weeks where we were really bickering back and forth at each other. And it was my way of getting back at her.

Were you real bickering or play bickering?
There’s a fine line there. I think when people talk about chemistry … me and Emmy have had fantastic chemistry on this show, chemistry that even surprised me. But a lot of people think that in order to get the chemistry, you’ve got to be really loving and get along and be sweet. But what they don’t know is that sometimes — all the time — love and hate look identical.

This is the reason people like makeup sex.
Yeah. Yeah.

But I don’t think there will be any makeup sex for Fiona and Jimmy when she finds out. How are we going to see this all come to a head?
What it comes down to is: Fiona has fallen in love with somebody who doesn’t look like Frank Gallagher, but he operates the same way, which is by lying, stealing, taking. But Jimmy is never trying to do her wrong — he’s lying out of love, he’s lying to protect her. Because, I mean, how well do you think it would go if he came home and said, “Oh, by the way, I finger-blasted my wife today in the backseat of a car. It wasn’t my fault.” How well do you think that would go off with the child of an alcoholic like Fiona? She’s a live wire.

It wouldn’t go off well, but it’d go off better than it will when she eventually finds out. I don’t know, is Jimmy good for her?
Do you think anyone’s good for anyone on this show?

V and Kevin.
Yeah, well there is that line in the last episode that they’re everyone’s last glimmer of hope. If they can’t make it, Fiona says, “Jimmy and I should just throw in the towel right now.”

Is there a chance that will happen? Like, do you have a sense of how long your character will be around for?
[Laughs.] Yeah, no, I’m not allowed to talk about it.

Justin Chatwin Fingered His Best Friend’s Girl