St. Charles boy stars on new Showtime series

For the past four months, Ethan Cutkosky has been exposed to a family life far different from his own in St. Charles.

So much so that Ethan says, “I can't imagine living in a family like that.”

By Sunday night, countless other Americans may agree with Ethan.

That's when they'll be able to see the results of those four months of filming when the 11-year-old fifth-grader appears in the role of Carl Gallagher in the debut of “Shameless,” the new Showtime drama-comedy about a highly dysfunctional family from Chicago's South Side. The series debuts at 9 p.m. Sunday.

A year after playing the role of a demon in the movie “The Unborn,” Ethan is on a path to become one of the most prolific actors ever from the Fox Valley by landing his part on “Shameless,” which stars William H. Macy as Frank Gallagher, the hard-drinking, single father.

Ethan's new role isn't too far removed from that of a demon, though he hasn't had to spend as much time in the makeup chair to play Carl, the youngest of the six Gallagher children.

“Carl is definitely a devious character,” Ethan said during a phone interview from Los Angeles, where he was taking a break from filming the series' 11th episode. “He'll smoke a joint if he wants to, or he'll drink a beer.”

Ethan said that because Carl is the youngest in the family, he is definitely “on the verge of getting led astray” by all of the craziness around him.

Each episode of the show will focus on a different character, Ethan said, and Carl Gallagher gets his attention in episode six.

“He is just getting into a lot of trouble and having hard times at school,” Ethan said of his character. “Everyone will just have to watch and see.”

His previous roles in the films “The Unborn” and “Fred Claus” were filmed in Chicago, but only portions of “Shameless” are filmed in Chicago's Lawndale neighborhood. Being part of the cast has given Ethan exposure to daily life in L.A. for the first time.

“It's really fun out here and really exciting,” said Ethan, who continues to get daily lesson plans from his teacher at Bell-Graham Elementary in Campton Hills. He also works with his tutor in L.A. about four hours a day, in addition to as many as nine hours on the set when he has several scenes.

He hasn't been in show business long, but Ethan understands “Shameless” represents a family pushing the envelope in ways most TV families have never tried.

“I know there are people who have to live like this, and I feel real sorry for them,” Ethan said. “I send all of my prayers out to them.”

Ethan was first exposed to the entertainment business after being featured in an advertisement for Walgreens at age 4 and becoming a client of Gray Talent Group in Chicago.

His father, David Cutkosky, claims it was almost “a fluke” that Ethan chose acting as a pursuit.

Cutkosky said he and his wife, Yvonne, were looking for some different things for their only child to do, and decided to take him to a few talent agents to take photos.

“It started with the Walgreens ad, and it blossomed and took off from there,” Cutkosky said. “To Ethan, this is just a social life, and he doesn't think of it as work at all.”

And how does Dad feel about the family portrayed in “Shameless”?

“The writing is really good and the cast is wonderful, but we're just not sure how the rest of the world will look at it,” Cutkosky said. “When I first read the script, I felt that this is what ‘All in the Family' did in the 1970s, but this is much more ‘in your face.' ”