William H. Macy isn’t completely sold on doing another long-running TV series following his impressive 11-year stint on Shameless.
“I don’t think so, but never say never. I have sort of a bucket list of things I’d like to do, and I’m concentrating on that,” the Emmy winner, 72, exclusively tells Us Weekly. “But if a series came along, it could happen. I would rather do some bigger films. I’d like to play the bad guy. I mean, a really bad guy. I’ve never done horror.”
Macy played Frank Gallagher on the beloved Showtime drama from 2011 to 2021. Since then, he’s appeared in Hulu’s The Dropout and currently stars alongside Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon and Richard Gere in the romantic comedy Maybe I Do, which hits theaters on Friday, January 27.
“I did Shameless for 11 years. And unlike a big feature, one of those tent pole things where you spend most of the time in the trailer waiting for your tiny little bit, I mean, they’ll shoot a quarter of a page in a day. On Shameless we would shoot 11 pages in a day. Thank you very much,” he told Us, laughing. “I like that because as an actor, I was on set all the time. They got very good at scheduling it. And when I was there, I was acting. And that’s what I love to do the most. I like it when everyone gets quiet and it’s my turn. The part of waiting around, that gets a little clawing after a while.”
Although he’s said goodbye to his fictional Chicago family, he still keeps track of them. “All the cast from Shameless, they’re all working. Jeremy [Allen White] is just killing it on his series The Bear. Oh my God, he’s magnificent on that,” he gushed. “Shanola’s [Hampton] going from one project to another.”
He even recently reunited with his onscreen daughter Emma Kenney on her ABC comedy The Conners. “When she started doing Shameless, she was a little girl! She couldn’t drive, didn’t even have a boyfriend. The first boy she ever kissed was on camera in front of the whole nation,” he recalled. “I was so proud to see her doing [The Conners]. She’s working all the time. Everybody’s working except me!”
He adds: “I’ve never done a sitcom and I adore them. I mean, it’s such an art form and we Americans have done it so well. The great ones are truly great, and they’ll always be great. I’m talking about All in the Family and Friends and Cheers. And it’s just astounding that they can do those five days. They do this little morality play in five days. I don’t know how they do it. It’s funny.”
The Fargo actor has seemingly done it all — from TV to stage, blockbusters and indies. But he still has one deal-breaker when he reads new scripts.
“The only thing I’m a little cranky about is the violence in the movies. I think it’s horsesh-t. And I wish our industry would do more to start to — if you’re gonna have violence, at least tell the truth about it. But the movies we make today, the violence is bullsh-t. It’s lying. It’s not true violence. And I think it’s bad for the body politic. I think it’s bad for us as a culture to have that much violence with no repercussions. Nobody has to pay the price for that kind of violence,” he tells Us. “My daughters [Sophia and Georgia] and I were going to the airport one time … and we counted the number of billboards that had a beautiful actor holding a gun in our faces. And we got bored after about 15 movies. … And I think it’s trash. I’m done with that. So that cuts out a lot of what I can do. Weak writing.”
He adds, with a laugh: “But I’m beating around the bush. Let me tell you what I really think!”
Read on for more with Macy:
Us: At this point in your career, what makes you absolutely want to be a part of a certain project? And has that thought process changed over time?
WM: It has. The way I like to put it is that when I was in my twenties, I would read the script and I would ask myself, ‘How does this speak to the human condition and what it means to be a human being?’ And then when I was in my forties, I said, ‘How much will I get paid?’ [Laughs] And now I just ask, ‘Will I have to get wet?’ So that’s been my progress in deciding for scripts. But in all seriousness, when [Maybe I Do] was around for a while, it had many permutations that fell apart and they couldn’t get it off the ground. I was later in the process when Michael [Jacobs] called me, but when I heard this, the cast, I was just beside myself with glee to get to work with these people. It’s sort of a dream come true.
Us: You’ve played a lot of downtrodden characters over the years. Is that something that are you drawn to when you read a script?
WM: I guess I am. [Laughs] In this business to a certain extent, if you do something well, they’ll ask you to do it again. And I was worried as a young man, when I was doing a lot of theater, I was the callow youth who got whacked upside the head over and over again. And when I did Fargo, I thought, oh, boy, am I gonna be pigeonholed and playing these loser roles from now on? And interestingly, the script for The Cooler came out and I looked at it and I said, ‘Nope, I’ve drawn the line. No more losers.’ But thank God they stayed after me to do it. … But I didn’t get pigeonholed as playing the losers. I’ve played strong characters and funny characters, and I’ve got no complaints. I’ve gotten to play a lot of different things.
Us: Is there one genre that offers you something that the other doesn’t and is it hard to choose one you favor more?
WM: Yes, because they all have their lovely parts to them. Also, it’s changed. Everything changed a couple of years ago, and now it’s changing back. Now they’re making more indie films. There’s a lot of them that are coming across my desk and they’re putting the films in theaters again, they’re four-walling it, so what’s old is new. What goes around comes around. I love doing the blockbuster films. It’s a very specific pace. They pay you a lot more money, your trailer’s bigger and you can go home at a reasonable hour. It’s not chasing the sun all the time. Although, you know what, you spend $5 million on the movie, you spend $500 million on the movie, but you’re always behind schedule and rushing. TV is great. I’ve always loved it because it’s an actor’s medium. You get to act all day.
Us: You’ve had multiple physical transformations on screen. Do you like being in the makeup chair or not so much?
WM: Yes, transformation. No, I don’t like to be in the makeup chair. As a matter of fact, check it out. [Shows his ponytail.] … That ain’t me! It’s for a part. I had no idea. My apologies to my wife [Felicity Huffman]. They’re really rough. They kinda hurt. And also, your hair — I don’t know how you manage it. I’ve got this thing, it’s in my face all the time. They’re gonna cut it when I get to set, but we’ll see.
Us: What advice would you give your younger self?
WM: Take Fountain! It’s an old joke. They asked Bette Davis what is your advice for a young actor moving to L.A.? And she said, take Fountain [Avenue], which is a street from west to east with very few lights. You can go very fast. My advice to myself, I wish I had held everything — of course, everybody thinks this — I wish I had held things more gently. I wish I had chosen fewer hills to die on. One of the great gifts of doing Shameless for me was that I kind of gave it up. You know, it used to be, I’d get a scene and I would go, ’It’s a bad scene! Stop the presses. Call the guard. It’s a bad scene. We’ve gotta fix the scene.’
And after 11 years of Shameless, sometimes I’d do a scene, I’d go, ‘OK, I don’t think this is a very good scene,’ but when I would see the things screened, it was OK. It was fine. I wasn’t wrong. It wasn’t a great scene, but it’s fine. Things work out. You don’t have to belabor every single point. I would tell my young self [to] work harder on memorizing the lines. Start earlier, work later. Other than that, you know, I’ve got the normal regrets. Times I was cruel, times I was stupid. But I’ve been a lucky guy. I’ve been in a lot of lovely films and met the most magnificent people. And I count on one hand the number of films that I was in that went south and were a disaster. I’ve been lucky.