‘Shameless’: Emma Kenney Admitted She Had a Major Crush On 1 On-Screen Brother

Fans of the hit Showtime series Shameless have watched Emma Kenney grow up before their very eyes. Starting on the series when she was in elementary school, the 21-year-old actress has spent half of her life on Showtime’s longest-running series.

As such, she has gone through several changes on-camera, including the same awkward pitfalls that young teenagers face as they journey to adulthood.

Who is Emma Kenney?

Emma Kenney
Emma Kenney | Michael Tran/FilmMagic

Kenney made her on-screen debut when she wasn’t even ten years old. Starting with the short film Lyre Liar, she got bitten by the acting bug early and did not take long to secure more prominent roles. Appearing in several short films, as well as the feature-length Bittersweet and Day Camp, Kenney wasn’t a child star, by any stretch, but she seemed well on the way to being one. 

While many child stars choose family-friendly films to jump off from, Kenney started appearing in more mature projects despite her young age. A 2011 appearance on the HBO series Boardwalk Empire exemplified this. From there, Kenney got her most significant break yet. That same year, she made her debut as a series regular on Shameless’s first episodea show that is just now wrapping up a decade later. 

As Shameless grew more popular, Kenney started getting more roles. She had a voice role in the 2013 animated film Epic and also appeared on the short-lived revival of Roseanne. After its namesake found herself in hot water, she continued that role in the Roseanne-less spinoff The Conners while still appearing in Shameless throughout. 

With Shameless’s eleventh and final series airing now, she has a pair of big-screen roles lined up in the upcoming My Love Affair and Marriage and Growing Up Gorman, Tom fans of Shameless. However, she will always be Debbie Gallagher.

Kenney on Shameless

Kenney had a wild ride on Shameless that started as the innocent younger daughter of the Gallagher family and morphed into a dysfunctional mess. Exposed to a toxic environment at home, audiences watched as young Debbie had a sexual awakening at 13 years old when she fell in love with a much older man.

From there, a pregnancy scare and lots of experimentation helped the once naive young child grow into womanhood before their eyes. 

Perhaps more so than any other character, she is a testament to the type of family that she grew up around. And growing up on the screen, this also meant that Kenney had to grapple with her real-world feelings alongside her on-screen family. 

Emma Kenney’s on-screen crush

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When a nine-year-old Kenney first landed on the show, according to Vultutre, her on-screen brother, Jeremy Allen White, struck her fancy. Still young and confused, she opened up about her schoolgirl crush in a 2014 Vulture interview. 

“Oh my God, even if someone’s just saying hi to me, I start to blush. It’s so annoying and embarrassing. I can’t talk to anybody. When I was 9, when the show first started, I had the biggest crush on Jeremy [Allen White], who plays Lip — I haven’t even told him that. I hope he doesn’t read this. I obviously don’t have a crush on Jeremy anymore, he’s like my brother, but even today, I’ll talk to him and I cannot not blush. It’s so annoying.”

However, that crush remained as she got older, although she laughed it off as standard schoolgirl drama. 

“Oh, yeah. He’s a really nice guy, so he doesn’t say anything. But it’s so obvious that my face is bright red, randomly. We’ll be talking about a book — a book, no, Jeremy, doesn’t read. We’ll be talking about music or whatever and I’m just blushing. It’s so embarrassing. I always make up an excuse: “Oh man, it’s so hot out today.”

Kenney had the unforgiving task of growing up before the eyes of an audience. While this could be awkward on an on-screen basis, however, this also meant grappling with adolescence’s hurdles as she grew into a young woman.

Now a young adult, Kenney’s 2014 interview shows just what it’s like to be a child actor who grows up in front of the world. While everything on Shameless is ridiculous, however, behind these characters were average, every day people like Kenney.