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He is careful to modulate Frank’s drunken state as the day wears on.

“For a scene that takes place at 11 o’clock in the morning, well, that’s a four-beer buzz,” he explains, “as opposed to 11:30 at night, when Frank’s speech is very slurred.”

Playing a drunk, which Macy deems less a thespian technique than “a parlor trick,” comes with pitfalls: A great impersonation of a drunk can distract an actor from the primary substance of the scene.

“But if I’m pretty clear what the scene is about, then I just add on the drunkenness _ slurring or stumbling _ and it takes care of itself.”

Wardrobe helps too.

“I wear the same clothes almost all the time,” he says. “And I pride myself on this, as does our costumer, Lyn (Paolo): I’ve never had a fitting. She has sent me pants with the top two buttons missing and the waist too big. So I put a belt on it, I fix it. With Frank, close is good enough.”

If Frank is reliably scruffy, there’s one big change coming up. As Macy displays at this recent interview, his hair, previously near shoulder-length, has been shorn.

“I cut it for the show. I cut it ON the show in a future episode. I won’t give away why,” he says. “And it was a daunting decision. I did have a great head of hair. I’d lived with it for three years, and I’d gotten used to it.”

Still, Macy isn’t the type to let vanity get in the way of a good role or a great performance.

Although he has achieved offbeat leading-man status in such films as “Fargo” (for which he landed an Oscar nomination) and the made-for-TV “Door to Door” (which he also co-wrote), the 62-year-old Macy has had a busy career on screen and on stage as a celebrated character actor.

But a few years ago, he got the hankering to headline a TV series.

By then his wife, Felicity Huffman, was flourishing on “Desperate Housewives,” Macy notes, “and she loved every part of it. I was jealous. I said, `I want to do TV, too!’”

So far, so good.

“I love `Shameless’ so much!” he says. “You get big stuff to do in scenes that are tough to do, with volumes of dialogue and a character who talks fast. You have to know your part inside and out. It really tests you as an actor, every single week. And I’m a better actor for it. I wish I’d done this earlier in my career.”

He mentions the book “The Outliers,” in which author Malcolm Gladwell advances the theory that if you practice something _ anything _ for 10,000 hours, you reach a key threshold of expertise. According to Gladwell, people recognized as experts have logged that length of service.

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