‘Shameless’: Jimmy-Steve Was Originally Supposed to Get Beheaded

Showtime’s Shameless premiered in early 2011. The show has taken on its own irreverent, unique spin to the storyline of dysfunctional family dynamics, despite originally being an adaptation of its British TV namesake. With its 11th —and final—season currently on the air, it’s Showtime’s longest-running scripted series. Shameless has introduced numerous controversial characters and shocking plotlines over its decade-long run. And one suggested conclusion for a major character was especially gruesome.

Justin Chatwin smiling in front of a red background
Justin Chatwin | Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

Why did Steve leave ‘Shameless’?

Actor Justin Chatwin played Jimmy Lishman, who also goes by the names “Jack” and “Steve Wilton.” The character first appeared in Shameless in its first season, and he continued to sporadically pop up in the series’ initial five seasons. He’s introduced as a wealthy, rebellious womanizer who is very interested in courting Fiona Gallagher (Emmy Rossum), the oldest Gallagher child and arguably the leader of the Gallagher family.

“If you’ve ever shipped a pair of television characters, you know the pain of the one that got away, the agony of will-they-won’t-they, and the struggle of the love interest who can’t seem to stay away, yet isn’t the type to commit,” reports Refinery29. “Shameless, not to be outdone, has a character that combines all of those traits and who remains a mystery.”

As Fiona dug into her lover’s past, she discovered that not only was Jimmy-Steve going by multiple names, but he’s also involved in complex criminal networks. At one point, audiences were even led to believe he’d been murdered by the daughter of a South American drug lord. And that’s not the only surprising aspect of Jimmy-Steve.

Jimmy-Steve nearly got beheaded

At the end of season three, Jimmy is led onto a boat and it’s implied that he’s killed while onboard. Jimmy doesn’t appear at all for the entirety of season four, solidifying the theory that the character had been murdered. That theory quickly unraveled at the end of Shameless‘ fourth season. After the credits rolled on season four’s finale, a quick clip airs of a mysterious man pulling up to the Gallagher house. The man turned out to be Jimmy — clearly still very alive.

According to TVLine, even Shameless lead star Rossum didn’t know about the shocking twist. But Jimmy’s storyline could have turned out very differently. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, even Chatwin says he thought his character had been written off the show. “I had made a head cast, which is when they’re probably going to blow off your head or chop off your head, so I was 100 percent certain that my character was deceased,” he says.

What happened to Steve aka Jimmy on ‘Shameless’?


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The reason Jimmy’s storyline was left open-ended was by accident. Viewers were actually supposed to see him killed on screen, unlike the ambiguous ending of season three. “Wells revealed the filming permit for the dock expired before the scene could be completed,” explains TV Guide. “Because they didn’t explicitly see his death, viewers question whether Jimmy’s life has actually been spared.” That wasn’t the intention for the character, but the producers ended up changing the storyline at the last moment.

“[The showrunners] called and said [they] had an idea,” explains Chatwin to The Hollywood Reporter. “I guess there had been a lot of rallying from Emmy and the cast to bring back my character because [they] felt like something was missing — maybe some heart — that they felt our relationship brought out in the story. And I think there had been a rally from some fans who liked that character [too].” So Jimmy-Steve was brought back from the dead and reconnects with Fiona in season five for an unpleasant and brief reunion.