'A Million Little Things' Boss Breaks Down the Heartbreaking, Honest Fall Finale
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 2, Episode 9 of A Million Little Things, "time stands still."]
The truth hurts, but it can hurt more to keep it a secret.
That's the lesson Delilah learns in the powerful fall finale of A Million Little Things. The fallout of PJ learning the truth about his father — who is not Jon, but Dave — nearly ends tragically, and after listening to Rome talk him off the ledge, she signs the form stating Eddie is Charlie's father.
Meanwhile, Maggie finds an engagement ring, and the conversation that follows results in her and Gary breaking up.
Here, executive producer DJ Nash breaks down all the heartbreaking moments and previews what's to come.
That episode was full of honesty — telling the kids about Charlie, the truth about PJ, Maggie and Gary, even Colin/Wesley. Can you talk about building to that and why you wanted all of it to come out now?
DJ Nash: I am obsessed with Hamilton, and "Non-Stop," that song right before their act break, they have all these storylines come together. As we were designing this season, I thought, wouldn't it be cool if all our storylines came together to inform each other at our midseason finale?
From the beginning, PJ's paternity serves as a cautionary tale for Delilah and Eddie. Mitch and Barbara debated and chose to keep this secret from their son, and in Act 4 of the midseason finale, we see how devastating and life-threatening that news can be. We wanted to put Delilah in the stairwell to see Mitch and Barbara's faces and hear PJ's voice over the phone. It's the catalyst that makes her say, "Oh, no, I have to tell them."
For Gary and Maggie, last season their story was about cancer, how this horrific thing that happened to the both of them led to the most wonderful love of their lives. Whenever it was about cancer, it was really about love [and vice versa].
This season, we wanted to have them struggle to figure out what their relationship is without cancer. And Maggie is struggling to figure out what her life is without cancer. They both have survivor's guilt — Maggie's from beating cancer even though her brother Chad died, Gary from not being able to save Jon even though Jon saved him. As Gary says, "Maybe ... I have to figure out who I am without you." We wanted it to be a demonstration of how fragile life is.
There was that line during their argument about everyone Maggie knows being through him. Plus, those friends have leaned on her.
You're absolutely right. Maggie has built her life around Gary and this group of friends, and Gary had built his life post-Jon around Maggie. It's exactly why they're in this bad situation, where Maggie's feeling a little claustrophobic, smothered by Gary, who is trying to save her the way he couldn't save Jon.
Going forward, we'll see the group have to deal with this breakup. The next episode picks up three months later, when the gang all knows, when Maggie is free to date Eric if she wants or free to pursue someone else and Gary's free to date countless women in Boston, or maybe they find each other. Where the friend group is is hopefully where our fan base is, which is understanding why they're not together but hoping they get back together.
Eddie and Katherine may be the most solid we've ever seen them, especially as a united front about Charlie. What did you want to do with their relationship in the first part of this season and will that continue?
I wanted us to show a couple that is determined to make it work — for Theo [and] because there is something that existed between them. At the end of last season, the fact that they're throwing it all away allows them to be honest with each other in a way that they've never been honest before. Honesty is the basis of their relationship.
Right from the scene on the bumper when he comes clean about Charlie, this whole season, while what Eddie did in the past with the affair and Charlie, all of that is potentially relationship-ending. Since he's been back, he's checked every box. He's done every single thing right. That said, it doesn't mean there aren't days and moments where Katherine remembers and goes to drop off and here's the moms, or is with the friend group and there's a comment. That's why she wanted to go to Austin, to have a re-do.
We purposefully wanted to set them up to seem invincible for where we take them in the second half.
Now that the truth about Charlie is out to the kids, how does that affect all the relationships? We see it when Sophie breaks Eddie's guitars.
There's an innocence that Delilah was trying to retain for her children. Some of the fans have said that Delilah's selfish in not sharing the truth, but really for us, whether it was the right choice or not, she was keeping the truth from the kids because she was trying to protect them from losing their mother. They'd already lost their father. Now that the truth is out, Sophie's a woman who knows the harsh realities of life.
In the second half, we will watch Sophie, Danny, and Theo, who had a front row seat at that, struggle with now know[ing], and Katherine and Delilah, who had butted up against each other, are now forced to team with Eddie and try to clean up the mess that is their family.
Moving on to PJ, he and Rome are at the heart of storylines you have to handle with care: depression, suicide, and attempted suicide. Can you talk about your approach to that and where finding out the truth leaves PJ? He thought he was getting to know his father's friends.
From a storyteller's responsibility and perspective about talking about suicide and dealing with suicide on TV, it has been an incredible two seasons of working with mental health professionals to make sure we are putting a voice to topics that have been silent too long while not acting as a trigger for people who are dealing with those topics.
With this episode, we made decisions creatively to support what our goals were morally. From the moment PJ steps on the roof and is in jeopardy until that is resolved, we do not break to commercial [or] a different scene. We stay in it so that our fans who are identifying with this plight have resolution.
From a creative standpoint, it was really important on the heels of Rome losing his mother and realizing there's a difference between depression and sadness, that sadness can pass, he takes another important step in being able to save someone the way he couldn't save Jon. As PJ's struggling to find Mitch or Dave or Jon, who's his father, the person who's acting most like a male role model to him this season is Rome.
As he gets the opportunity to be a father to PJ, it allows Regina to witness what an amazing man Rome is and how he really is ready for fatherhood. On the heels of seeing his relationship with his mother end, on the heels of dealing with some stuff with her mother, she makes this decision that she wants to start this next chapter of her life.
Like all the characters on this show, Eric has a secret. What can you tease about getting the full picture of that phone call?
Who he's talking to and what he's talking about come out in early episodes when we're back. The big thing, whether it's his feelings for Maggie or something else, reveals itself in our next episode.
We're going to meet his dead fiancée. How might that change fans' perspective of him?
[One of the messages] I love in the show is just when you think you know someone, you don't. It was so important to me that in the pilot, fans did not like Katherine, but there are so many Team Katherine people now. ... The purpose of Chloe in our show is to do that for Eric. You'll learn stuff about him and his story that will make you feel a bunch of different things about Eric.
Should we worry about anyone else dying?
You should always worry about people dying. ... To think this gang has seen its last death is just naive. They will have to encounter death again.
Are there any new dynamics coming up, characters who haven't interacted before sharing significant scenes?
There are three new characters coming to our world in the second half who will carry us into the third season. They're some really moving stories. In a similar way to how PJ, Mitch, and Barbara had both their own story and informed our series regulars' stories, we'll see those in the second half of the season.
Some of [our gang] are now single, Some are now trying to adopt a baby. Some of them are allowing themselves to enjoy life in ways they didn't before. As they go out into the world and meet these people, there are three characters in particular who are going to be fantastic additions to our family.
A Million Little Things, Thursdays, 10/9c, ABC