Episode 803

For nine seasons, Emmy Rossum has played the fierce, loyal, and strong Fiona Gallagher. But now, the 31-year-old actress is saying goodbye to Shameless, an announcement she made on Thursday. Only hours after sharing an emotional post on social media, Rossum chatted with EW about her difficult decision.

"I will never be saying goodbye to Fiona," she exclusively tells EW. "Fiona is a part of me and has been like every character is a part of you and you are a little bit part of them. 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. [Laughs.] 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."

Episode 710
Credit: Chuck Hodes/SHOWTIME

While Shameless is an ensemble drama featuring a large cast, including frequent Emmy-nominee William H. Macy, Rossum is the de facto lead, as Fiona, the oldest Gallagher sibling, has served as the matriarch of the family from the beginning. But despite Fiona's prominence and her departure at the end of the upcoming ninth season, Rossum sees no end in sight for Shameless.

"We feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to investigate these characters and to continue to do so — and everyone will continue to do so until whenever the audience decides that they've had enough," she shared. "I think the show could quite honestly go on forever because the family is dynamic and the kids grow up and they have their own story lines and they branch out and they are fully-realized actors and human beings and they have opinions. I think there is so much to be mined here. There are so few shows on television that are showing what it's like to live in America and struggle right now. There are so many shows on TV that are aspirational, that are about vampires or zombies, that are escapist in some way, or just about plain rich people. So to have a show that's doing what other shows aren't and to have the audience stick with it is such a privilege."

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Episode 803
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