DivineCaroline: It’s easy to get wrapped up in the craziness of Shameless, but at its core is an amazing sense of heart in terms of this family and their friends. Your character, Jimmy/Steve, ran away from his own dysfunctional family. How do you as an actor endeavor to play some really deep and meaningful material while maintaining the shameless craziness in which the show is set?
Justin Chatwin: I think that the show really set the tone in the first season of finding that fine line of drama and comedy. For me, I think that the comedy comes out of the seriousness of the situations.
What I personally like about this show is what I liked about John Wells’s other shows, like West Wing and ER, they create conversations about issues. That’s what the medium of television is good for—it puts a mirror up to America. It makes people talk and have conversations about meaningful things.
DC: As season three progresses what kinds of scenes will you share with Harry Hamlin, who plays your father?
JC: Jimmy/Steve’s story this season is more about finding out who Jimmy is and letting go of who Steve is. Steve is who he thinks he is. Jimmy is more of his authentic self. He finds a lot of this out through learning more about his father and seeing himself in his father—seeing the lies and the double lives that his father led. He starts to have an emotional reaction to the way that his father is living his life and in that realizes things about the life he’s been leading himself.
DC: Have you changed your workout regimen in any way since you’ve been on a show that requires you to show almost all of you?
When I was a kid, my nickname was “Bubble Butt.” I had this big giant ass because I was a snowboarder and I did a lot of things with my legs. I played hockey. My upper body grew later. I grew up with so much shame around my body, especially my butt, so for me doing this role and being naked in front of television was really terrifying for me at first. It eventually led to a very liberating experience for me.
DC: You climbed Mount Kilimanjaro recently. What led to that kind of an adventure?
JC: I had a few friends that were involved with the artist Kenna (2009 Grammy nominee for Best Urban/Alternative Performance). Kenna started an organization that works with Matt Damon’s group Water.org. They created Summit on the Summit (http://www.summitonthesummit.com/ By taking high profile individuals to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, Summit is able to support organizations in bringing clean water to those who lack access). We climbed Kilimanjaro and through doing that we had a lot of conversations about what’s going on in the world of water.
There are a few facts that kind of blew my mind. One in eight people don’t have access to clean water. Every 20 seconds somebody dies from a water-borne illness, which is they’re not getting clean water.
DC: It was an enlightening experience and an amazing adventure. How does an incredible experience like that affect you as a person?
JC: I signed on because I’m an adventure junkie. I love adventure. If somebody says, “Let’s go do this,” and it’s terrifying, I say, “Yes, let’s go.” To do it for a cause, to do it for something greater than me, doing it as a group and doing it also with a group that I normally wouldn’t hang out with—people from Procter & Gamble, from Intel, from Water.org that work in Washington, DC, all these super fascinating people that care so much about this cause—it made the time go by so fast. It made me appreciate every minute I was hiking on that mountain. I didn’t think about the goal. I was so immersed in the moment and the conversations that everyone was having. It was an education for me.
DC: For me, you were the highlight of the Weeds finale (Chatwin reprised the role of Josh Wilson, son of Kevin Nealon’s character, which he’d previously played in the pilot episode). What was it like to literally bookend that show?
JC: They wanted me to be a series regular on the first season of Weeds. I got a movie so I couldn’t do it. For years, every time I saw (series creator) Jenji Kohan I would say, “Bring me back.” Finally, I finally got a call saying they wanted to bring me back for the finale and I was elated. I got a chance to play that character one more time. It was interesting to play him 15 years in the future from the pilot and see how he had changed. He’d gone from being such a punk to being a very accomplished, proud homosexual man.
Showtime does such a great job at finding and attracting talent that writes very complex, dark, but hero like figures. I try my best to be a part of storytellers and filmmakers that are telling real, honest stories. Showtime does that. They do it in an entertaining way where people want to watch it. They do it in an honest way.
DC: Do you have someone dress or style you for big public events?
DC: Is fashion something you ever think about or a subject to be avoided?
JC: There are lots of brands of clothing that I love. I appreciate fashion.
DC: Favorite designers?
JC: I have a couple of suits in my closet that I wear. Beside that, I’m kind of a jeans and t-shirt Levis kind of guy.
DC: No Dsquared2 or 7?
JC: No. I like to keep it simple.