Shameless is the antihero of dramas. The characters appear to be irredeemable misfits who do terrible things — the alcoholic patriarch abandons his children and continuously steals from them, the brilliant oldest brother squanders opportunities by jumping into toxic relationships (like with his married professor) and the psychotic younger brother gleefully bullies others. Yet this motely crew has made Shameless the longest-running series in Showtime’s history. One of the reasons why is actor Steve Howey, who plays lovable lunk Kevin Ball with nuance and humor.
We chatted with the 41-year-old Southern California native to find out why Shameless is so addictive, what it was like growing up on a sailboat and about his new venture OPKIXOne (seemingly made for travel influencers, the 1.4-inch camera captures 15 minutes of continuous footage and can be used hands-free). Still, Shameless fans will be most excited to hear about Howey’s forthcoming project with onscreen wife and real-life close friend Shanola Hampton.
Why do you think Shameless resonates so much with viewers?
The two key elements are great writing and great acting. My whole thing is if you watch Shameless, you either feel better about your life, or you relate to the characters and issues on the show.
Do you see any similarities between you and your character?
Yes. We both know our wife is the boss [laughs]. [Editor’s note: Howey is married to actress Sarah Shahi.] We both have twins. So, we share those things in common.
Do you have any hopes for Kevin or the rest of the Shameless clan for the forthcoming season 10?
It’ll definitely be different since Emmy Rossum left.
I love inhabiting Kevin. I’m always excited to see where the writers take him. It’s something new for me. I’ve made a lot of lifelong friends on the show, and I look forward to sharing more memories with them. It’s very cool.
You grew up on a 67-foot yacht called Valkyrien. How did that experience shape you?
We were docked in Mariners Village, which is in San Pedro. So, we traveled up and down the Pacific Coast in the L.A. area. Then, we sold that and bought a 38-foot schooner and cruised up and down Baja California and Mexico.
I used to play with the local kids in Mexico. I’d give my toys to them. I’d collect empty bottles with them and trade them for pesos. I learned Spanish by hanging out with them. It made me realize we’re all relatively the same; we’re just brought up in different places and under different circumstances.
Travel is the best education, in my opinion. I’ve always said that. It’s better than any kind of book you can read or class and lecture you could attend. It’s the ultimate life lesson.
What are some of your best memories from sailing up and down the Pacific coastline?
I saw Halley’s Comet. It only happens every  years. I swam with sharks. We almost capsized in a gale, which is a storm that’s on the sea. This is all while I was a little boy.
I got to fish for lunch and dinner. I really learned how to survive on the ocean.
Do you prefer traveling on a boat now?
Yes and no. I love the ocean and have so many formative memories about it. At the same time, my heart is broken over how much we’ve polluted the ocean. It’s hard for me to be out there.
When I can, I do like to travel on boats.
What are your favorite vacation spots?
I’d definitely say Mexico is among my favorites, as well as British Columbia, Italy and the Amalfi Coast. It’s about the culture, the people and the water for each one.
Shameless is set in Chicago. Do you have any favorite Windy City spots?
I love Chicago! It’s been very good to us. We’ve been very well taken care of by the city. They have the best food there. You can’t get any better than Porto’s.
We shoot around the South Side. It’s a lot different in terms of lifestyle. Downtown and the river are beautiful. The city has a great spirit. We eat like crazy, and it seems like we’re always at Porto’s at some point.
Do you have any favorite hotels?
We used to always stay at The James, but it’s no longer there. My favorite hotel is the Chicago Athletic Association. It used to be a private club for all of the wealthy and affluent people. Now, it’s a hotel with an amazing rooftop restaurant overlooking Millennium Park.
Which places are on your travel bucket list?
Scotland, because I have Scottish blood in me. Then, there’s Alaska. It’s the last frontier in America. I really want to go to Japan, too.
Why did you get involved with OPKIX?
I met with OPKIX CEO Lawrence Greaves. His enthusiasm and excitement regarding the project were really contagious, to say the least. I just fell in love with the product and the potential and possibilities for my family and my travel and adventure, because I’m a surfer, snowboarder and motocross rider. I want to use the camera for all of that, and it’s perfectly suited to it. I also am active on social media. The camera is great for that.
What drew you to your upcoming new film, Making Babies?
I really wanted to work with Eliza Coupe, and I really wanted to play this character who seemed like a normal guy. He’s really healthy. He’s an entrepreneur. He was someone I’d never played before. He’s an average joe.
His perfect life and marriage is tested, because they can’t get pregnant. It’s the one thing they wanted — to have a family. I wanted to play that.
To work on the reality these characters are going through but having the opportunity to play both the comedy and drama of the situation was really gratifying on a creative level.
What else are you working on?
I’m starting a podcast with Shanola Hampton. It’s going to be awesome, because she’s really funny. She reins me in.
The experience with OPKIX has been great. I’m definitely interested in expanding my own brand and reach as an entrepreneur and continuing to champion new ideas and visionary concepts.
Additionally, I’m going to run more marathons and give back wherever I can. Of course, I want to spend as much time with my kids as possible.