It was raining in Los Angeles, which was a welcome change for William H. Macy as he reflected on his most recent accomplishments. His offbeat lead role in Fargo changed Macy’s acting career, and now, the 65-year-old award-winning Hollywood veteran spends time on both the big and small screen, perhaps most notably as the proud, narcissistic, trouble-making father Frank Gallagher, who makes his highly anticipated return to television when season six of Shameless premieres on Jan. 10 at 9 p.m. on Showtime.
Acting coupled with directing, being a loving husband to wife Felicity Huffman, and devoted father to his two daughters, Macy is the whole package, proving that he’s more than just a character on TV.
“It breaks my heart that he [Frank Gallagher] isn’t the most shameless character on television, that’s my lot in life,” said Macy of his unique character, who won him a SAG Award in 2015. “I love Frank. I feel like I’m one of the best and only friends he’s got, so I’m very protective of him. Frank’s not a loser, he’s a player. He’s downtrodden and nobody understands him. He’s not going to succumb to social norms because he’s supposed to.”
Macy shared that this season in particular Frank does some things that, in his mind, were completely altruistic. He cited one scene in particular where he sits at the bar in the Alibi and just smiles.
“I said I did something selfless, I was a good parent and it feels great,” said Macy, who added that Frank’s selfless act ultimately blows up in his face. “Frank is an addict and a narcissist to his core. He doesn’t get the whole right and wrong thing.”
When asked if he sympathized at all with Frank, Macy said that it is his job to overlook the bad and accentuate the good qualities about him.
“It’s interesting because he’s a very detailed man. He doesn’t get the whole concept of morality; every question is a brand new question to be asked he doesn’t realize how manipulative of reality he is,” said Macy. “He’s funny and pretty smart and he knows people. He’s a moveable party who would rather laugh than cry. He’s hopeful, hard-working, industrious, entrepreneurial and very political.”
As a father, one would believe that it would be challenging to play a man whose children mean so little to him. But that surface description of Frank is only the takeaway of a first impression. Although he will never be father of the year, loyal fans know that Frank Gallagher is a deeply loving father.
“Frank’s children mean a great deal to him and that relationship has evolved over the season,” said Macy, adding that in season six, viewers will see Frank is crazy for his family, for the Gallagher name and for his heritage to carry on the proud tradition. “He’s proud to be a Gallagher. He feels that kids need disappointment and heartbreak to prepare them for later traumatic experience. Neglect is a form of love because it toughens them up.”
Shameless portrays the lives of a family living on the South Side of Chicago, and although the show is an exaggerated comedy, Macy said one of the reasons the show is successful is because it does get it right when it comes to talking about the lowest rung on the socio-economic ladder.
“One of the things that is so evident is try as that family might, they are one serious disaster away from being on the street and that’s true for a lot of people,” he said. “The numbers are staggering for the people who are one step away from homelessness. They’ll always be Gallaghers and they’ll always be one step above the law.”
In 1996, Macy starred in Fargo, a movie that would ultimately change his acting career forever.
“I was in my cabin in Vermont and I got the phone call that I had the job. I was there all by myself, running around screaming my lungs out,” said Macy, who immediately fell in love with the script. “I knew it would be big and knew it would be a life changer for me. When I got the role, I knew something big had just happened to me.”
Directed by the Coen brothers, Fargo is a crime drama set in Minnesota in 1987. Macy played Jerry Lundegaard, is a car salesman deep in debt and so desperate for money that he hires two thugs (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare), to kidnap his own wife. Macy recalled a moment with the cast that made him a memorable force to be reckoned with on set.
“Peter, Steve and I went out one night and I wanted to get in trouble. I was shocked at how straight laced they were and wouldn’t howl at the moon with me,” said Macy, who first met Stormare and Buscemi at a restaurant. “I did an entrance and Ethan [Coen] just howled with laughter when I walked in because I looked like Clint Eastwood. The first thing they said to me was ‘you’re late’ and Ethan thought that was hilarious.”
On working with the Coen brothers, Macy said that as filmmakers, they are so well prepared, and the result of that preparation was a calm and quiet set on Fargo.
“They were born to make movies. They have such a view of the world and they somehow get the whole thing in their mind’s eye,” said Macy. “They make exquisite choices when it comes to design shots and colors and how to use the camera.”
To a certain extent, Macy has made his career playing timid men in over their heads. The ones he calls “the sort of every man who is clueless to the big bad world.”
“After Fargo, I was worried that that’s all I would get to play and I haven’t found that to be true,” he said.
In 2014, FX aired Fargo as a TV series. Nearly 18 years after playing Jerry Lundegaard, Macy admitted that he has seen several of the episodes.
“I thought it was just fantastic. It has quite the style and Billy Bob [Thornton] was having the time of his life in that first season,” he said.
Macy’s latest movie, Room, has garnered some Golden Globe attention for best motion picture drama, and is definitely worthy of Oscar buzz. Although he only filmed a few scenes in the movie, as his schedule was consumed by Shameless, Macy said he had his “socks blown off.”
“I was thrilled when a script came across my desk. It was only three or four scenes I could do and I thought, ‘wow, what a powerful story,’” he said. “I feel good about it. Any time I hang out with Joan Allen (Grandma), is a wonderful time and Brie Larson (Ma), is stunning. I’m pleased that I had the sense to say yes to it.”
In regards to his upcoming projects, these days, Macy seems to be moving into directing. In 2014, he directed Rudderless, starring Billy Crudup and Anton Yelchin, which did fairly well. He is currently working on his second film, The Layover, starring Kate Upton and Alexandra Daddario.
“It’s a chick flick. It’s comedy and it’s pretty funny,” said Macy of the film. “God willing, in March, I’m starting a film called Crystal in Georgia. It’s a farce, another comedy starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Josh Hutcherson, Joe Manganiello and my wife, Felicity. Tim Allen is trying to get Wild Hogs back on the road, I can’t wait for that.”
For more on Macy’s roles, see Macy’s Film Parade.