Don't gimme no Lip child

HE FINALLY lost his virginity in the last series of Shameless, but it looks like Chatsworth Estate's cheeky bright spark, Lip Gallagher, may have to ditch his newly acquired pulling pants after discovering that he is well on his way to becoming a teenage dad.

"We already know that Lip has experienced the first step to becoming a young man and he's discovered what becoming a teenager is all about, shall we say - and we get a full insight in this series as there's a lot of casual sex and sleeping around!" laughs Jody Latham, who plays the streetwise Lip.

As well as Lip's abject horror at finding that there is more to life than casual sex, Paul Abbott's third series of Shameless also sees little Liam denouncing religion, Tourette's Syndrome-suffering Marty getting all loved up, and Sheila's valium-fuelled white wedding dream becoming so massive that even Frank can't ignore the event of the century.

In fact, the return of the outrageously dysfunctional Gallagher clan and their rabble of mentally challenged neighbours promises even more barely controlled hysteria than ever before, according to Lancashire-born Latham.

"There are a few more headbutts involved - not just from men but off women as well - and this series will be as graphic, as hard, as fun, as loving and as touching as everybody expects from Shameless," he grins widely, making it clear that there is more than a touch of himself in Lip's cheeky chappy charm.

"There's this new love interest that goes tits up, horribly wrong, because the new girl has a brother who ends up going and sleeping with Ian - things start going missing from the house, no-one can work out what's happening and then the story unfolds from there," he says.

Just to complicate matters further, 23-year-old Latham - himself a father in his late teens - reveals that Lip's baby daughter is born to Mandy Maguire, a young member of Chatsworth Estate's hardest family, and definitely not the kind of people to be messed with.

"They won't let Lip see baby Katy, which is really tough on him because he wants to get involved with her life even though he still wants to enjoy himself - that really hits a nerve and it's a bit of a tear-jerking moment really, which is quite sweet," he explains.

"Then it becomes more apparent that he's not only interested in the baby - he's interested in possibly taking things further with Mandy and realises that he actually loves her."

Latham says that there are a number of surprisingly touching scenes involving the young couple - although one inevitably results in Mandy stalking off and calling Lip all the names under the sun.

"She makes it apparent that he doesn't deserve her or the baby, regardless of what her Mum and Dad think, and then it's up to Lip to prove that he does care about her and that he does want to get involved in the baby's life.

"I really don't want to spoil the story, but basically he goes out and finds the juvenile who causes Mandy to have a premature birth due to an incident which involves her getting knocked over.

"He passes the information on to the Maguires, which results in them giving him getting an opportunity to see baby Katy on organised visits, and shall we say it ends with Lip and Mandy getting a little bit closer," Latham laughs loudly.

Since its debut on Channel 4 in 2004, award-winning Shameless has recruited an army of fiercely loyal fans. Although the third series will be sadly missing Anne-Marie Duff as Fiona and James McAvoy as Steve, Latham is confident that their absence will not diminish the show's huge popularity.

"Audience reactions are always good, they're always positive, which is great, and the show is still very consistent," Latham explains.

"At the end of the day it's not just down to the cast, it's an ensemble piece including the crew, the writers, the producers and everyone else - we've all got to chip in and as long as everyone is happy and the job is being done properly then the show will come across just as brilliantly as everyone says it is."

And while Latham's exceptionally intelligent character Lip is a massive hit with Shameless viewers, it seems that the actor himself is a bit of star off-screen as well - especially when he goes out for a few drinks.

"Sometimes it can be a little bit scary when you're out drinking in the pub and everyone is in a relaxed mood, because then people feel like they have more of an opportunity to come and speak to me as they're in an open environment," he says.

"It can result in having quite a few people around you all asking questions and saying things like, 'Speak to my friend on the phone', 'Come over here and meet my friends' or 'Come and say hi to my bird who you've never met before' - and I'm like, 'No, I won't take my top off for your camera phone!'," Latham grins.

"It can be quite daunting but it's all part of the job - and I'm quite a pleasant person, I'm a chit-chatty sort of guy anyway, so I just go along with it.

"You look around at your peers and friends who are also in the limelight, whether they be comedians, singers or actors, and watch how they deal with it, then you learn to just go with the flow - and it always helps when you've got a couple of glasses of vino down your neck, of course."

But regardless of his ever-growing fan base, Latham is a real family man at heart and loved spending Christmas with his four- year-old son at home in Lancashire.

"I spent Christmas with little Jack and my parents - actually Mum has just moved into a new house which my Dad has just finished building and she's over the moon about it," he beams.

"We had all of the family round - it was a big old table with about 15 chairs around it and a lot of stress in the kitchen." He adds in character: "And all the presents were for me, me, me!"

• Shameless, Channel 4, Tuesday, 10pm