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From 'Shameless' to 'The Conners': Emma Rose Kenney's Acting Journey
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Emma Rose Kenney, born September 14, 1999, in New York City, is an American actress renowned for her roles as Debbie Gallagher on Showtime's "Shameless" and Harris Conner-Healy on ABC's "The Conners." Kenney's early passion for filmmaking was evident when she wrote, directed, and starred in her own short film at just nine years old. Her breakout role in "Shameless" showcased her acting prowess over a decade, while her transition to "The Conners" highlighted her versatility in both comedy and drama. Beyond her acting career, Kenney is a dedicated animal rights advocate, co-founding a dog rescue and promoting adoption. Her close bonds with her "Shameless" co-stars, various award nominations, and diverse filmography underscore her rising star status in the entertainment industry.

 

Kenney's Early Life and Family

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Emma Rose Kenney was born on September 14, 1999, in Manhattan, New York City, to Gillian Kenney, a criminal defense lawyer, and Kevin Kenney, a sports writer who formerly wrote for the New York Post and now works for Fox Sports. From a young age, Kenney demonstrated a strong interest in acting and the entertainment industry. At the age of five, she began taking improv classes to hone her skills and soon started working in commercials, showcasing her natural talent and passion for performing.
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Kenney's Early Acting Career in Short Films

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At just nine years old, Emma Kenney demonstrated her early passion for filmmaking by writing, directing, and starring in her own short film. Her four-minute horror comedy, "The New Girl in Town," was selected as a finalist for the 2009 New Jersey International Film Festival at Rutgers University, making Kenney the youngest filmmaker to receive this honor. The film, which featured four girls at a sleepover discovering one of their friends is a vampire, showcased Kenney's creativity and humor. She described her intent to make the film as scary as possible, though it ultimately turned out to be "really funny". This early success in filmmaking foreshadowed Kenney's future career in the entertainment industry.
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Emma Kenney's Breakout Role as Debbie Gallagher in Shameless

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Emma Kenney's breakout role came in 2011 when she was cast as Debbie Gallagher in the Showtime series "Shameless" at the age of 10. She portrayed the character for the entirety of the show's run, from 2011 to 2021, appearing in 134 episodes. As Debbie, the fourth-oldest Gallagher sibling, Kenney grew up on screen alongside her co-stars, including William H. Macy who played her on-screen father. The role allowed Kenney to showcase her acting skills in a complex, long-running dramedy, establishing her as a talented young actress in the television industry. Her performance as Debbie Gallagher became one of her most recognizable and career-defining roles to date.
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Emma Kenney: Rising Star (Photos)

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Kenney's Awards and Accolades

Emma Kenney has received recognition for her acting talents through various award nominations. Here is a brief overview of her notable awards and honors:
AwardCategoryResult
Screen Actors Guild AwardsOutstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series (Shameless)Nominated (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)
Young Artist AwardsBest Performance in a TV Series - Recurring Young Actress (Shameless)Nominated (2012)
Kenney has been nominated four times alongside her Shameless cast members for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series, demonstrating the collective talent and chemistry of the show's actors. Additionally, she received a Young Artist Award nomination in 2012 for her recurring role as Debbie Gallagher in Shameless, showcasing her early promise as a young actress.
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Kenney's Filmography and Notable Roles

Emma Kenney has built an impressive filmography since beginning her acting career as a child. Here is a brief overview of some of her most notable roles:
ProjectRoleYear
ShamelessDebbie Gallagher2011-2021
The ConnersHarris Conner-Healy2018-present
RoseanneHarris Conner-Healy2018
Murder at Yellowstone CityRebecca Davies2022
Robert the BruceBriana2019
EpicMarigold Girl (voice)2013
Boardwalk EmpireAylesh Rohan2011
Kenney's breakout role as Debbie Gallagher in the Showtime series Shameless spanned 11 seasons from 2011 to 2021. She then transitioned to playing Harris Conner-Healy in the Roseanne revival and its spin-off, The Conners, starting in 2018. Kenney has also appeared in films such as the historical drama Robert the Bruce and the animated feature Epic. Her other television credits include a guest role on Boardwalk Empire early in her career.
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Emma Kenney: Actress Spotlight (Interviews)

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Emma Kenney's Enduring Relationships with 'Shameless' Cast Members

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Emma Kenney developed close bonds with her Shameless co-stars during the show's 11-season run. She has expressed that the cast will "always be in touch" and remain "a family," even after the series ended in 2021. Kenney is particularly close with Jeremy Allen White, who played her on-screen brother Lip Gallagher. She has praised White's talent and success, stating, "I'm such a big fan of Jeremy; everything he does, he does so well, and I'm not surprised to see the amount of success he's receiving." White recently won his second consecutive Golden Globe for his acclaimed performance in the FX series The Bear. Kenney's Shameless co-stars have playfully suggested that White could make a guest appearance on The Conners, with Laurie Metcalf envisioning him as an overqualified chef at the Lanford Lunch Box. While Kenney had a strong bond with most of her Shameless castmates, her relationship with Emmy Rossum, who played her eldest sister Fiona, was more complex. Kenney has admitted to feeling anxious before filming scenes with Rossum, as her co-star's mood could impact the entire set. Despite this, Kenney maintains respect and affection for Rossum, wishing her happiness even though they have lost touch over the years.
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Kenney's Animal Advocacy and Hobbies

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Emma Kenney is a passionate advocate for animal rights and adoption. She recently co-founded a dog rescue called Yogi's House, which focuses on saving dogs from euthanasia at kill shelters, providing them with training, and finding them forever homes. Kenney often uses her social media platforms to raise awareness about animal rights issues and to help animals in need find homes. She encourages people to always adopt pets from shelters rather than buying from breeders or pet stores, debunking myths that shelter animals are not as desirable. Kenney has stated, "Adoption gives animals a second chance at life and helps fight puppy mills, which are horribly inhumane." Beyond her animal advocacy work, Kenney is a proud vegan who only wears faux leather. She has modeled a shirt in support of Corky, the longest-held captive orca.
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Closing Thoughts on Kenney's Career

Emma Kenney's film and television career has been marked by significant roles and a diverse array of projects. From her early days as a child actress in commercials and short films to her breakout role as Debbie Gallagher in "Shameless," Kenney has consistently demonstrated her talent and versatility. Her portrayal of Harris Conner-Healy in "The Conners" further solidified her status as a prominent young actress in the industry. Kenney's filmography includes notable performances in "Robert the Bruce" and "Murder at Yellowstone City," showcasing her ability to tackle a variety of genres. As she continues to take on new roles, Kenney's career trajectory suggests a promising future in both film and television.
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