Shameless secured a spot on my Best of 2012 list thanks to a startlingly fresh combination of honesty, heartache and humor -- and the third season doesn't stray from that fantastic formula.
All the characters get exhilarating new story arcs beginning January 13, particularly Veronica and Kevin, who board the baby train and, according to Shanola Hampton, take fans to uncharted territory. ETonline caught up with the divine Hampton to find out why people love this scrappy family and if they're capable of earning (or accepting) their Happy Endings.
ETonline: I got to check out the first four episodes of this season, and I just adored them. What's your take on season three?
Shanola Hampton: Season three is epic. It's my favorite season so far. You're in their lives and it goes to a whole new level. The dynamic between Fiona and Jimmy is totally different now that they're past the wooing stage and living together. Lip is all about life after Karen and what it means to be in this new relationship with Mandy, who loves him more than he loves her. Kevin and Veronica are really focused on having a baby, no matter what it takes. Everyone has something so juicy going on.
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ETonline: Did the experience with Ethel change things for Veronica?
Hampton: For sure. It really triggered something in Veronica, who, in the first season, was all about going out and partying. She wasn't thinking about a child. Then you thought she took in Ethel for the money, but her hard shell softened and that biological clock starting ticking -- hard. She really wants a baby, and the one thing we know about Veronica is that when she wants something, she gets it. No matter what. That opens up a whole new passion and way of going about doing things. The storyline that happens as a result has never been seen on television before. I swear.
ETonline: Despite their drama, I find myself wanting to be a part of The Gallagher family -- and I know I'm not alone. Why do you think so many people feel that way?
Hampton: There's something so grabbing about people who will do anything for one another. Veronica may not be related, but she loves every Gallagher like a blood relative. There's that sense of "If we're going down, we're going down together." It's that love, loyalty and togetherness that makes fans want that kind of friend, brother, sister or family.
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ETonline: This season also shines a light back on Veronica's relationship with Fiona. What do you like about that dynamic?
Hampton: What's great about their relationship is that Veronica does give that sound advice and brings reality into the conversation. She wants to guide Fiona and be that angel on her shoulder. But in the same sense, when Veronica needs her, Fiona is right there backing her up. It's a very mutual friendship.
ETonline: The Season Three poster played off the idea of Happily Ever After. Do you think the characters are capable of getting -- and accepting -- a Happy Endings?
Hampton: No, I don't. I think that you see this with Lip a lot. That's an incredibly smart character who just can't get out of his own way. You get so used to a world that you complain, but never actually want anything different. Why crave the unfamiliar? That's why I think the typical Happily Ever After will never happen on Shameless -- but all of the characters will get their own version of Happily Ever After.
Shameless premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on Showtime.