A MILLION LITTLE THINGS Post-Mortem: DJ Nash on the Fallout from the PJ Reveal and What Comes Next - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

A MILLION LITTLE THINGS Post-Mortem: DJ Nash on the Fallout from the PJ Reveal and What Comes Next

November 21, 2019 by  

A Million Little Things Midseason Finale spoilers

A MILLION LITTLE THINGS – “time stands still” – Rome helps PJ through a personal crisis, while Gary and Maggie’s relationship takes a turn; and Delilah, Eddie and Katherine make tough decisions that will affect their families on the fall finale of “A Million Little Things,” airing THURSDAY, NOV. 21 (9:01-10:01 p.m. EST), on ABC. (ABC)

[Warning: This post contains major spoilers from the A MILLION LITTLE THINGS fall finale, “time stands still.”]

A MILLION LITTLE THINGS ended its 2019 run on an emotional note.

Though the DNA test said that PJ (Chandler Riggs) was Jon’s (Ron Livingston) son, the group was working with faulty evidence: the sweater they tested actually belonged to Jon’s best friend, Dave (who was killed on 9/11), whom Barbara (Drea de Matteo) insisted was the young man’s father all along.

Unfortunately, the news upset PJ, who had at least found consolation in befriending the friends of the man he thought was his father. Distraught, he contemplated suicide, until Rome (Romany Malco) was able to talk him off the figurative and literal ledge.

But what comes next? Series creator DJ Nash broke down the episode’s biggest moments and teased what’s ahead…

The show has obviously depicted a suicide and suicidal thoughts, but the sequence in the midseason finale is probably the longest period of prolonged agony you’ve had to portray on screen. What was the balance like on set to make sure you got the powerful moment but kept everyone safe?
From the very beginning, from the first TCA that I did, I’ve been really clear that we don’t want the struggles that our characters have to be a trigger for our viewers. The only thing we want is for our viewers to feel seen and to feel understood. And bring a voice to a subject that has been silent too long.

We knew we were going to do this episode for a long time; the whole season was really built around this moment. And for me, there’s a certain amount of rules that—working with our consultant Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, that I have worked with since the first moments of the show—working with her, there were certain things that I wanted to make sure we did.

One was to have a warning at the top of episode, to warn viewers that this was going to be intense. The other thing we wanted to do, and ABC was awesome to allow us to do, was to put the PSA at the end of the show. But probably, most importantly, was that from the moment PJ is in crisis, we do not leave that scene. We do not break an act. We don’t go to commercial. We stay in it until it’s resolved. That’s very much by design. It’s very different than the structure we normally do on our show, when we jump from scene to scene for pace. But in terms of this, I wanted to make sure that once he is in jeopardy we resolve it.

From a creative standpoint, the story was so important to me, having lost a friend to suicide, having always wondered if we’d had that lunch or if we’ve done that thing, if you know we could have changed it. I really wanted to put Rome in that situation. I wanted Rome, who couldn’t save Jon—whose death saved him—to be in a situation where he’s standing on that roof with the kid who had treated like a son all season, and to talk him down.

Last week, there was a beautiful moment where Rome, as he was grieving his mother, acknowledged he was sad, but not suicidal. How much of that was intentional so viewers knew he wasn’t going actually do anything reckless on the ledge?
Very much by design. Episode 6, 7, 8, and 9 were built to sort of crescendo. It’s so important. The last episode, it was built around that speech. It’s so important for Rome to realize that even with the death of his mother, the emotions that he’s having, the sadness he’s having is appropriate. You’re supposed to feel sad when the person you love dies. But then, that moment passes. Whereas depression, for some people, doesn’t go away. And so for him to be able to distinguish between the two is a huge win for Rome. It’s a huge important part in Regina feeling like they could start a chapter in their life involving a kid. It really was very much, built by design.

And yes, the decision to put himself in jeopardy—he’s not suicidal. In fact, before we even get PJ up on that edge, Maggie says, “Trust me, he doesn’t want to die.” And I think that’s really, really important and not something that people should diagnose when they’re evaluating their own friends and themselves. But in this situation, PJ is upset and at a loss, but he doesn’t step on that roof with a premeditation to take his own life.

PJ was off to treatment by the end of the episode, but he had gotten very close to the group. What role does he have with the show going forward?
So, one of the things that was important to me in depicting PJ’s look to the edge of the roof was that situation escalated and requires an evaluation and requires medical attention and help. So PJ actually steps away from the series for a few episodes, so that we can make sure that his character is getting the help. It’s not like, oh, tomorrow you can go to Dixons. That’s not the message we want to send. We want to send the message that an attempted suicide or thought of suicide is very serious and requires therapy.

Will his return be this season, or is that still TBD?
He does not come back in the early episodes [of 2020], and we’re looking at whether we have him back at the end of the season, or beginning of next season.

Regina and Rome are now looking to expand their family via adoption. How much will that be a part of their story moving forward?
It’s really big. It’s a really big story; it’s their story for the rest of the season: all of the things that go into adoption. Not just filling out the application and trying to pair with someone, but looking at questions about how they were raised and whether they want to raise their child in the same way or in a different way than the way they were raised. Obviously, Regina has a very complicated relationship with her mother based on being a survivor of child sexual assault. So that’s something for her to think about. And also for Rome, whose father wasn’t as understanding of his depression, that’s something to think about. And, also, now that Rome is no longer on the child side of this mother-son relationship, it really does bring up issues for him about, “Maybe I want to be a parent just so I can have that bond that I’m now missing.”

So there’s a lot of that. And then questions of race. When you go to adopt a child, does it not matter? Does it matter? What’s important? And for Regina, who has implied in a couple places [that] she struggled with finding her place in the world, deciding the race of her child is this important.

Delilah had been firm about keeping the truth about Charlie’s paternity from her kids, but opted to tell them the truth in the aftermath of PJ’s suicide attempt…and now everything is a mess. How do the two families recover from here?
I mean if there’s an image that sticks with you it’s Sophie smashing that guitar. Listen, not everyone who is Team Katherine understands the Team Delilah position, but whether you agree with her decision or not, Delilah’s decision to not tell the kids was not selfish, it was selfless. She was trying to protect them and make sure that they still had a mother after having lost their father. And now seeing Sophie’s response to her mother’s affair and the fact that she had an affair with the man who taught her how to play guitar is really tough and moving. And so, as bad as they thought it was going to be, it’s even worse. We saw Danny get up from that table, you see Sophie smash the guitars, and then you see sweet little Theo take it all in.

And so, in the back half of the season we will be seeing the fallout of that. And we will see Katherine and Delilah come together with Eddie to clean up the mess that is now their family.

Gary got to have a big moment as he pointed out the importance of their family by choice. How does that mindset change things going forward?
Gary’s always had this underlying anger that life isn’t fair. Not only because he got cancer, but then he got breast cancer so he didn’t even fit in at the cancer support group, because he’s the guy there. So I think his sort of frustration and anger with the world came out in that scene in the restaurant, where he was a little fed up: Everyone says you’re doing it for your family, but what about this family? What about our family? I think we learned, as the group did, how many sacrifices he’s made for that family. And going forward. I think you saw him in the scene with Maggie finally say, “This is what I need. This is what I can do.” And, hopefully, in the second half of the season, he’s doing the things he needs to do to take care of himself. He’ll go and actually find his mom.

The Gary and Maggie breakup is a big thing for us to talk about. That scene, we spent more time writing that scene than I’ve spent on any scene on our show so far. I think I spent more time on that scene than I spent on some episodes. It was written so many times, in so many ways, because our show lives in the greys. We don’t want it to be black and white. I wanted to make sure that we presented Maggie’s very legitimate side: “I don’t know who I am now.” And we wanted to present Gary’s legitimate side of, “Find it with me. That’s the whole point.” They both love each other in that scene; they both truly, genuinely love each other. They just now want different things. And as we went and started, you know they met in a support group. Maggie thought there could never be a man who could understand what she’s going through. And Gary thought there’d never be a person who can understand what he was going through. And worst thing in the world that happened to both of them resulted in this love, that is the best part of their lives. That was what the first season was: fighting her cancer, on the same page. That was our goal.

Whenever it was about love, it was about cancer. Whenever it was about cancer, it was about love. But then she was in remission. And they had to figure out what their life was without cancer, what their relationship was without cancer. Maggie had a bigger question to figure out first, which is just who am I without cancer? And so with all of that in mind, we saw them struggle to determine what it would be. Things like Eric and his mother got in the way.

And it was sort of two things that I really love, thematically, about the stories I love to tell on our show. One is just when you think you know someone, you don’t. The other thing I really love about our show is this idea that life is so fragile, that everything happens for a reason; that one small move can change everything. In the episode, if Maggie hadn’t applied to Oxford, she wouldn’t be looking for a passport, she wouldn’t have found a ring. And she hadn’t found a ring, it wouldn’t have forced a conversation that didn’t need to take place. If she hadn’t found that ring, they’d still be together. Ironically, this symbol of forever resulted in them losing their forever. At least for now.

Obviously Maggie isn’t going anywhere, but as she noted, the friend group was Gary’s friends. How are the writers working to keep the group naturally together?
We often say on our show, the bump is the scene. So what you’re talking about, the problem is actually what the second half of the season is about, which is, how does this friend group navigate this change? They’re not going to give up Maggie; they did for his other girlfriends, but Maggie’s different. It’s the same way the rest of the friends have to navigate that Charlie is Eddie’s daughter. When we return for episode 10, for our midseason premiere, that is three months later, and we’re seeing Maggie, single, but part of the friend group. We’re seeing Gary, single, but the part of the friend group. And things like her hanging out with Eric become more complicated. Things like Gary hooking up with people like he did before Maggie is now more complicated. And [that episode] will be the first time all of them have hung out all together again for Danny’s performance of GREASE.

There also was a tease of Eric keeping a secret from Maggie. Is it just that he has feelings for her, or is there something bigger going on?
My answer would be that there’s at least one secret he’s keeping from her. And that secret will be revealed right away in episode 10. That’s not the mystery of the second half of season. But we purposely put Jason Ritter in that role; he is amazing at it. He plays the innocence very, very well. But also plays the idea that something more is going on very well.



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