“I cannot be weak,” protests Frank Gallagher as Shameless returns tonight.
The new – ninth – series begins with two extended episodes screened at 10pm over consecutive nights.
With many Chatsworth estate residents evicted from their homes in an official crackdown.
A politically-motivated move which aims to eventually clear the entire area.
I returned to the Manchester Shameless HQ late last year to spend another day on set.
Talking again to many cast members – old and new.
My latest Shameless feature ran in the MEN on Saturday – and is online below.
FRANK Gallagher and the Chatsworth estate residents face a battle for their very survival when they return to the screen.
A new series of Shameless (Channel 4, Monday, 10pm) begins with the locals under attack in two extended episodes screened over consecutive nights.
Frank (David Threlfall) is making a spectacle of himself at the opticians before the whirlwind that is Operation New Start arrives on the estate.
The multi-agency benefits crackdown leads to eviction for half of the residents, including the Gallaghers, with their homes boarded up and some forced to sleep rough.
At one stage Frank ends up in Manchester’s Midland Hotel as others seek sanctuary in The Jockey with officials, led by Carmen Kenaway (Morwenna Banks) and her sidekick Feeney (Judy Flynn), hell bent on turning the estate into an empty urban wasteland.
Meanwhile Jackson Powell, played by Salford-raised Emmanuel Ighodaro, has finally graduated as a teacher with Carl Gallagher (Elliott Tittensor) about to do the same at the police training school.
Episode two sees a new face sat at the bar next to Frank – Chatsworth hairdresser and beautician Gloria, played by former The Commitments and EastEnders actress Angeline Ball.
She will be joined later in this ninth series by her brother Dominic, a role taken by Salford actor Stephen Lord. He’s a lapsed Catholic priest with a taste for alcohol and women.
“Gloria has been on the Chatsworth for quite a while but you haven’t seen her yet. She seems to know everybody,” explains the Irish actress.
“My first scene in the pub was terrifying and brilliant at the same time. I actually took a picture on my iPhone of the little words ‘The Jockey’ never to forget. It was pretty daunting, to be honest with you. But that’s why we do it.”
She recalls: “It was either do this or do a Sam Shepard play. It would have been easier to take the play because then if I was rubbish in that people would have seen it for four weeks and it would be gone. But with Shameless you’re putting yourself on the line.”
TV producers wanted the new character to be a local. “You have to dive into that deep end and do a Mancunian accent. It really helps me get into the character, along with the make-up, the hair and the outfits.
“It’s very nice to put Gloria on in the morning and go with whatever I feel I can go with. It frees me up to be as shameless as you can be in some episodes.”
Explains Angeline: “Gloria’s idols would be people like Katie Price and she’d watch The Only Way Is Essex. That’s the kind of look we’re aiming for. Except it’s Chatsworth style. It’s our version. The Only Way Is Chatsworth.
“My hair is in a bob at the moment. It’s Gloria’s version of Beyonce. So it’s supposed to not look great. Further down the line when I have more emotional stuff to deal with I would like people to see her without the mask. There’s more to come of her.”
Was Angeline a Shameless fan? “Absolutely. It continues to be a quality show with fantastic actors and the scripts are brilliant. Everybody is on their toes.
“I was a bit daunted coming in to the show. There were a lot of things to worry about, including me being Irish and playing Mancunian. It’s certainly been a challenge. I was going to go on tape being Mancunian and Irish.
“And after I did the Mancunian they said, ‘Don’t even bother doing the Irish one.’ So that was good. I hope! I wouldn’t have wanted to do it if it wasn’t spot on.”
New regular cast members on the Wythenshawe film set usually find a sex scene looming as part of their induction to the Chatsworth. But Angeline had to wait several months for her big moment.
“The first one was with David who was wonderful because he understands how nervous you can be. That set me up for the rest of them. I’ve only done two so far. And also you know the editing is going to be quite brilliant.
“The crew are also so wonderfully gentlemanly about it. They’re very respectful. They don’t stare. There was a sound guy on one of them and I’m sure he got a full look at something. But he just had his head turned away at all times. No-one asked him to do that. They’re just really nice.”
As with many things on the Chatsworth, Gloria’s business isn’t totally legal. She runs it from her home opposite the parade of shops on a new set yet to be seen by viewers. “It’s quite an honour to have that built for the character.”
And how are Angeline’s real life hairdressing skills? “Rubbish,” she laughs.
“Somebody said to me that I should start opening salons around the north of England.
“I probably couldn’t even cut the ribbon.”