Emmy Rossum knows how to be. That’s how the twenty-seven-year-old puts it: “I just always knew how to be.” Meaning: She knows how to talk to people in a way that’s easy. She knows how to joke around and tell a good story and get serious when she wants to be serious, sweet when she wants to be sweet, a little raunchy when she wants to crack herself up. Knows how to be comfortable.
She was all of seven when they pulled her mother aside and told her her daughter could sing. Little Emmy was soon performing with the New York Metropolitan Opera Children’s Chorus. Sang with Pavarotti. Then she started acting, and directors loved how her eyes danced when she smiled, the way she could make dialogue sound like a song. At eighteen, she starred in the movie version of The Phantom of the Opera. She recorded albums. And then she got a big show: Shameless, the raucous Showtime dramedy now entering its fourth season, on which she plays the de facto matriarch of a poor Chicago family, the oldest of six kids with no mom and a drunk dad. It’s a household of misfits, but they get by, enduring poverty and bad luck, supporting one another, having sex with half the neighborhood. Surviving—because Fiona, Rossum’s character, is their leader. And you believe that Fiona can actually lead, because she is played by Rossum, and Rossum knows how to be. We talk via Skype, because she also knows how to use the Internet.
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