ABC's friends-as-family drama A Million Little Things is getting ready for its February 28 season finale, but the lives of the people that Jon (Ron Livingston) left behind after his death by suicide are still in flux. None more so, perhaps, than James Roday's Gary. After beating breast cancer, Roday's once eternal bachelor fell hard for Maggie (Allison Miller), a woman whose own cancer had recently returned. In Thursday's episode "The Rosary," Maggie wakes up from surgery with an offer from Gary: Move in. Let's live life together while we still can.
The move comes after Gary has spent weeks searching for answers about Jon's suicide — a quest which seems to take a back burner to make sure that Maggie is okay. But with a season finale titled "Goodbye," is Gary and Maggie's sweet relationship doomed?
Obviously, Roday couldn't give us those answers — but he did tease what to expect from Gary's journey. Speaking to Refinery29 on the phone, Roday hinted at "guilt" Gary is feeling about Jon's death, as well as why he and Maggie connect so well in the first place.
Refinery29: Gary and Maggie's relationship is one of focal points of the show. As an actor, what was it like to star as one-half of a couple battling such difficult circumstances?
James Roday: "Cancer is a demon of a disease. It has touched most of us. You don’t have to reach very far for an experience where a loved one, or a friend, or a family member’s life was hanging in the balance while they fought this disease. It has happened to me a few times now, and that is just the reality of it. You wake up every day, you pray, you do whatever it is you do, you try to stay positive and lean in to as most hope as possible, but the truth is, [cancer] could take anybody, at any time. That's the foundation of [Gary and Maggie’s relationship], which makes it unusual...but the flip side of it is that nobody understands better than the person staring at them across the bed."
Melora Hardin of The Bold Type appeared in "The Rosary" as the mother of Maggie, played by Allison Miller. They look so much alike!
"Somebody posted on social media, ‘Oh my gosh, you guys should play mother and daughter at some point,’ and put Allison’s picture next to Melora’s. It was like, oh my God, duh. They look just like each other. Melora had a really tough job, coming in for one episode, and basically carrying the dramatic arc of a regular character’s storyline. That was a lot of heavy-lifting we gave her."
Gary is a man who lived through breast cancer, which is something that you're passionate about. Can you discuss what made you interested in this specific issue?
"I’ve been touched by breast cancer in my life, and it’s something that is near and dear to my heart. I also felt like, with the exception of maybe Oz, which was a while ago, and dealt with it in a different way, I hadn’t recalled seeing a man with breast cancer and that story being given any real treatment in television. I did a little bit of research, and while statistics say that 2% of men have breast cancer, that statistic is of all men, and it’s a lot of men on the planet. It’s a startlingly high number of men dealing with this disease, who maybe don’t feel as seen as the women are. For me, it was like, yes, let’s keep a light shining on breast cancer and breast cancer awareness, but also to include men was necessary.
"The reaction was a lot of gratitude. In my own experience talking to the men who have dealt with or are living with the disease, there’s a lot of men who feel a little invisible and ostracized. Anything we can do to let those guys know ‘We see you, we know there’s a struggle there, come be a part of this circle,’ is important.'"
Gary is the one actively seeking answers about Jon's death. Will finding them provide Gary with some healing, or could it set him back?
"Gary’s obsession is rooted in less about finding all the answers — because he knows there is not going to be one reason why Jon decided to take his own life — and is more about the guilt he is carrying around. We reveal something pretty late in the season finale that hasn’t been dropped yet, and it’s not a huge bomb, but it’s a personal thing for Gary, and we realize, oh man, that sucks. What’s driving Gary, more than anything, is this idea that he wasn’t his best self or wasn’t his best version of a friend when he could have been. That’s become the backbone of his existence. It’s definitely eating away at him, and he’s trying to fill that hole with something else.
"I wouldn’t expect it to end great, but that’s why we’re serialized! So we keep torturing these people. [Laughs]."
"It’s shifted, because I would say that for the first half of the season it was all about Ashley [played by Christina Ochoa] and what she’s up to, what’s in that envelope, and knowing she’s up to no good. When you found out what Ashley’s story was, it pivoted to Barbara Morgan, all the time.
"All I can say is, it’s not that we’re not going to tell you, and tease it...DJ has had this planned from the beginning. There’s only [one] episode left in the season. If you can just hang on, most of it is going to come out."
A Million Little Things airs on ABC Thursdays at 9 p.m.