‘A Million Little Things’ Boss Explains Jon’s Big Reveal in the Finale & Teases Season 2
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Season 1 finale of A Million Little Things, “Goodbye.”]
So who saw that coming?
In tonight’s season finale, A Million Little Things revealed that Jon (Ron Livingston) was struggling with lingering guilt over his friend Dave’s death on 9/11. After months of wondering what had been weighing so heavily on the late businessman, we finally learned that Jon was supposed to join his buddy aboard what wound up being the hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 out of Boston on that fateful day, but missed the gate…to buy a much-regretted bottle of wine.
Haunted by survivor’s remorse, Jon later wound up lashing out the deceased’s pregnant girlfriend, who just so happened to be “Barbara Morgan” (Drea de Matteo). After that, he devoted himself to trying to save the rest of his loved ones in various ways.
Wisley, the show doesn’t directly link Jon’s suicide to that one event. In fact, the hour beautifully made it very clear that his pain, guilt and shame were just part of the unknowable reason behind the dram’s tragic opening moments. Where this all leaves those left behind is just as unknown. By the time the credits rolled, Jon’s widow Delilah (Stephanie Szostak) was in labor and Eddie (David Giuntoli) was about to derail his reunion with estranged wife Katherine (Grace Park) by telling her that the baby was his.
Meanwhile, Gary (James Roday) and Maggie (Allison Miller) had moved in together, and Regina (Christina Marie Moses) had just informed Rome (Romany Malco) that she was not on board with his plan to start a family.
So what’s next? Series creator DJ Nash has a few ideas already cookin’.
OK, this finale did not disappoint. How much of this did you have planned out going into the season?
DJ Nash: I love that question. I have never worked on a serialized show before, so I went into the season knowing quite a few things. Did we know what the finale was going to be when we started? When I was doing the pilot, I gave the network president the first draft of the pilot to read back before it was a pilot and she had one really smart note, which was, “Is there a way to evoke Jon at the end of the episode, at the end of the last act?” And so I went into my office and I thought of three possibilities. One was the one we landed on, which was having the videotape of the elevator Rome played with Jon’s voiceover sort of serving as the voiceover for the last act.
Then there were two other ideas I had, one of which was flashing back to the guys on their way to L.A. for Game 7. And then I thought, wouldn’t it be also interesting if we did that and the guys were late for the plane, but the plane was Flight 11? Because the guys are from Boston and, to this day, whenever you go through Boston’s Logan Airport, you are just reminded of this history. It’s something that Boston hasn’t overcome, you know, in similar ways to, like, Dallas and Kennedy. It’s just a very conscious thing. You do not joke at TSA, it’s just very present.
Anyway, I pitched that to my producing partner and she said, “I love it, but it kind of overtakes the whole show because at the funeral they would’ve mentioned it.” and I was like, “Yeah, that’s true. It does sort of change it. That itself could be the premise for a show.” So I’d sort of been sitting on that and I went with the other one. Then when the writers got together on the first day, one of them asked what I thought broke Jon. And I said, “Guys, what do you think about this?” And the room just loved it. And I talked to our consultant who I’ve worked with extensively, Dr Barbara Van Dahlen, and asked “Is this consistent with what I’m setting up for Jon?” And she said, absolutely. There’s Jon, who has survivor guilt, and the situation with Barbara and her child became this hot stove that he just couldn’t touch again. So he just stopped seeing them and the story lined up right from the beginning.
And that helped inform certain moments along the way, obviously.
It was really great for us because as we were laying out our season, normally you sort of go chronologically. We knew our first few episodes, we knew the end and we were sort of building towards the middle and it really allowed us to do some really fun things like put Barbara Morgan in the will and have a fun mislead of having everyone thinks that it was Constance Zimmer. When we reshot the pilot to include Grace Park, I called Constance and said, “Hey, can you come do me a favor, just lean over and say, ‘Hey, great eulogy’ or something? She goes, “Well, why did I put this in there?” So I told her that everyone’s going to think you’re Barbara Morgan and it’s going to be cool! We set that up in the beginning and then everyone really did think she was Barbara Morgan! [Laughs]
How has it been for you, crafting stories that are so personal to so many people?
Throughout the season, we were just able to really tell this authentic story… the most important thing to me about the show is I want it to feel real. We’re talking about suicide, depression, breast cancer, and now September 11th. And while we’re telling a fictional story, there are real people who’ve been really affected by this. I want this to be true to their story. Not necessarily represent all of them but be compassionate as we tell the story. So we were able to put things in like the story of how Jon and Delilah met in Episode 4. We said that they met at the airport. We were able to start referencing this bottle of wine. We were just able to feature the painting that originally presents itself in episode nine as a painting John gave Gary just to have a view at the chemo lab. That suddenly became a painting that was the view from this apartment and then it was painted by Barbara Morgan. There was just real cool stuff that we were able to layer in.
It felt like a murder mystery unfolding.
It did. It really did. It’s so funny because I’m a stand-up comic, so the idea that we’re constructing a mystery, it was really, really fun. And we have another one in Season 2, something else that we’re tracking that we’ve already set up. The viewers don’t even realize it.
But I’ll tell you candidly, this morning, I got an email from a viewer of our show who lost a child to suicide. These stories that we’re telling clearly resonated with this family and it was just a really moving. With suicide, you never know the reason. So in the finale that you saw, it was really important to us to give Gary and Maggie and Delilah that speech about how it’s stones stacked up on top of you. That may be one of the most important lines in that episode because I don’t want the viewers to walk away going, “Yes, that’s why he did it.” It’s not why he did it. It’s not. And you’ll never know why. And so as much as we needed to sort of close up the mystery part of it, we’re also aware that we’re telling a real, authentic story about suicide and you just don’t know.
What can you say about this groundwork you’ve laid for the second season?
Oh, the thing that we’re tracking in the second season, it’s something that we’ve already set up. It won’t be like, “Oh, a new mystery has arrived.” But there’s some stuff that if you have been watching the show, you’ll go, “Ooh, I knew this. I just didn’t realize how relevant it would be.”
Does it have anything to do with Chandler Riggs’ character?
Hmmm. [Laughs] Um, there’s a number of things that are going on next season. One of the storylines, which you obviously experienced in the finale is Chandler, who’s Barbara’s son, realizing that his dad is not who they thought his dad was. And we did that by design. Delilah, the last thing she does at Barbara’s house is she looks into the kitchen and sees almost like a cautionary tale because she and Eddie are holding a secret. And Mitch and Barbara were holding a secret.
You know, when you first meet Mitch, you’d think, ‘Oh, he’s aggressive, potentially violent.’ But what I love to do on our show is to flip cards. He lost his whole battalion [on 9/11] and he said, I’ll raise the kid like he’s my own. And Barbara said, “No, let’s say he’s your own. I can’t live under the cloud of the sadness anymore. I don’t want to do that.” And so the first thing he did was lie to his son, and he’s been telling this lie and the only comfort he’s taken is that there’s only two people who know the lie and neither one of them would want that to get out. When Delilah shows up, it jeopardizes this lie and Mitch is just trying to protect his family. So I think as we go to the next season, we’ll understand where he’s coming from and obviously, Patrick watching the video means that he now is realizing things that he may not have known.
Are there plans for Drea and Chandler to join the cast next season?
I’d love for them to come back. You know, we had such an amazing time with them this season and they’re up for it. So we’re just trying now to pin all that down. It would be great to have them come back at least for a few. They were great. As great as they were on camera, they were even more off it. When Chandler came on, he just read to be this guy who read Rome’s script. He didn’t know anything else. Then I called him and said “Hey, you got a minute? I actually want you to come back and do this.” And he was like, “Oh my God, I love it.” So he’s been great. Really, really great.
And now you kind of broke our hearts with Eddie and Katherine. Can you give us a a hint as to what you plan for them?
What I’ve done all season long is not told the actors anything more than what their characters now. So what I said to Grace was, “There’s a scene here coming that’s going to be a gut punch for you and for the audience. And by the time we get to this episode, we will be rooting hopefully for the couple to get back together.” Eddie and she have finally found that even level, it took almost getting divorced for them to finally be honest with each other, to support each other, to admit mistakes they’d both made. You know, it’s really easy to just say it with the affair, but at some point he didn’t feel loved and he wandered. And so there’s a lot going on. Neither one’s innocent. So he is literally all but home. But he can’t come home without telling her the truth. And it’s not like in the last four days he got a woman pregnant, right?
He’s been hiding it all this time.
Yes. And Grace Park is an incredible actor. She is a most impressive for me when she’s put in impossible situations. And so I was trying to figure out, how do we put her in an impossible situation? All he’s doing is continuing this path of honesty that has served them so well as of late. And so you know what happens from there but I am certainly not going to tell you right now!
When we were up there in Vancouver shooting the first half of the scene, that morning I went to their trailers and I handed them the second half of the scenes and we’ve shot the whole thing and they are Incredible. It is the best thing that I’ve seen so far between them. They’re magnificent. I was standing at the monitor as we shot the wide coverage and I was bawling crying!