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The Surprising Props Emmy Rossum Used To Direct Episodes Of Shameless

Emmy Rossum spent eight years playing the eldest Gallagher sibling, Fiona, on the Showtime series Shameless, but she spent time behind the camera as well. Rossum made her directorial debut with the episode "I Am a Storm," the fourth installment of season 7, in 2016. As a newbie director, she also found her way by using some unconventional props to make her job easier.

In a 2018 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, series star Emma Kenney (known as Debbie Gallagher on the show) talked about her TV sister's unique directing technique. Kenney said Rossum knew "exactly what she wanted" as a director. As it turns out, she used some surprising props to get what she was after.

"She's a Virgo," Kenney said of Rossum. "She has a Type A personality, as do I. It was very interesting because Emmy, the way she plotted out scenes was with little LEGO pieces."

Kenney explained that ahead of each scene, Rossum set up LEGO pieces that represented each character on the show. "So, it was like, little LEGO characters, and it was funny, my character had a little, red LEGO hair," Kenney laughed. "It was very funny, all the Gallagher house on a LEGO board. So, it was very cute. And Emmy just knew 'cause she knows all the cast so well, and she knows all the crew so well, so she knows exactly how to talk to everybody to get what she wants out of their performance."

Emmy Rossum explained why she used LEGO toys for directing

Rossum directed two episodes of Shameless during her time on the show (the second was "Frank's Northern Shuttle Express" in 2017, per IMDb. But it only happened after she mustered up the nerve to ask showrunner John Wells for a shot at the prestigious spot at the helm. The first episode Rossum directed was not only an expensive one to shoot, but it took eight days, she told Variety.

Rossum revealed that Wells threw her "into the deep end without waders." She wisely prepared for her directorial debut by taking a cinematography class at NYU, then gathered her trusty LEGOs to plan the blocking for the episode. She explained that the blocking was especially important on a show like Shameless, because the camera kept moving throughout scenes. "Very rarely will you have two people sitting across the table talking for two pages," she said. "So it was very important for me to see what that would look like in a 3D way."

Before using LEGOs, Rossum tried blocking with pennies and nickels, but soon realized she needed to have some "spatial awareness." She ultimately had a light bulb moment while walking down Fifth Avenue and spotting the LEGO Store in Rockefeller Center. The landmark shop featured a section of "make it yourself LEGOs" in which a customer could pick a figure's face, body, and accessories.

Rossum went on to explain that she began to make little LEGOs of the Shameless characters, including Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) with mini headphones on his head and Frank (William H. Macy) with a wine bottle in his hand.

The detail-oriented director even went a step further for her prep. "I blew up the schematics of the set and laminated it at Kinko's like a nerd and started to move the LEGOs around and draw where people would go," she told THR. "I was exceedingly prepared. I had a game plan."

Rossum went on to say the Shameless cast and crew were "very" supportive of her stint as a director. She left the Emmy-winning series at the end of Season 9 in 2019.