Shameless: Emmerdale actress Kelli Hollis discusses returning for finale starting tonight on Channel 4 (EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW)

by Anna Howell

With the final ever series of the hit Channel 4 hit, and now iconic, comedy drama, Shameless, due to begin tonight,  Unreality TV caught up with one of its original stars, Kelli Hollis – who made a return to the show, like many of the original cast did, for the shows grand finale.

Shameless first hit our screens ten years ago, exploding into our lives with a massive impact that no one could have predicted.

Paul Abbott, the shows writer and creator, introduced us to the, now infamous, Chatsworth estate, a council estate set in the heart of rural Manchester, and followed the lives of the Gallagher family, headed by bone idol alcoholic, frank (David Threlfall) and their close friends and neighbours.

Over the years the show, which has a cabinet bursting with awards and nominations and that was even made into a US series, has provided us with more comedy and drama than you can shake a stick at, including kidnaps, heists, prostitution and drugs, earning it a well-deserved place in the history books as one of the best British TV shows of all times.

Kelli Hollis, who is currently playing Ali Spencer in the hit ITV soap, Emmerdale, played Yvonne Karib, the long suffering wife of closet homosexual, Kash (played by Chris Bisson, who incidentally now plays Kelli’s on-screen boss, Jai Sharma in Emmerdale) for six years from the shows beginning.

Yvonne converted to Islam to marry Kash, and was far more devout than her now late husband. Although white, she always wore Asian dress and was originally never seen without a hijab, even when she split up with Kash and began a relationship with the local police officer, Stan.

Yvonne was last seen on our screens back in series after she borrowed money off Paddy Maguire to clear her massive debt but, after Stan was assaulted, she accepted Joe Pritchard’s offer to buy her out and she and Stan left the estate for a fresh start.

However, fans of the phenomenal Channel 4 show will be delighted to hear that Kelli is returning to reprise her role to mark the shows end after ten amazing years of entertaining the masses, and she has shared with us some of the backstage gossip, as well as giving us little clues as to what to expect from the series later this year.

Kelli joined the rest of her Emmerdale cast at last week’s National Television Awards where, to support her on-screen ex-husband, Liam Fox, who was nominated in the best newcomer category, she, along with the rest of the cast held up masks of Liam’s face when his name was read out.  We wanted to know whose idea that was:

“It was mine.  I had thought about it a few days before but I completely forgot then literally at 11pm the night before I remembered and so I had to get my fella to get the printer out.  I have watched the awards at home for years and years and have always thought it gets a bit boring, watching all those people all just sat there, so I decided to make it a bit more fun for Liam.”

Obviously Kelli’s schedule at Emmerdale is jam-packed, but she was happy to squeeze in a return to Shameless to mark the end of an era:

“It was amazing going back.  The fact that Emmerdale agreed to it was massive anyway, but then going back and seeing everyone again was just great.  The whole two days I went back for, I really couldn’t have asked for more, I couldn’t have had more fun if I tried.

“I am so lucky, the people there are brilliant, and a lot of us made a good living on the back of the show.  It wasn’t just a show to us.  There are people in the world like those in Shameless, who do shut their curtains and get up to all sorts, just like the Chatsworth estate, but it doesn’t make them bad people.”

Upon her casting in Emmerdale, Kelli was reunited with her Shameless husband, Chris Bisson.  Chris plays Kelli’s character, Ali’s boss jai Sharma in the hit ITV soap, which Kelli was thrilled about, but was worried would affect her getting the job:

We had the gap in between working together, which I think helped.  But Chris is so lovely; he is just like a little boy.  In fact he has just had his first little boy so he is off for the minuet, I am made up for him – he is going to be a brilliant dad.”

Kelli’s Shameless character, Yvonne, was definitely the boss of Chris back in the day, but now the roles are somewhat reversed:

“I think Chris prefers it this way round.  But I will be honest when I first went for Emmerdale I actually thought that might have been one of the things that went against me as I thought the similarities might have been too close to home having been married to him on Shameless.

“But when I got the job and after speaking to producers I found out that Chris had actually championed me that end saying “are you made she is right there in front of you, just give her the job”.  It was brilliant working with him again, we got on so well at Shameless, it was just really nice.  He especially liked it as he gets to boss me around a bit now.

“Well, up until he got my sister pregnant, so now I am just biding my time – I hope you enjoyed it while it lasted Chris!”

Many of the original Shameless cast have been rumoured to be returning for the grand finale, but Kelli explained that Chris was not one of them:

“In shameless Kash (Chris’ character) came back after faking his own death to get money out of us, which caused Yvonne to plan to kill him, gangster style.  But he overheard and went to see Chesney in the shop when there was a fire caused by the fireworks, which actually killed him properly, so he didn’t come back for the final.”

Kelli and Paul Abbott at the Shameless wrap party

Kelli and Paul Abbott at the Shameless wrap party

However, she went on to say that there will be other familiar faces returning to the show for the end:

“Dean Lennox Kelly (who played Kev Ball) who lived with Veronica next door came back.   Unfortunately, and I don’t know for what reason they couldn’t get Maxine Peake who played Veronica back, probably because she is super busy because I know that she really appreciated her time on the show.  Anne-Marie Duff (who played Fiona Gallagher) is back for the last episode as is Elliott Tittensor who played Carl Gallagher and Jody Latham who played Lip Gallagher.   Jody actually came back earlier in the series then they rebooked him again for the last episode. Oh, and Annabelle Apsion who played Monica is back too.  I was so grateful that I could see all these people again, I was wondering round seeing who else was there.  In a perfect world everyone would have come back.”

So, what surprises can we expect from the final?

“I’m not going to tell you storyline wise as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but the only clue I will give you is that it is final as far as the series goes but it’s not final for any of the characters.  Basically the show goes full circle and when it ends in the back of your mind you are going to know that they will always be there, doing all the same things which I thought was quite nice actually.”

There is no huge disaster or explosion then?

“No.  At first I thought that might have been good as I thought you would have to do something so final for that sort of series, but actually when I read it through it was lovely and it really works.”

So has the door been left open for a reunion or comeback somewhere down the line?

“I really don’t know.  As far as Paul Abbott is concerned he got it out there and was so pleased with how well it went, he was so happy that everyone loved it.   But I think it was more a personal thing for him, to close the door, end the chapter and get some closure from it.”

We asked Kelli, now that the end is in sight, to share with us some of her fondest memories from her time in Shameless:

“That is so hard, give me a minute.  Storyline wise I am spoilt for choice but there was a really lovely scene quite near the beginning when a couple of bailiffs came into the shop.  Frank Gallagher was there dressed as a woman I had to use a baseball bat, which was possibly the first time I had been given a weapon.  I enjoyed that, that was really really fun.

“Another scene that everyone remembers is from a Christmas special where we first discovered the amazing Alice Barry who plays Lillian, that was Alice’s first scene as an extra playing just a customer but we all just fell in love with her, it was like ’oh where did you spring from’ so that was a lovely day.  Me and Alice are still really good friends now.

“Personally for me the best part about working on Shameless was the support the crew and cast give each other.  We all have bad days when we don’t feel like doing anything, but we have to go to work, we can’t phone in sick.

“One period of my life while working on the show was like that, I had a few personal family issues, which was really stressful having to go to and from family court.  But they just really backed me up all the way.  I used to go into work really upset, with eyes like golf balls where I had been crying all night and they were just so amazing, all of them, all the time.  That’s one of the things that I am really grateful for.”

One of the things that set Shameless standing out above the rest was the sing-alongs that all the cast performed at the end of each series, we wanted to know which of these was Kelli’s favourite:

“It has got to be Take That never forget which was played at the end of Karen and Jamie’s wedding at the end of the series.  That’s definitely my favourite.”

Finally we asked Kelli to sum up Shameless in one line:

“If I was to describe it to someone who had never seen it – it is a world where anything can happen… and usually does (I added that bit but Kelli said I could use it!

Watch Kelli’s, and our, favourite sing-along in the clip below: