Barbara Morgan, who? That's just one of the many questions that ABC series A Million Little Things has fans asking, ever since we discovered that Jon (Ron Livingston) had some sort of relationship with the mysterious woman. Eagle-eyed sleuths even thought that they had figured the whole mystery out: Fans presumed that unREAL actress Constance Zimmer, who shows up briefly as a "mourner" in the pilot episode, was indeed the answer to the Barbara Morgan mystery.
But come on — did you really think A Million Little Things would make things that easy? As revealed in Thursday's episode "Twelve Seconds," Zimmer does not play Barbara Morgan, but a congresswoman named Jeri Huntington.
Zimmer's character does not seem to have a personal relationship with Jon, but a professional one: She called him shortly before his death to inform him that a deal that would affect his business ventures would not go through. Ever since, Jeri has grappled with the guilt that her words may have had a negative impact on Jon's emotional state before he took his own life.
Jeri's storyline opens up many questions about Jon's past, especially considering that Ashley (Christina Ochoa) claimed this particular deal was not just about business, but something more.
Zimmer, for her part, knows all about that — even if her role on A Million Little Things wasn't quite what fans expected. Via a phone interview with Refinery29, Zimmer opened up about her role on A Million Little Things and how she felt keeping her role a secret from even the show's lead actors.
Refinery29: How did this role came about in the first place?
Constance Zimmer: "I am friends with [creator DJ Nash.] He and I worked together on a show called Growing Up Fisher, and stayed friends. Our kids go to the same school together, so I see him quite a lot. I was passing him one day at school, when we were dropping off the kids, and he said, 'Hey I have a really cool idea for this new show that I created, but I need your help to make it work.' And I thought, 'Sounds great. Just call me?'
"It’s really fun to get to be at a point in this business where somebody thinks that just your appearance on a show, doing one line will spark enough conversations of, 'Why did this person only do one line on this show? There’s got to be more to it.'"
How much did you know about the Jon mystery when you signed on?
"[DJ] told me everything, I know all of the stories. Even though the actors who are actually series regulars on the show will probably be mad! [But he] needed to tell me who people were and who Barbara Morgan was in order for me to be able to understand my place in all of this. It has been really, really fun. It surprised me how we came to the mystery of Barbara Morgan and how everybody pretty much believed that’s who I was. And not being able to really hint at anything has been really fun... I just thought, 'Oh my god I wonder if people are going to be really mad that I’m not Barbara Morgan?'"
When you finally say your character's name, it's like a truth bomb goes off in this show. Did you realize how big of a deal it would be for fans to hear you finally reveal your identity?
"I was not thinking at all in that bathroom [scene] that when I actually say my name you, as a viewer, would be like, 'WHAT?' I was more thinking like, 'Oh finally I can tell people what my name is and why I’m here.' I’m glad that that’s the reaction you had, [because] it’s everything that DJ was hoping for. What makes it so fun playing a part like that, is that there’s not much to it on the page. There’s so much more to it with the viewer’s imagination."
Some fans thought that Katherine (Grace Park) gave your character an odd look during the funeral, like maybe she already knew her.
"I don’t know if that was on purpose or not because at that point nobody knew who I was. DJ kept who I was a secret from everybody. I couldn’t tell the actors who I was. So whenever I worked my credit on the call sheet was never a character name it was always just 'mourner.'"
Can we trust Jeri? Does she truly have good intentions? She does tell Delilah (Stéphanie Szostak) the wrong information about which way the subway vote was going to go, though it seems unintentional.
"Jeri is definitely trying to help because of her guilt, thinking that she had something to do with John’s death. I think what’s exciting about that episode too is in that bathroom [scene], there's the realization that Delilah is also realizing she can't walk around with [guilt over Jon's death.] Delilah's got to start making decisions for herself moving forward."
Where is the Barbara Morgan mystery going now?
"It will be a good payoff. I don’t want to plant too much into people's brains but I will say there is a Barbara Morgan payoff that will be worth the wait, in my opinion, because I know what it is. So it’s kind of exciting now that everyone’s going to try to speculate somebody else who’s Barbara Morgan."
Jon's death is such a big part of this show. Series like 13 Reasons Why have been criticized, as well as lauded, for their depictions of the aftermath of someone taking their own life. How do you feel about the way the series handles this particularly sensitive topic?
"There is a deep sadness that happens when people decide to take their own lives. Unfortunately, I think we are seeing a lot more of it now than ever. So we have a show that tackles it with the people who are left, who are asking 'What could I have done? What should I have done? Could I have done anything?' And I think the reality is that it’s such a dark hole; that a lot of times there isn't much that somebody could have done. I think what they’ve done so well on this show is to dive into that reality. There are so many people, especially because we’re living in a time with social media where everybody is hand-picking what they want to reveal and show about themselves, and everything seems glossier and happier on the outside. The reality is those people could be unhappy and that’s their way of trying to save face.
"I think what they’re doing really well [on A Million Little Things] is they are now showing how such a loss can awaken something else. I can speak to it because I have had a family member commit suicide and it’s rough. It is a rough thing to go through that I don't wish on anybody. What’s great about it are the flashbacks, [that make you realize] it’s not like a big warning flag, which I think that’s what we all [tend to] think, that there’s big warning flags that we could have read and we should have seen. [The series is] just trying to show that everyone is human. We all have our breaking points and we all have happiness and sorrow. But surrounding yourselves with good friends and a community is hard when you’re not being true to yourself."
A Million Little Things airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on ABC.
If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-784-2433.