A MILLION LITTLE THINGS Series Finale Post-Mortem: DJ Nash and Terrence Coli on the Drama's Bittersweet Goodbye - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

A MILLION LITTLE THINGS Series Finale Post-Mortem: DJ Nash and Terrence Coli on the Drama’s Bittersweet Goodbye

May 3, 2023 by  

A Million Little Things Gary dies

A MILLION LITTLE THINGS – “one big thing” – A tight-knit circle of friends is reminded that friendship is a million little things. WEDNESDAY, MAY 3 (10:01-11:00 p.m. EDT), on ABC. (ABC/Darko Sikman)

[Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Wednesday, May 3 series finale of A MILLION LITTLE THINGS, “one big thing.”]

A MILLION LITTLE THINGS signed off with a heartbreaking farewell—and an optimistic jump to the future—with the Wednesday, May 3 episode, “one big thing.”

In the hour, Gary’s (James Roday Rodriguez) cancer had progressed to the point where he could barely speak and was mostly confined to a hospital bed. But he had a plan in place: In a flashback, viewers learned that he requested Rome and Eddie help him die with dignity. The men initially pushed back, but eventually agreed if he would record a video explaining himself to Maggie that they could show her when it was time.

After several mishaps, including trouble getting the correct medicine, Eddie (David Giuntoli) and Rome (Romany Malco) brought Gary what he asked for. But after Maggie (Allison Miller) saw the video, she insisted she should be the one to help him in the final steps. The other friends had a big dinner at Katherine (Grace Park) and Greta’s (Cameron Esposito) home—per Gary’s wishes—while Gary and Maggie said their final goodbyes.

The show then jumped 15-ish years in the future, as Javi was celebrating his 16th birthday. He watched (and rewatched) the final video from his dad before going on a driving lesson with Maggie and celebrating the milestone with their extended family.

The series ended with Javi, Tyrell, Theo, and Danny at a Bruins game, just like their dads before them.

Here, series creator DJ Nash and showrunner Terrence Coli look back at the series finale, including a storyline they didn’t get to do, a finale Easter egg, and more. (Note, this interview was conducted before the WGA went on strike.)

A Million Little Things Gary dies

A MILLION LITTLE THINGS – “one big thing” – A tight-knit circle of friends is reminded that friendship is a million little things. WEDNESDAY, MAY 3 (10:01-11:00 p.m. EDT), on ABC. (ABC/Darko Sikman)

At what point did you know that Gary was not going to make it? And what made this the right way for him to go out?
DJ Nash: I knew this from the moment I talked about doing this series. This is how I wanted to end it. I wanted to start a series with suicide, which should not happen, and then end the series with assisted suicide, which was the humane thing to happen. And I wanted to juxtapose two friends—Rome and Gary—who both have diseases, and one who was able to battle and beat the disease, and one who was not. So it had been the plan from the beginning.
Terrence Coli: I started on the first day [of season 3], and DJ pulled me aside and said, “Okay, here’s what I’m thinking for the series finale.” And we hoped it would be at the end of season 5, but it’s series TV, it’s network TV—you never know exactly how long you’re going to be doing it, depending on your level of success. And as soon as he pitched it, I was pretty breathless hearing it laid out very close to what it actually came to be in the final episode. My reaction was, “We have to do that. We have to make sure that happens.”

And so as the number two, which I was in season 3, and then as the showrunner for 4 and 5, I was like a ship captain, able to set my star on that. And we charted a course for that ending.

We had a couple of different ideas for how that could go if it had to happen at the end of season 4. But, thankfully, we were able to tell the story we always wanted to tell, and how we wanted to tell it, in five seasons.
Nash: There was something about seeing Gary process the loss of his dad, which we got the opportunity to do this season. And to see Rome process slowly losing his dad. And those father-son themes—or parent-child themes, really. I think it gave us an opportunity to really set the table so that we can see that Javi is going to be okay. Javi’s okay.

I’ve worked on many series. I’ve always known what my finale is going to be; it’s never been relevant before. And what I’m really grateful for is, sort of like Gary, we had a chance to end this on our terms.

At what point did you tell ABC this was the end? And was this part of your initial pitch to James pre-season 1?
As a general rule, I only told the actors what their characters would know. So, for instance, Ron Livingston, who played Jon, knew the whole backstory of September 11 from the beginning, but the other actors in our series only knew when they read the script for the finale of season 1.

With James, I did tell him ahead of time because I wanted to make sure I had his buy-in. And because there’s a couple places where I was like, “Hey, I want this to play a little differently than you think because we’re setting it up for how it’ll pay off later.” So he knew it early on. Over the course of the other seasons, I think, as actors sometimes talk, I think they all kind of figured out where we were headed. The idea that would be assisted suicide, I think the rest of the cast only really knew later this season.

And as for the network, I pitched it when we were talking about the original pitch, but most of the people left. [Laughs.] I’m not sure they knew and so we told our current folks that plan midway through last season.

A Million Little Things Gary dies

A MILLION LITTLE THINGS – “one big thing” – A tight-knit circle of friends is reminded that friendship is a million little things. WEDNESDAY, MAY 3 (10:01-11:00 p.m. EDT), on ABC. (ABC/Darko Sikman)

James has co-written a lot of PSYCH, but this is the first time he’s been a part of the writing on AMLT. How did this come to be for the finale?
Nash: James always wanted me to direct this series, and I always wanted to write one with him. He was so generous in pushing me to direct. And really so helpful certainly with my first episode when I was directing. There’s a couple ways that he was like, “We could block it like this,” and he just stepped in to help a new director out.

He was busy with this project and I realized he wasn’t able to co-write. And then when the project went away, I said to TC, “Hey, what do you think about me co-writing this with James?” And he was like, “Well, I just want to make sure it turns out the way you want it to.” And I was like, “Yeah, let me talk to James.” And I said to James, “Hey, what do you think if we write this thing together?” And he said, “Well, I only want to do it if it turns out exactly the way you want it to.” And I said, “That’s exactly what I want!”

I have to tell you, it went from outline to rough draft in two and a half hours. And just because I knew so much, TC and I knew so much of it, the room had pitched on stuff. And then when James came in, it was different than you normally would do the process. I was basically saying, “Hey, here’s what the scene is.” And then he would say to me, “Okay, I love it. What if we also did this or what if we did this instead?” And he pitched things like the fridge transitions that [lead into the] flashback between scene one and scene two. The last line of the series, “Have a beautiful life.” There’s things he put in it, and I was like, “Oh my God, that’s so beautiful.” We had tons of fun pitching on where all the places they could get drugs would come from. [Laughs.] And then TC, you can talk about the effect it had on James.
Coli: I mean, obviously he committed to the direction which this character was gonna go, physically. Watching him take that on and be willing to shave his head and some weight loss—just really commit to the aspects of the progression of the disease. He really had no hesitation at all. He would have gone further, I think. But the funniest thing for me was just knowing that he had to show up on set every day even when he wasn’t in scenes.
Nash: [Laughs.] That was super fun. The other part that was really wild is I, as a creative partner—and I consider myself very collaborative—would, between takes, want to get his opinion on something. But he was playing a guy who was so sick, and so not well, that I was sometimes torn. Like, I want to pitch on this joke with you, but I also want you to stay in character because, as a director, I want to make my day.

But, oh man, the initial scene did not have Delilah also farting, but that’s something we found on the day. And I had this fart machine. And I just told him I’m going to do it, see what happens. And then they went with it and surprised her. It was really fun. If I knew how fun it was to write with James, I would have done it sooner.
Coli: And if I knew how fast you guys could write together, I would have suggested it sooner.

Can you share a little insight into the decision to stagger the characters’ farewells? (AKA to have the final episode be so much about Gary’s goodbye, and having the other stories wrap up a bit earlier in the season versus trying to wrap up everyone’s journey in the last hour.)
Nash: We didn’t want the finale to be twelve people standing around a bed each taking their turn to say goodbye. Also, because we knew where we were going, we knew that those last moments with Gary could be spread out among the last few episodes.
Coli: We also knew that we were going to have to do some time jumps to honor the fact that Gary was going through more rounds of chemo. As Dr. Stein said, “fighting this fight.” So, we knew that some of those other season-long arcs needed to be wrapped up before we started moving through time.
Nash: That’s so true. Terrence came up with a great plan for us. Episode 11 would be the season finale and we’d use episodes 12 and 13 to be the series finale.

A Million Little Things Gary dies

A MILLION LITTLE THINGS – “one big thing” – A tight-knit circle of friends is reminded that friendship is a million little things. WEDNESDAY, MAY 3 (10:01-11:00 p.m. EDT), on ABC. (ABC/Darko Sikman)

Looking at the flashforward, can you talk about landing in that time period and what you wanted to showcase?
Nash: We landed on 16 years, so he could be driving, right? That was the reason—especially because Maggie and her driving lessons and all that stuff was such a fun part of the earlier series.

We also felt what was a milestone—because he was doing videos all the time—we wanted this video to be more meaningful. So saying this is my last video, if you listen to his voiceover, what he says in act 6, yes, he’s talking to Javi, but he’s also talking to our fans. So when he says things like, “I know this may not be the ending you want,” he is talking to you all. And he is telling you what I learned from losing my dad, which is that our relationship isn’t over. It just changes.

I was joking with TC that some people may be angry at this ending, and one of the stages of grief is anger. The show has hung everything on authenticity. He had cancer return, the same kind of cancer; we knew this was going to happen. And yet just like it was hard for Maggie to accept in 12, it may be hard for fans to accept. But this is unfortunately what life is.

So we wanted to give them an act 6 that was optimistic, that was showing that everyone was okay. And if you look at it, Maggie’s gonna go out on a date. Javi is laughing, celebrating his birthday with this group of guys. And then probably the most important moment in that last act—other than the incredible cameo [Editor’s note: Nash cameoed as the man who ran into Javi at the hockey game]—was seeing the tradition continue. That the four sons of these four men were going to continue to show up for each other.
Coli: And also, just to add to that, Eddie and Delilah [are] still together 15 years later. Rome and Regina, as strong as ever. Katherine and Greta deciding to go ahead and have another child, despite whatever perceived risk they felt in the previous episode. I think it gave us a great quick window into where everybody was at.
Nash: And Sophie having a child with a man who treats her right.

A Million Little Things Gary dies

A MILLION LITTLE THINGS – “one big thing” – A tight-knit circle of friends is reminded that friendship is a million little things. WEDNESDAY, MAY 3 (10:01-11:00 p.m. EDT), on ABC. (ABC/Darko Sikman)

Even though you got to end the story where you wanted, was there any subplot or arc you wish that you had time to fit into the series?
Coli: When we brought David Walton into the show, who played Colton Cutler so brilliantly, we had a plan to tell all the stories we told including Maggie and Dr. Jessica getting their comeuppance over Colton but we had considered, had we had more time, a story where Colton stands up to his father, with Maggie’s help. One of the things I’ve always loved about A MILLION LITTLE THINGS is that everyone on this show gets their day in court and I wish we had been able to do that for Colton, too.
Nash: [Joking.] I felt differently—I don’t care for actors who are both taller and more handsome than me.

Relatedly, were there any elements of the flash forward timeline you wanted to include, but couldn’t for logistical reasons? (And/or are there Easter eggs fans should be keeping their eyes out for?)
Nash: There are so many. And in fact, there’s an Easter egg in every episode of the series. Some of them are just for my sister. In the finale #87 scores the goal, that’s for how many episodes we made. Rome’s last exchange with his dad about taking his pills was a callback to Walter initially not accepting his antidepressants. “Made you look” was a callback to the game Gary and Maggie played, based on a room bit we used to do that wrecked more than one take on our series.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about the final season we didn’t get to discuss?
Nash: TC and I are really grateful to our fans who have tuned in week after week and let these characters into their living rooms and into their hearts. The way you let us know how much our stories affected you personally, ultimately, is what pushed us to make them the best we could. Without you, we would have phoned it in.



Follow @GiveMeMyRemote and @marisaroffman on Twitter for the latest TV news. Connect with other TV fans on GIVE ME MY REMOTE’s official Facebook page.

And be the first to see our exclusive videos by subscribing to our YouTube channel.

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases made through links/ads placed on the site.


One Response to “A MILLION LITTLE THINGS Series Finale Post-Mortem: DJ Nash and Terrence Coli on the Drama’s Bittersweet Goodbye”

  1. Jan on May 4th, 2023 11:05 pm

    I love the show. It must correct a really big mistake. There is no way Eddie and Rome went to a pharmacy and came back with a little bag with something that would end Gary’s life. That would never happen. Unless a state had Medical Aid in Dying which, depending on the state requires 2 docs and all sorts of hoops to get the medications for a peaceful end. Those are illegal in the US for a person to get themselves. You have to go to the dark net or Mexico. I get hit had to finish the show but it’s total crap that they give him a mug and that’s it. You’d be doing everyone a huge service by talking about how ending your life is legal but the government refuses to give people the meds so it will be peaceful so they resort to hanging, gas. Anything.