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St. Charles actor Ethan Cutkowsky returns for season 3 of ‘Shameless’

William H. Macy Ethan Cutkosky prepare for take set an episode Showtime show Shameless downtown Chicago Ill. Wednesday November 7

William H. Macy and Ethan Cutkosky prepare for a take on the set of an episode of the Showtime show Shameless in downtown Chicago, Ill., on Wednesday, November 7, 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 14, 2013 6:25AM

It’s easy to see how Ethan Cutkosky’s friends would be jealous.

While they’re studying math and English at Thompson Middle School in St. Charles, the seventh-grader is going for joyrides, lighting things on fire and generally getting up to no good on the set of “Shameless,” Showtime’s dark, irreverent comedy that starts its third season Sunday.

Based on a British series by the same name, the Stateside version centers on a hard-scrabble Chicago family rich with problems but poor in money.

William H. Macy is Emmy-worthy as Frank, the perpetually drunk, absentee patriarch of the Gallagher clan. Ethan is his mischievous, bound-for-juvie son Carl, the second youngest of the six Gallagher kids.

“He gets to play this character doing what he would probably really like to do as a little boy,” said Ethan’s mom, Yvonne Cutkosky.

Yvonne and her husband, David, along with Ethan’s tutor, accompanied the young actor on set in November when “Shameless” made its semi-annual trip to Chicago to shoot part of the new season. This particular scene with Frank and Carl unfolded in a tony Michigan Avenue penthouse overlooking Millennium Park — a far cry from the Gallagher’s “real” home at 2119 S. Homan.

Ethan was sporting a new pair of braces, and “Shameless” fans know orthodontia is a luxury the Gallaghers can’t afford. The writers address it in the premiere, when we learn Fiona Gallagher’s (Emmy Rossum) boyfriend, Jimmy/Steve (Justin Chatwin), forked over $2,000 for Carl’s tin grin.

Carl gets more than a better smile this season; he also has more screen time.

“Cancer and camp,” Ethan says, summing up his character’s main storylines.

In the third episode, unscrupulous Frank convinces Carl he has cancer so he can score Bulls tickets from a charity. (Never has a show so lived up to its name.)

Last season, Carl’s toy chest included automatic weapons. He wrecked the car after his crazy-pants mother let him drive. He was happy as a kid at Christmas when he found a bag of discarded meth in his backyard, where he also went duck hunting.

Yvonne Cutkosky said her son isn’t nearly as rambunctious in real life — good news for the St. Charles Police Department. Ethan’s only guns are of the Airsoft variety. He spends his time skateboarding, playing lacrosse and hanging out with his west suburban friends. (“They’re not supposed to, but they watch the show,” he confides.)

Unlike Carl, Ethan is an animal lover, not killer. He has a cat named Bear, a couple of anoles, a fire-bellied toad and a crested gecko.

An only child, Ethan started acting in commercials at the age of 4. At 7, he had his first film break, appearing with Vince Vaughn in “Fred Clause.” A year later he landed a role in the horror flick “The Unborn” with Gary Oldman.

When he grows up, Ethan, 13, wants to be a microbiologist, not an actor.

“Acting’s more like a career for right now,” he said, sounding very un-Carl-like, “to pay for college.”

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