A MILLION LITTLE THINGS Post-Mortem: DJ Nash on Gary and Maggie's Next Steps, Filming That Epic Game Night, and More - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

A MILLION LITTLE THINGS Post-Mortem: DJ Nash on Gary and Maggie’s Next Steps, Filming That Epic Game Night, and More

April 13, 2022 by  


A MILLION LITTLE THINGS – “fingers crossed” – The gang gathers for a fun and festive game night as a means to distract Gary from dwelling on a heavy situation on an all-new episode of “A Million Little Things,” airing WEDNESDAY, APRIL 13 (10:00-11:00 p.m. EDT), on ABC. (ABC)

[Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Wednesday, April 13 episode, “fingers crossed.”]

It was a bittersweet hour of A MILLION LITTLE THINGS, as the friends—not-so-patiently—awaited word on whether Gary’s (James Roday Rodriguez) cancer was back.

To occupy their time, they had a (messy) game night, filled with family drama, unexpected visitors, and, well, some bad game play.

But there was, eventually, good news: Gary’s tumor was benign. That also meant he could start to think, seriously, about having a kid with Maggie (Allison Miller).

What comes next? Series creator—and first-time director!—DJ Nash broke down “fingers crossed”…

This was an episode that had to be, as you noted, very funny, but also at other points very serious. How was it trying to balance those tonal shifts in your directorial debut?
I only heard about this later from our other directors, who I’d asked for help with [this episode]. They said, “You think this episode is easy because you’re contained for a lot of it, but you have more camera angles and eye lines than most episodes.” Because of COVID we haven’t really put the cast in a room all together in a couple seasons and this episode has everyone together [for the game night].

But for me, it was about the script had read well, the actors were incredible, I could just walk in and do what I did on the pilot, which is pitch alternate jokes and just have fun tweaking stuff. And because I haven’t been on set for while, there was this energy that was exciting.

I remember when we did the hospital scene, someone stepped on a line and Grace [Park] goes, “Okay, back to one everyone” [so we’d start the scene again]. It was so sweet when she did that. Everyone wanted it to go well.

Later in the season, we have Allison Miller and David Giuntoli directing episodes, and that same vibe went [on] there. Our show has given first time opportunities to a bunch of people—Joanna Kerns is producing-directing for the first time; our director of photography, Robin, it’s his first time doing that— he had been our A-camera operator for the last couple of seasons. Alyssa Carroll, who started on our show as an assistant editor, is now a full editor. And all three of them worked on my episode. What I’m proud about our show is it’s given so many people opportunities.

This episode marks sort of the payback [from the crew]: “It’s your turn, DJ.” It was great. It was really like a trust fall. The idea that the episode’s called “fingers crossed,” it was called that before they decided to make me the director, but it couldn’t have been more appropriate.

Looking to the game night, what kind of approach did you have to take with that scene that was unique to juggling that many elements?
I don’t know what other directors do. It’s sort of my experience running the show the first few seasons: I’d never been in a drama room before this one, so I didn’t know what the rules are. And I never directed before now, so I didn’t know all the rules.

I approached this from an editorial standpoint, and by that, I mean come up with my shots, shoot them, and then edit the best of what I got. In my mind, I was thinking this is what the cutting pattern of the show is, and so what shots are in that cutting pattern? That’s where I got my shot list, which is—I guess, especially for directors who come from editorial—how they do it.

But, for instance, just to be really specific, in the scene with Gina and her dad, such a beautiful, moving [moment] and the actors are phenomenal. I knew I wanted a cool first shot—which is over the bar to them—then I would be in coverage up close. But then I said, “Hey, could there be cool last shot at the end that sort of lets us be a voyeur into their life? Let’s put a camera outside the window and edit that.”

So that really is all the hours I spent editing the show—which is probably as many hours as I spent writing the show. That really was where I had the advantage, because there’s certain moments where I was like, “We’re never going to use this, let’s cut it.” A director who’s for hire on our show has to shoot everything that’s in the script. The benefit of me being the director was I didn’t have to get approval from the writer. So I could go, “We’re changing this, forget that scene or forget that, there’s a joke at the top of the scene. We’re never going to use that, we’re going to come in the scene later.” And we just saved an hour on the day [by avoiding filming stuff that would never be seen]. I think we had enough places where I had advantages having written and having edited the show so long that hopefully they counterbalanced my deficiencies.

It worked well!
I’m so proud of the performances. David Giuntoli, I think it may be his strongest episode in the series.

And Mario Van Peebles, that scene with his daughter. I said to Joanna, “I’m gonna get him to cry.” [Laughs.] What happened in that scene is, when we were on his coverage, I changed Christina [Moses]’s words and didn’t tell Mario. And it shocked him and he started to cry.

In fact, in the final cut, because we finished already with Christina’s coverage, there’s a line that you probably are like, “Why aren’t you on Christina for this?” [It’s] because I never shot it that way. When we were on Mario’s coverage, I changed the words. And she was so beautiful. And I thought that we got to have that moment live. That’s the whole part about he was the first man to touch me.

Looking to that storyline, it was obviously a really big turning point for Regina and her entire family. How are they going to be forward now that the truth is out there?
I think that that is the challenge that we all face when we have these traumatic moments. Our series is sort of all about that. It starts with a loss of a dear friend; you’re never going to forget Jon. And you’re going to be very, very different because you lost Jon. But hopefully those changes, the positives outweigh the negative.

Regina’s uncle’s assault of her mom was a huge catalyst in this marriage imploding. And she kept that secret from her husband for all these years. And so dealing with all of the guilt, and the anger was just really beautiful to portray that and to tell that authentic story. I thought that all three of those actors just brought so much authenticity to the storyline.

From where we [go] now, our series looks a lot at how your history informs your future. And what we’re going to watch is how does this history with Regina inform the way she parents, and we will see that a lot with Tyrell. And also the way that she is an aunt to Sophie. What was so beautiful about [the storyline] we did last year about Sophie being groomed was the role Regina took in that, sort of helping Sophie move on.

There’s a beautiful story coming up for Rome, too, where Rome looks at some of those traumatic things happened in high school. And he’s reminded of it because of Tyrell and he has to go through a process.

Gary now knows he doesn’t have cancer—and it seems like he and Maggie may be thinking about having a kid. How much will that potential parenthood play into their storyline for the rest of the season?
It’s a really big part of it. Certainly storyline-wise, it’s a really big part of the rest of our season.

Gary, when we met him, was a single guy who probably would never be married and never have kids. And then he met Maggie and his friend passed away. He became this uncle to Danny and Sophie—and really like a surrogate dad to them. I think that probably made him much more open to the idea of being a parent…until the stuff with Peter happened, and he wondered, “Did I mess up irreparably?”

Sophie returning in that episode is such an important part of him being open to the idea of being a dad. And we’ll watch them struggle to figure out [how to do that]. When you have a child together, you have to agree exactly together on what values you get to instill and how that’s gonna happen. And almost immediately, Maggie and Gary are put into a challenging situation as they try to become parents.

Looking ahead to the season finale, what can you tease about the episode?
This is our biggest cliffhanger so far—and we had a pretty big one last year, and the year before. This one is bigger. We have a bunch of people coming in to do guest appearances; I don’t want to say [who], but some show favorites are returning.

And we have, as is often our way, just when you think something is sweet and fun, there’s drama. And when you think something is dramatic, comedy pops up and it makes us laugh so that we can enjoy the drama.

I love to have scenes that both make you laugh and cry. And we have a ton of that. I think if you like episode 15, “fingers crossed,” you’ll love the finale. Joanna Kerns is directing it and I was up at her side, the way she was at my side for my episode.

We [just] shot Romany’s last scene of the season, and I just don’t know that I’ve ever seen him better. It was so moving. It was so moving that he had to take a break, he got so emotionally caught up in it.

It’s some of the best performances I’ve ever seen these incredible actors do.



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