Shaping the Ian/Mickey Relationship on 'Shameless?' Exec Producer Nancy M. Pimental Explains

The story of Ian Gallagher continues this Sunday on Showtime’s “Shameless” and we’ll see what it’s like for him to deal with life in the real world after being diagnosed as bi-polar.

As long-time fans of the show know, the Gallagher’s mother was also bi-polar and it was only a matter of time before the disorder revealed itself in one of her children. We saw the first signs that it was Ian (played by Cameron Monaghan) at the end of last season but this season has seen him spiral and after spending 72-hours in a psych ward to be evaluated, he comes home this week.

How will the Gallaghers deal with Ian and his new diagnosis? How will it impact that relationship between Ian and his boyfriend, Mickey (Noel Fisher)? To find out, I recently talked with executive producer Nancy M. Pimental to talk about this particular story and how the writers have kept viewers loving the Gallaghers even when they do reprehensible things.

Mickey (Noel Fisher) comforts Ian (Cameron Monaghan) in this Sunday's 'Shameless.' (Showtime)

The Mickey/Ian relationship is so unconventional, like everything else on the show, but they're one of the longer relationships on the show, when you really look at it. How do you approach the relationship overall?

Nancy Pimental: It’s so funny, it just has really happened organically where it feels like we’re falling in love with them as they’re falling in love. We set up, way at the beginning, obviously, that Monica was bipolar and that somebody in the family is going to get it. Then last season it seemed to really take shape that it would be Ian that got it.

That's the struggle that we have for the relationship this year because, obviously, at the end of last year Mickey finally came out. That was the big hurdle and he finally came out, so we think that they're going to really be able to be together but then this disease that's been in the backdrop comes knocking. It really shows Mickey having to really confront his love for Ian and really hold his ground, and take different tactics.

The guys are doing such a great job from what I’ve seen so far this season.

NP: Noel’s such a great actor that we were able to give him so much more to do and so much more range. Where he wants to just beat the s*** out of Ian and smack him around to being, super, compassionate to listening to what Fiona and Lip have to say about the disease. When somebody has a disease sometimes, you feel like you’re walking on eggshells so you become this person that you don’t like. We have him almost being sweetie pie-ish and he’s sort of disgusted with himself and Ian’s disgusted with him for that. There’s so much range that he’s going through trying to catch up and follow the disease, and get his boyfriend back.

In the first few episodes this season, when we see Ian unraveling, I had to laugh when he has a little liaison with another dad, strollers parked just a little out of the way from what they were doing together. I thought 'no other show could get away with this!'

NP: I take credit for all of that. I just had that image of these two guys…and having the babies, because it was so, “it’s so icky.” Also, really to me that’s just a perfect picture of what this disease represents. Trying to be responsible but also having this mania.

Then in [episode] seven, Ian gets committed [and] you just see the heartbreak of Mickey. That was my episode. What I wanted to do is show this parallel of how Mickey has become like Frank, in a way, when Frank was with Monica. That there was such love but it's soul crushing to have such love somebody and to not be able to help them and to see them being so self-destructive and so tunnel-visioned because of this disease. We see him turn to alcohol more. It gives us, almost, an idea of what Frank probably went through.

Click the image below to watch a clip from this Sunday’s episode of “Shameless”:

Do we see Frank intervene at all? I mean, he has been through this before, right?

NP: Frank’s far too narcissistic to help. He makes commentary here and there about stuff, but no.

After all this time, is it still a challenge to make sure these characters are somewhat likeable despite what they do? Or is that not a part of the equation?

NP: I don’t think we think that way, as far as, “Are they likable or not likeable?” We really, really, talk about what’s true to a character. Last season was a big struggle with Fiona’s character because she went off. We felt like that was a real thing. Here she was [and] she’s a 25-year-old girl who’s never partied. It’s not so much we were concerned whether it was likeable or not but we want to make sure that anything we do is earned and is in, totally, 100 percent the spirit of the character.

One thing I’ve always loved about the show is that it can be so aggressive and in your face but then you have these nice little moments where you actually see them as a family.

NP: That’s what we wanted to show, an authentic family with every level of dysfunction and healthiness. Ultimately, it is about family. I have people either say to me, “oh my God, I love it because it reminds me of my family,” or “I can’t watch it, it’s too painful because it reminds me of my family.”

“Shameless” airs Sundays at 9pm on Showtime. 

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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