From the moment she started acting at age 4, Shanola Hampton fell for the craft. Her first taste of theater was from an after school program called WINGS, which her mother got her involved with in their hometown of Charleston, South Carolina. From acting classes to time on stage, acting soon became her ultimate passion, surpassing the hobby her family thought it was.
“I like that you get to emerge yourself in someone else’s world, and it’s a great outlet to express feelings that you normally wouldn’t be allowed to express as yourself,” Hampton said. “You get to get into the minds of other people, even for a brief moment.”
This dedication to acting followed Hampton to her undergrad years studying theater at Winthrop University to the University of Illinois, where she received a master’s degree in Fine Arts. Hampton said that by majoring in theater, she was able to understand the theater world a little more and that getting her degree allowed her to hone her craft and learn how to take risks. Those risks paid off, and now, she can be found starring as Veronica Fisher on Showtime’s Shameless, which was renewed for a sixth season in January.
Upon reading the first script back in 2011, Hampton was instantly drawn to the character of Veronica. “I thought she was an open book, so fierce about life and unapologetic about her feelings, but never in a nasty way. I knew that this was a role I just had to play,” she said.
And for the past five seasons, she has.
“Veronica has just been so much fun, and because we have had the blessing of being on the air for so long, I’ve gotten to go through her evolution,” she said. “She went from not wanting to have children, to desperately trying to have children, to having twins, and struggling with what it means to be a mother. I’m getting to do so much of her adult life, and that’s really exciting.”
As Shameless heads into its sixth season, Hampton still views the first season as yielding some of her favorite moments on set. “All of our group scenes hanging in the kitchen or having a party—those are our best moments because the cast is so funny, and we have so much fun. It’s really awful for the director because it’s hard to reign us all in, but some of my favorite moments are those from season one.”
Her time on Shameless has helped her diversify the projects she has pursued since the first season, which include 2013’s Things Never Said and 2014’s Suburban Gothic. “Any time you are on a great show, you are very particular about the projects that you choose after,” she said. “It has helped me be more selective in the things that I do, and I’m also trying to choose things that are really different from Veronica, so people don’t get in their heads that I am one specific thing.”
Her latest films include Worthy, which made its premiere at the Newport Beach International Film Festival in April, and Forever, which will be released later this year.
Worthy follows an aspiring actress trying to make it in Los Angeles, and Hampton plays a casting director who gives her a rough time. “It was nice to be on the other side of the table and get a chance to portray what I sometimes see when I go into auditions,” she said.