After an emotional funeral episode in which viewers said goodbye to one beloved character, the midseason finale of A Million Little Things, “Time Stands Still,” continued to pull out all the punches for our Boston-based band of friends.
The truth about the parentage of PJ (Chandler Riggs) was revealed: the deceased Jon (Ron Livingston) turned out not to be PJ’s biological dad, despite the teenager’s desire for it to be true. The hair tested on the sweater only matched because it belonged to Jon’s Harvard best friend Dave, who died in one of the planes crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11. Dave is PJ’s real biological father.
Rome (Romany Malco) helped PJ process the life-altering news, eventually getting PJ help for the mental health issues he’s been suffering from all season long. The moment proved enlightening for Regina (Christina Moses), who realized, after seeing Rome in father mode, that they should adopt a child together.
But not all endings were so sweet. Delilah (Stéphanie Szostak) finally agreed to tell her kids their own parenting truth: Eddie (David Giuntoli) is the real father of baby Charlie. This reveal led to Sophie (Lizzy Greene) smashing Eddie’s guitars to smithereens. (Don’t really blame her, but does this mean their guitar lessons are over?!)
Speaking of broken relationships, Gary (James Roday) and Maggie (Allison Miller) split up when Gary realized that a post-cancer Maggie may have only wanted to spend the “rest of [her] life” with him when she thought it was only six months, max. Meanwhile, Eric (Jason Ritter), the recipient of Maggie’s brother’s heart, is seemingly keeping secrets of his own. Hmm...does this secret have anything to do with that picture of his allegedly-but-maybe-not “dead” girlfriend (played by Sutton Foster)?
A Million Little Things creator DJ Nash has all the answers...not that he’s going to tell you many of them. Over the phone, Refinery29 spoke to the TV writer about PJ’s storyline twist, the real deal with Foster’s picture, and why we must protect Theo (Tristan Byon) at all costs.
Refinery29: Did you ever consider having PJ really be Jon’s son?
DJ Nash: “There was a large section of our writers room that wanted that to be the case. I personally felt like it was too neat and too TV. The compliment that the show gets that means the most to be is ‘authentic,’ so I wanted it to go the [opposite] of the way you would think it would go. For PJ, the paternity issue was so important for him was because for a lot of his life he didn’t feel like his dad was his dad. The way he was, wasn’t the way the man who raised him was. He struggled with a lot, and was also dealing with depression. Finding a truth that would answer a lot of questions he had in life was comforting. When that ‘truth’ was broken apart, he was left helpless. Thankfully, Rome — who has been a father to him this whole season — was there, and picked up on a subtle look PJ gave to the edge [of the building] and realized that his friend was thinking about hurting himself.”
Rome and Regina decided to adopt a child in this episode. Is this something we’ll dive into immediately when the season returns in January?
“The next episode picks up three months later, so when we pick up with them, they’re on the next step of this process. They’ve gotten married saying ‘no kids,’ and now they’ve changed their mind in a different way. The road to that and the issues it brings up for both of them about how they were raised and how they would want to raise their child will be what we follow for the rest of the season.”
You mention on Twitter that a lot of storylines are based on yours or other writers’ real lives. Was Rome and PJ’s relationship inspired by something you went through?
“There’s some element of the show that I never expected to [affect me the way it has.] I’ve had the great privilege of meeting people who have been affected by the show, struggling with their own depression or suicidal thoughts. I’ve made these incredible connections with people. Sometimes it’s a tweet, sometimes it’s a conversation. Sometimes I’ve seen friendships form between fans of the show. PJ really represents fans of the show who identify with the issues and topics of the show, especially when it comes to depression.”
Now that they’re definitely not siblings, any hope for Sophie and PJ?
“Sophie learning the truth about her mother will have a profound effect on this young woman. We started the series with Sophie as a girl, and now she’s going to be thrown into womanhood quickly because of her struggles with knowing the truth. In terms of her relationship with PJ or other boys, I’ll leave that for the audience to discover.”
“Delilah’s ability to parent is now incredibly injured. All the things Delilah was afraid of, as we see in the midseason finale, the kids lost their mother.”
There are all these memes about Katherine being a saint for dealing with all of Eddie’s drama so well. It’s a huge turn from the pilot, where she’s not the most likable character. How do you feel about Katherine?
“Part of [how Katherine was in the pilot] was to protect Eddie given his affair, and part of it was the idea that we don’t always know somebody, even if we think we do. You think Katherine is a certain way, and then you discover who she really is. A lot of the Katherine stories have come directly from my life, with my kids, so the fact that people are calling her a saint is cool! I wanted to portray a great American woman on television, so having the opportunity to do that has been so rewarding.
“Even with what she says in the pilot, ‘I didn’t realize that [the funeral] was an all-day thing,’ when she walks into the house — there’s a reason she says that. I’ve seen a lot of people on Twitter who are #TeamDelilah or #TeamKatherine, and people who are like ‘How come no one is supporting Katherine the way they are supporting Delilah?’ I think that’s the reason why Katherine was afraid to walk into [Delilah’s house] without Jon there as her buffer. We just heard it a different way.”
Eric is keeping something from Maggie, and in the midseason finale we hear him talk on the phone with someone he calls ‘buddy.’ It sounds like he might be talking to a child. Can we trust Eric? Is he a good guy?
“We cast Jason purposefully because we needed a ‘good guy.’ We needed someone who, given that you know he’s keeping a secret, you believe there must be more to the story. Now that we write the show, it’s not that the fans are ahead of it, but everyone is expecting a twist now. Now when we write, we write with that anticipation. I love the fact that you think he’s talking to a child, that’s really interesting.”
What other fan theories have you heard that you like?
“There’s one where Theo is getting nosebleeds because he has cancer. The writers were like ‘Oh, that’s interesting.’ The thing with theories though is, they’re delayed. By the time [the writers] hear them, it’s past where we are. Just in case anyone is ever worried, Theo is based on [my own] kid, so he’ll be fine.”
We saw Sutton Foster in a photograph. She’s supposedly Eric’s dead girlfriend, but some fans aren’t sure.
“We will see Sutton Foster in the second half of the season, in an episode I’m editing right now. She’s phenomenal. She’s an important part of Eric’s story. It’s about love and loss...but maybe it’s a different kind of loss [and she’s not dead.]”
A Million Little Things returns January 23, 2020 at 10 p.m.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
If you are thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-784-2433.