‘Shameless’: Why Did Fiona Leave & Emmy Rossum Never Return To The Show?

'Shameless' was never the same after Fiona was gone. Here's why Emmy Rossum left the hit Showtime series before the final two seasons.

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  • Emmy Rossum played Fiona Gallagher on Shameless.
  • Emmy left the show after season 9.
  • Fiona was written out of the show after season 9.

Emmy Rossum, 36, was a staple on Shameless before she made the big decision to leave the show. Emmy played Fiona Gallagher, the mother figure to her troubled family, for the first nine seasons of the hit Showtime series. The actress left the show before the final two seasons, which completely shocked fans. Fiona was a fan-favorite and the show wasn’t the same after she left.

So, why did Emmy really leave Shameless? Keep reading to learn more about the truth behind her game-changing exit from the series.

Emmy Rossum
Emmy Rossum (Photo: Everett Collection)

Emmy Rossum Played Fiona Gallagher On Shameless

Emmy was one of the original main cast members on Shameless when the show premiered January 2011. The series followed the poor, dysfunctional family life of Frank Gallagher (William H. Macy), and his six children: Fiona (Emmy), Lip (Jeremy Allen White), Ian (Cameron Monaghan), Debbie (Emma Kenney), Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) and Liam (Christian Isaiah). Fiona helps raise her younger siblings but deals with alcohol addiction and drug abuse. For her performance in the show, Emmy was nominated for two Critics’ Choice Awards. The series itself won four Emmy Awards from 16 nominations throughout its 11-season run.

Why Fiona Left The Show

Emmy Rossum
Emmy Rossum as Fiona in ‘Shameless’ (Photo: Everett Collection)

Emmy made her final appearance as Fiona in the season 9 finale which aired March 2019. Emmy announced she was leaving Shameless in August 2018, one month before season 9 began airing. Fiona was written out of the series after season 9, where she hits rock bottom dealing with addiction and relationship issues. Lip helps Fiona to get sober and start going to AA meeting. She gets a job at a convenience store again and learns she’s getting $100k from a real estate deal. She leaves half the money for her family, and takes the other half and moves out of Chicago to start a new life. Fiona does not appear in seasons 10 or 11.

Why Emmy Rossum Left The Show

Emmy confirmed her exit from Shameless on social media on August 30, 2018. “The opportunity to play Fiona has been a gift. There are few characters — female or otherwise — as layered and dynamic. She is a mother lion, fierce, flawed and sexually liberated. She is injured, vulnerable, but will never give up,” Emmy wrote in her lengthy announcement. “Quite simply, the last eight years have been the best of my life,” she also said.

Emmy spoke to Entertainment Weekly about saying goodbye to the show that made her famous after she broke the news of her exit. “My Shameless family is really my second family and I’ve spent so much time with them — 10,000 hours — that it really feels like we’ve all grown up together. I started on the show when I was 23 and now I’m not,” she said. “And it’s a wonderful, wonderful amount of time and I feel incredibly proud of everything we have created. I’m just filled with gratitude for everyone’s hard work.”

Emmy Rossum
Emmy Rossum in ‘Shameless’ (Photo: Everett Collection)

To this day, Emmy’s never given an official reason why she quit Shameless early. In 2016, Variety reported that Emmy was asking to make more money for season 8, after she was paid less than her co-star William H. Macy for the first seven seasons. Emmy reportedly wanted to start making more than William to make up for the alleged past unequal pay. Emmy eventually agreed to a deal to star in season 8 and season 9, but it’s believed further failed salary negotiations caused Emmy to leave the show.

Emmy moved onto new projects after exiting Shameless. She was the lead start and executive producer of the 2022 Peacock miniseries Angelyne. She also has a lead role in the new Apple TV+ series The Crowded Room with Tom Holland and Amanda Seyfried. In her personal life, Emmy and her husband Sam Esmail have welcomed two children together since she left Shameless.

The Show After Fiona

Shameless continued on for two more seasons without Fiona. The show was dramatically different in her absence. In late 2021, months after the show wrapped, Emmy’s former on-screen sister Emma Kenney called the actress out on the Call Her Daddy podcast. Emma said the show “became more of a positive place” after Emmy was gone. “I’d go to set some days and I’d be very anxious about having a scene with her because if she had a bad day, she made it a bad day for everybody,” Emma said. But Emma did note that she has nothing but love for Emmy now. “I’ve known her for so long. We haven’t spoken in years. But that’s okay. I have a lot of love for her, and I hope she finds her happiness,” she said.

Emmy Rossum
Emmy Rossum in ‘Shameless’ (Photo: Everett Collection)

Fiona was actually supposed to be in the final episode but Emmy was unable to return due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. “Emmy and I had a lot of conversations about it, trying to make it work,” showrunner John Wells told EW in April 2021. “She’s been in New York with Sam, where they live, and right about the time where we were talking about putting it all together was when the additional lockdowns kind of hit again, and it just didn’t feel safe or practical for her to come back. So I think it’s with a great deal of regret that we couldn’t do it but it’s just more minor casualty of our year of COVID.”

While Fiona couldn’t come back for the final season, the Shameless boss still had an idea of what Fiona was up to. “I think she’s down in Florida,” John told The Hollywood Reporter after the series finale aired. “We joked in the room that she ended up getting a job at Disney World, probably in Epcot Center because she would never get a job on the better side. We had a lot of jokes for her but we never actually nailed it down. But she would have a life and be pursuing her own things. That’s how people move on with their lives.”