Cameron Monaghan reflects on his rise to stardom with Liana Liberato

PHOTOS: Sami Drasin
TALENT: Cameron Monaghan
STYLING: Jessica Loria at Atelier Management
FLORIST: Brandi Bombard at Forma Floral
GROOMING: Andrea Pezzillo for Exclusive Artists using Lancôme and Kevin Murphy
STYLIST ASSISTANT: Camille Rousseau
INTERVIEW: Liana Liberato
TRANSCRIPT: Parker Schug
PRODUCER: Jasmine Perrier

This feature is taken from Grumpy Magazine’s ISSUE NO.16, available now in digital and print worldwide

Cameron Monaghan is the type of actor who has proved throughout his many years working in the industry that he can do it all. As he just turned 27, Cameron has claimed his own space at the forefront of a generation of actors committed to telling stories that are relevant to today’s society. Growing up in Florida, he has been climbing the steady road to success for over 20 years, diving into television, film, and now video games. He was that deeply disturbed kid in cult sitcom Malcolm in the Middle, and had screen time with Hollywood royal Meryl Streep in The Giver. But his major break came when he was cast as Ian Gallagher in Showtime’s Shameless and became a fan favorite. Since, his outstanding performances have been critically acclaimed, including his interpretation of “the Joker” in FOX’s Gotham.

Illustration: Kendall Wisniewski (@kendallmakesart)

At the beginning of the lockdown, Cameron connected over the phone with his longtime friend Liana Liberato — who he came up in the business with — to recall their first audition together and reflect on his eclectic career — discussing his most iconic roles in TV shows Shameless and Gotham, as well as his recent acting experience on video game Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order. It was 2PM in Los Angeles — on the other end of the line, Cameron cheerfully greeted his pal with a mischievous ‘‘Liana, it’s 2:03PM. This is unacceptable and so unprofessional.’’ The actress apologized before adding, ‘‘Do you regret asking me to do this?’’ This was a clue about their great complicity, and Cameron’s warm and jovial personality — to the point he started flipping the interview to question Liana as well.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. This is only an extract.

On growing up in Florida, influences, and first approach to acting… 

“I was very young when I started. My mom was a single parent who worked two jobs, so she did her best for me. But that meant that I spent a long time by myself, entertaining myself with movies and TV. I was a hyper kid and I didn’t really focus well, so my mom got me involved with local community theater and commercials. She needed something to put my energy to and I actually really enjoyed doing it. […] I grew up in the 90s and one of the movies that blew my mind as a kid was The Matrix. I would play on the playground, pretending to be the characters from it. We would fight each other — which we probably shouldn’t have done. As for actors, I was very strange. I really liked Christopher Walken, Steve Buscemi, Gary Oldman, William H. Macy — who I actually ended up working with for many years on Shameless.

On his evolution as an actor…

“When I was younger, I was so much more interested in how the plot functions, and some of the mechanisms of that. As I get older, what interests me more is humanity, how characters interact, what it’s trying to say about how we relate to each other, how characters change over the course of the story. I think that a really well-written relationship, saying something interesting about a person’s morality, or what they do in a time of struggle, is so much more interesting to me now than any amount of tools or special effects. […] I love when you’re able to have a story where the characters are so well-defined. There’s something really enjoyable about that, and some sort of emotional catharsis in that. I feel like the reason why we do our job, why we become activists or artists, is to express the stuff that is somewhat broken or challenging.

On signing onto Shameless at 15 and evolving with a character for a decade…

“I had a pretty even ranking of success. I wasn’t one of those kids who became really successful at a super young age and get all of this responsibility, money, and fame thrust on them at one time. I was lucky that I spent enough time around people who made smart decisions. Also, all the people who I worked with on the show were really supportive and interesting. I learned a lot from them too. We formed a little family who we’re all still tight with. We all support each other and call each other out when they’re making bad decisions. […] I still feel like I’m learning so much and growing as a person. Some of the times, the character was going through specific struggles and those struggles happened prior to me in my own life, or sometimes some of my own personal things were then reflected back within the character. Being able to put that and have a symbiotic relationship with your character over the course of the decade, it’s a really interesting exercise, and something that I’m lucky to be able to have done. 

On why Shameless is so important to today’s society…

“It’s interesting because when the show came on air 11 years ago, the landscape of American television was a little bit different. Now with all the streaming platforms, there’s so much more about family dynamics that are more uncensored, and speak more frankly about sexuality, poverty… When you’re 15-16 years old, talking really openly about things like sexuality, and maturing through adolescence, is an interesting thing. It was a little bit scary at first, but it was also something that I’m really happy to have been able to do. It allowed me to reflect on myself, learn, and become comfortable with who I am. […] I’ve heard from a number of teenagers who were gay, in the closet, or struggling to come to terms with certain things that my character or other characters in the show really reflected what they were going through. That’s always amazing to be able to hear about that.

On taking on the role of the Joker in Gotham

“A lot of times, I would finish up on the set of Shameless, get on the plane, land in New York, and literally go straight from the plane to work on Gotham. While I loved the Shameless set, crew, and the cast, it is nice to be able to always experience other things outside of it. You learn so much each time you step foot on a different set. […] When I filmed my first episode of Gotham, it was just a few years after Heath Ledger played the role in The Dark Knight and won the Oscar. He became the most iconic person to touch that role. That’s saying something considering he was following Jack Nicholson. No one else had played that role since then up to that point. That was intimidating, but it was also really exciting and a huge honor. I liked what they were trying to do with the character. It was something very different, and distinct from the movies and the media that had come before. It was a really unique opportunity.

On diving into the world of video games with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

“I had never done a video game before. I’ve played games for most of my life, and I’ve really appreciated how they’ve matured and grown over the last decade. Right now is an interesting time as an actor, because so much is based off of media that people are familiar with, and there’s a challenge. You have to take that, and make stuff that still feels human and still says something about you as a person. That’s my interest with it — trying to see if there’s something about the character in a story that raises interesting questions, because otherwise what’s the point of doing it? […] We had a lot of really great and wonderful conversations with the creative team, our writers, Lucasfilm story group, and all of the actors about what we wanted to say. So much of that story is about dealing with trauma, guilt, and things that were out of your control when you were younger or in your life. Pretty much every character in the story has experienced loss — how they grieve, or how they come to cope with the loss defines them as a character. Being able to access the story from that angle was what made me want to do the job.” 

On dealing with the level of heartbreak and rejection inside the industry…

“There is a certain level of […] all of these things that you do have to learn how to deal with. Ultimately, it takes a certain level of acceptance and trust in yourself. I want to represent the things that I value, and the things that I find interesting and important. Right now too, with all the quarantine and the fact that we, as actors, don’t have the ability to work, it is very frustrating. It’s difficult, but I think all you can really do is try to either make opportunities for yourself, or work on yourself. I know for me, I’m writing and talking to friends who are trying to do stuff. […] I think that I’ll probably be an actor for the majority of my life, unless I get to the point where I either fall out of love with it, or if I feel like I can’t perform to the best of my abilities.

Full conversation and story appear in Grumpy Magazine’s ISSUE NO.16. Purchase your digital or print copy!

5 thoughts on “Cameron Monaghan reflects on his rise to stardom with Liana Liberato

  1. That’s awesome it’s a great life story it means alot when people grow up to be an actor or something else big. When you start out small you can end up in big places.

    Like

    1. I just knew Shameless today because of Gallavich. I’m obsessed with Cameron.

      Like

  2. It is great when we are able to reflect on our journey and find great focus points to help guide us through our future. This was a great reflective article where an actor has really spent time digesting his own personal life experiences & professional choices. Anchoring one’s aspirations can really give us a sense of direction. Thats where skill and wisdom is revealed. Thanks for sharing your 27 year wisdom thus far Cameron.

    Like

  3. Alejandra Martínez 2020-08-18 — 2 h 45 min

    This is amazing, it’s great to know Cameron more.

    Like

  4. Sydney Chesher 2020-09-02 — 5 h 22 min

    That was a inspiring life story and to see how you got to where you are from where you started is absolutely astounding it is truly amazing and inspiring to me, I am very shy when it comes to acting on stage, my friends are all born talented, confident, and gifted, I try my hardest to just do it but when it comes time to do it I back out but hearing this makes me think that if I am passionate about it I should do it thank you for sharing your story it helped me a lot.

    Like

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