‘A Million Little Things’ Boss Explains That Funeral, Time Jump & Exit in Season 5 Premiere
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the A Million Little Things Season 5 premiere “The Last Dance.”]
There are a million little reasons we’re going to miss A Million Little Things, and number one is the friend group, which the final season premiere highlights in a major way.
Everyone rallies around Gary (James Roday Rodriguez), not just when it comes to his cancer diagnosis (things are looking up by the end) — “sorry about bringing the entourage, it’s just that our friend group are very invested in each other’s lives,” he tells his doctor when they all join him for an appointment — but also after his father, Javier (Paul Rodriguez), unexpectedly passes away. Meanwhile, Anna (Erin Karpluk) gets out of prison but leaves town for a fresh start, meaning Eddie’s (David Giuntoli) single again, and Rome (Romany Malco) finds out his father Walter (Lou Beatty Jr.) has dementia.
Creator DJ Nash breaks down the premiere and teases what’s ahead.
Why the time jump of seven months? To move Maggie’s (Allison Miller) pregnancy along and also to have that “could it be Gary’s funeral?” moment?
DJ Nash: Exactly. When we left the season last, Rome had discovered information that was very important and that Gary had deliberately not wanted to share. The question that I’ve received the most in the hiatus is, is Gary gonna make it? So we wanted to do that and take our fans on a ride.
Things are looking as up as they can when it comes to Gary’s cancer by the end of the premiere, and we got that great scene with everyone at his doctor’s appointment. How indicative are both those aspects of the story you want to tell the rest of the season when it comes to Gary’s health?
Well, here’s a huge spoiler: We’re all gonna die. [Laughs] Every single one of these characters, if the series went long enough, would die. I think the question is, are we gonna see any of them pass while we’re filming it? We don’t know. That’s the thing about someone who’s suffering with depression or someone who’s dealing with cancer or someone who’s dealing with all of the traumas that this group has encountered: We just don’t know what the effects of these traumas will be. I want us to experience that journey. This season is about the guy in the group who really helped everyone pick up the pieces after Jon [Ron Livingston] died needing the group to be there for him and we will see them do that in such a beautiful way.
Look what happened with Javier. No one was expecting him to die.
You can say like, Gary, oh my gosh, I have a friend who’s sick. Oh my gosh, he’s gonna have cancer the rest of his life. And then in a moment, Javier can die, you know? I think that really is the takeaway from the premiere: All of our time here is precious, and you can’t take anything for granted.
The series began with the friend group dealing with a loss. The season premiere features another one, and there’s always the chance that Gary could die. What do you want to show when it comes how the friend group deals with struggles and loss like that now compared to back in Season 1?
I am very aware that the loss of Jon for our fans is very different than Gary. I’m also really aware that as a writing team, as a crew, as a cast, and as fans, we are all gonna mourn a loss this year, the ending of this show. So the takeaways of life being limited is this seize the day and get every drop of juice out of life message. What we’ll see this season is these friends once again reminded the way they were in the pilot, that they can’t wait for tomorrow to live differently. You have to do it today. So we’ll see a bunch of stuff that way, which kicks off in the premiere with Gary wishing he hadn’t waited to take his dad to see an incredible actor played by David Marshall Grant, one of our writers.
Maggie and Gary are having a boy. Is it too obvious that they name him Javier?
They could name him Javier. That’s entirely possible. I don’t think that’s too obvious.
Rome is rightfully concerned about his dad, but Walter kept deflecting in their final conversation in the premiere. How is his father’s health going to affect Rome?
That’s a very personal story to me and to two other writers in our writers’ room — as is the case often with the stories we tell, they’re based on real things that happened to at least one of us in the writers’ room. My father, at the end, had dementia. The scene in the premiere, the Tallulah Bankhead, we almost named our child Tallulah. That is verbatim the scene — my dad swore more at the end when he was busting me, he said, “what the f you’ve given me s for?” — from my life.
When Rome’s mom Renee died, he said, there’s nothing I needed to hear from her and there’s nothing I needed to say to her. He was in a really good place. But he realized that he couldn’t say the same of his relationship with his father, and he wanted to make sure he could, by the time his father passed away. He realizes now that that clock is ticking even faster than he thought. I will say this: The scenes between Lou Beatty Jr. and Romany Malco this season are some of the best things I’ve ever been a part of. Those two men are so talented and the effect each one has on the other is profound and I’m so in awe of what we captured on film.
Is Anna gone due to availability or the story you want to tell with Eddie this season?
It’s about the story we wanna tell. Timing has really been a problem for Eddie Saville. I think, hey, if you’re not happy in your marriage, you’re allowed to end it and then you can get another woman pregnant. And so I think he’s had these situations where he’s met people, specifically women he was dating, and there’s some asterisk that makes it very complicated. Anna is another one of those casualties. What he realizes in his relationship with Anna is for the first time he’s ending a relationship with someone that he didn’t let down in any way. As we watch this journey of Eddie going from being sort of a selfish little boy to becoming a man over the course of the series, he takes a really important step this season and has a profound end to the season as he fully embraces what it means to be responsible and accountable.
Will we see Anna again?
No, she’s wonderful and we love her. We probably could have ended her story at the end of last season with her going off [to prison], but we just wanted one more.
How’s Katherine (Grace Park) and Greta’s (Cameron Esposito) relationship going this season?
I have quite a few friends in the LGBTQ+ community and have worked with quite a few. The journey of being out and being comfortable is very different for each person — about anything, whether that’s about having cancer, whether you wanna talk about it. Personally, there’s certain parts of me that I openly share and there’s parts of me that I hold closer to the vest.
Greta is someone who was so comfortable with her sexuality and her sexual orientation from a very early age. The fact that Katherine wasn’t severed their relationship for a long time. And now as they find themselves together again and dating and loving each other, each of their comfort is different. And how does that play out if there’s, say, a corporate event that Katherine goes to and she’s allowed to bring a plus one? Is she comfortable to say Greta’s my plus one? [They’ll be] navigating that and navigating what it means to come from very different families as we’ll see both those families this season and see how the support you get from your family can affect the journey you take.
I loved Katherine and Maggie bonding. How much more will we get of those two this season?
We had never done a scene with the two of them! It’s really funny because one of the things that we did, Terrence [Coli], the showrunner, and I, is we made a list over the summer of combinations we hadn’t seen, like Maggie and Eddie in a scene like, where have you seen that? So there’s certain combinations where you go, I don’t know that we’ve seen that. So that was one that we were really excited to do.
There’s a thing that happens in that scene — it’s OK if people don’t [catch it], sometimes you wanna underwrite something and it’s better to not smack someone in the face with it and let it be subtle — as they’re looking at this child and they’re looking at the dad with this child. Katherine is going through the experience of realizing she’s no longer in a heterosexual relationship. The old school example of what a family would be, she’s not going to be. And then you have Maggie, who may not have the father of her child around. I love when we see our characters encounter similar moments, but because of their place in the world, they affect them in profoundly different ways.
Things seem steady for Regina (Christina Moses). How will this season shake that up?
Regina does something very innocently in the season that has a drastic effect on someone, and she’s never the same after. We watch her open her eyes and realize something about her own shortcomings that she, in a very profound way, is determined to compensate and make up for, and the journey of the rest of her life is never the same.
A Million Little Things, Wednesdays, 10/9c, ABC