Nancy Pimental on “Shameless” Season 5 and what we could have seen on “Bad Girls”

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Showtime’s Shameless is a show about a lower-class Chicago family, The Gallaghers, that frequently uses drugs, violence and sex to get what they want. While it might sound horrifying, it’s actually one of the best and most fearless shows on television, and the storylines about those very things are not done in a salacious manner, but in a thoughtful and often hilarious one.

Shameless (based on the UK series of the same name) is now in its fifth season and has had several LGBT characters and themes throughout its run. In Season 5’s first episode, Ian Gallagher and his boyfriend, Mickey, are raising Mickey’s baby with his wife, Svetlana. Their marriage is for show, as Svetlana wanted a green card and, for a while, Mickey wanted a beard. We learned in Season 4 that Svetlana wasn’t as different from Mickey as he thought. In fact, she also prefers the same sex and has a girlfriend named Nika who hangs around the house, ironing the family’s clothes while topless in the living room.

Executive producer Nancy Pimental says Svetlana was originally intended to be a small role on the show, but actress Isidora Goreshter was so fantastic, they wanted to keep writing for her.

“First of all, she’s amazing. I love the actress and I love the character,” Nancy said. “[Her relationship with Nika] is kind of in the background. For sure [it’s] in there. But there’s so much going on with Mickey and Ian in the foreground and with the baby and trying to keep those balls in the air without her storyline–we really wanted to pursue that and it did not make the foreground.”

Svetlana is a huge part of the season, however, as she is part of the “throuple” that is raising her and Mickey’s baby. 

“We start off the beginning of the year, we decide they’re in harmony,” Nancy said. “They’ve all figured out how to work, and even Nika, the girl we introduced, she’s there, too. So Svetlana’s just kind of juggling everybody: Juggling the baby and making breakfast. In real life, [Isidora] was pregnant so we had to incorporate that into the story so in the first episode, she’s a surrogate. Somebody’s paying her to carry their baby. So she has a very good and strong storyline for the first half, she’s watching how Ian is getting more into the bipolar disease. So it keeps building and building and is presenting a huge problem in the harmony that we created at the beginning and the harmony with the baby and the relationship and then it explodes in episode six.”

throuple nika

This past week’s episode had Svetlana bonding with Kevin over his twin babies, which he’s been stressed about since his wife, V, decided to stop breast feeding them. Nancy teased that the latter part of the season will have Svetlana as part of another throuple.

“She does a 180 and now we see her involved, for the second half, with Kev and V,” Nancy said. “I think there will be things–maybe we did not satisfy with you with Nika, but maybe we’ll satisfy you on the back half.”

In 2012, Nancy was hired to adapt the UK women-in-prison series Bad Girls for NBC, but the pilot was not picked up. She told us it would have been different from the original, though, and based on some people she knew.

“The whole thing I wanted to do with it was just show how every woman has a light and a dark side. So even though somebody’s ending up in prison, it doesn’t mean they’re a horrible person,” she said. “I feel like we all ride that line and sometimes it’s just a choice. It’s literally just a choice you make that turns your life around. I mean for some people, it’s more kind of the tapestry of what they aremaking bad choices.”

Set in federal prison (“I didn’t want it to be hardcore crimes”), Jurnee Smolett starred as a woman caught with drugs in her bag at a nightclub where her boyfriend was selling E.

“She was kind of our way into the pilot. I kind of modeled it when JLo was going out with P Diddy and how–sometimes it’s the people you hang around with that are carrying weapons or dealing drugs, but you’re so blinded by your love for them that you’re just in the vicinity and you end up getting caught with the bag,” Nancy said. “It was sort of loosely based on some people I knew that were willing to take the fall for bigger named people because they wanted to preserve that person’s reputation. It was so disappointing! “

Nancy Pimental2015 Winter TCA Tour - Day 6

Now only a few years later, prison stories are hugely popular again, with Orange is the Black and Wentworth picking up where the original Bad Girls left off. Nancy said she’s not sure why it wasn’t picked up (“I was bummed!”) but lamented that pilots are difficult in nature.

“It’s probably a combination of a lot of things, like timing. I don’t know if we were necessarily on the same page, artistically, producing the same product,” she said. “When you start writing something, you have sort of this one vision and the more people you put on, you just hope that everybody has the same vision. …You get like one shot to come out of the gate. You gotta get the actors that are available, the director that’s available and you just hope magic is made and you don’t get another shot at it.”

Nancy said that working on Shameless is completely different, though, and she praises creator John Wells on knowing how to run a writers’ room.

“I feel like with Shameless we are all making the same thing,” she said. “And if somebody’s just not getting something, even in the writers’ room, we have enough time and it sort of becomes a work in progress where we can calibrate. We do have enough time. We have enough lead time in our writers’ room to really work and develop.”

As for another queer character, The Gallaghers’ matriarch Monica, she may have run off with a woman last we saw, but when she returns this season, it’ll be with a man.

“Monica loves all depending on who can fit her drug needs and her addiction,” Nancy said. Which, of course, is par for the course on Shameless.

Shameless airs Sunday nights on Showtime.

 

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