‘Shameless’ joins Time’s Up conversation in a way only ‘Shameless’ can

After nine years on set, the “Shameless” scripts still shock actress Shanola Hampton “three or four times a season.” Case in point: The sexual harassment subplot that wove its way into the series’ 100th episode Sunday night.

When a journalist dubs the bar run by Veronica (Hampton) and Kevin (Steve Howey) the “rapiest” on Chicago’s South Side in episode 3, the duo rattles off a list of inappropriate bar behavior categorized by real-life accusations made against Louis C.K., Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Woody Allen and Aziz Ansari.

“We read the script and we could not believe that [showrunner] John Wells was like, ‘we’re going here and I don’t care,” says Hampton, a Long Island native. “I couldn’t believe we were actually saying the names because, you know, we’re still in Hollywood.”

Her character spends the show’s milestone episode (“Do Right, Vote White!”) helping her husband Kev make sure women “know they’re safe” at the Alibi by taking down “rapey” paraphernalia and teaching the bar’s regulars (all men) how to interact with them. The episode takes it to an extreme with a “Certified Vagina Safe” sign, joining the Time’s Up conversation in a way “only ‘Shameless’ can.”

“What’s been really great about our show, and the one thing we’ve been consistent on, is not being afraid to go there. In a way, we have a responsibility to because we’ve set this tone that we’ll pretty much say anything,” Hampton, 41, continues. “I’m happy we took that tone because it’s a big deal to be able to have this kind of freedom to take risks in scripts like that.”

The Showtime series has never been one to shy away from a risky script. Its 100 episodes have dealt with incest, child drug use, murder and rape. And while the misconduct topic of the 99th and 100th episodes happen to coincide with the Bill Cosby trial and #MeToo movement, sexual assault and women’s rights have always been prevalent.

“We shift in our chairs and have ‘oh my goodness’ moments reading the scripts. We really have that feeling, which is great. That says a lot about our writers,” Hampton says.

Many of these stories have been told through the eyes Veronica, Debbie (Emma Kenney) and Fiona, played by Emmy Rossum. Though Rossum has announced she’ll be parting ways with the series following the season nine finale, Hampton says “Shameless” “will continue on and continue to tell these great stories.”

A 10th season has not yet been confirmed, and Hampton says the cast is still in the process of filming Rossum’s last episodes.

“Emmy is such a force. She is a phenomenal woman and has grown so much from when I first met her to now,” Hampton says. “It’s really the natural evolution of her life for her to move on and do something else … when she told me, my response was an ugly cry. It is a very surprising, but brave move also, to step into what the universe is telling you to go do.”

Details surrounding Fiona’s departure from the storyline haven’t yet been revealed, but Hampton confirms the character won’t be killed off.

“I don’t think it’s a spoiler. She’s not going to die,” Hampton says. “We haven’t filmed it yet, so I couldn’t even give you a spoiler of what that final goodbye looks like. But I can tell you it’ll involve a lot of tears behind the scenes.”

“Shameless” airs new episodes every Sunday at 9 p.m.