The actress talks to ET about making her directorial debut on Sunday's episode.
Shameless star Shanola Hampton is preparing to say goodbye. The Showtime drama will sign off after 11 seasons and Hampton, who's played Veronica since season 1, admits it's "surreal" to know she's about to end one significant chapter of her life.
"It's surreal. It's funny because for 11 years, I always knew we were coming back. It's just the advantage of a hit show. So this is the first time we're not coming back. We said goodbye to sets yesterday [March 8] that we will not be shooting in again and that was surreal," Hampton told ET's Kevin Frazier this week while promoting Sunday's episode, which she directed. "Big sets: the Gallagher house, Kevin and V's house. It's been insane."
With Shameless production winding down this week, the 43-year-old actress says "it has definitely not hit [her] yet" that she won't be slipping back into Veronica's shoes again.
"We keep saying, 'This is the last time. This is the last time we'll do this.' But I don't think that will happen until you're supposed to go back. Like hiatus is over and then it's like, 'Oh wait, I'm not going back to Shameless,'" Hampton said. "That's when I think it'll hit."
The actress revealed co-star Steve Howey, who plays Kevin, has "had some moments" in the final days of filming. "Emma [Kenney], who plays Debbie, she's had a few terrible times [being emotional]," Hampton said. "I haven't cried yet, 'cause I'm not a big crier, but everyone thinks the last day I'll cry. And maybe I will, maybe I'll boohoo. I probably will. My husband says I’m going to drive off and I'm just gonna [cry], so I'll take a video and let you know if that happens."
Hampton also revealed that she hopes the series finale isn't a "be all, end all" swan song, sharing desires to revisit the world of Shameless down the line. Even if that doesn't come to fruition, she promises fans will be "satisfied" with how the story ends.
"In the days of people com[ing] back after 10 years, I hope [it's not over]," Hampton said. "I'd love to see where these characters are 10 years from now or 15 years from now... But I am very pleased with this finale. John Wells has done a stellar job of really satisfying the fans, that I can say. I think people will feel satisfied, and you have a sense of going on with life with these characters even though you won't see them on the screen anymore."
"We're not dying," she clarified, later quipping, "Now listen, if I died, that means I can't come back in 10 years! We're not; I'm not dying."
Hampton credited William H. Macy, who portrays Frank, for welcoming her with open arms when it came time to direct Sunday's episode, which marks her directorial debut.
"I'm momma bear on the show, so they weren't going to treat me too badly," Hampton joked. "The truth is Bill Macy was the first one to knock on my trailer door with flowers and a card saying, 'You got this. Go get 'em and I believe in you.' That my entire cast just embraced me entering this new chapter that was so loving, it was overwhelming the support I received."
"But you also have to show I've done the work and I know what I'm doing, 'cause there are going to be moments where they're like, 'Hold on, I know you should know this. I know momma bear, but do I know her as a director?' So there's a moment of proving yourself and they would never admit that but you can see it in their eyes, like, 'Does she know?' and you have to say, 'Yes I do.'"
Shameless airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Showtime. For more, watch below.
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