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And reveals the toughest part of her directorial debut
[Warning: The following contains spoilers from Wednesday's episode of A Million Little Things. Read at your own risk!]
A Million Little Things Season 4 is heading into its final stretch, but even with only a handful of episodes left in the season the friends group is still forging new paths. In Wednesday's episode, "60 Minutes," which was directed by cast member Allison Miller, Rome (Romany Malco) began his new job as a teacher at Sussex Prep, Katherine (Grace Park) and Greta (Cameron Esposito) ran into their first pain point of living together, and Maggie (Miller) and Gary (James Roday Rodriguez) discovered that having a baby won't be as easy as they thought.
It was a bit of a rollercoaster episode, especially for Miller who was directing for the first time. Not only did the actress have to introduce a new style of filming for the show in the very first episode, but she also had to track several key moments for her castmates and direct herself as Maggie helped Gary prep to have his sperm tested for her fertility doctor. It was a lot to juggle, but TV Guide spoke to Miller about how she stepped up to the challenge, and of course what we can expect from the rest of the season.
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What were your conversations with DJ and the creative time about directing and figuring out why this episode made the most sense for you to direct?
Allison Miller: I've wanted to direct for years. I've shadowed other directors on our show and on other shows. I directed a short between our first and second season, something that I had wanted to make for a long time and I thought, "Oh, this is a great time to do this just so I have something to bring to our producers to say, 'Hey, I'd like to also do this on our show.'" So when we started Season 4 — I had shadowed the previous year. There really wasn't any opening for outside directors, mostly because of how COVID affected our show — this year, we had a new producing director who got on a Zoom call with each of the cast individually. As soon as I started speaking to her, I started pitching myself to direct. She was incredibly supportive. She was an actor herself and got her first directing job on the show that she was working on as an actor and so I shadowed her. Before our holiday break, I did one final sort of Zoom push with DJ [Nash] and TC [Terrence Coli], our showrunners, and said, "You know, I'd really love to do this. I know that it would be more likely if we get to Season 5, but I just really want to do it now and I'm ready." They called me in early December and said we have a space for you and we'd love for you to do it for [Episode] 17 And so it happened.
Most actors avoid episodes that feature their characters a lot for their directorial debut, but Maggie is in this quite a bit. What was it like directing yourself?
Miller: I prefer directing other actors. I found that I would lose track of my prop in a way that I normally don't. That was really the biggest effect, but it's hard. Your job as an actor is to not focus entirely on what's going on around you and to sort of lose yourself in a moment and not have extreme self-awareness. And then as a director, you're doing the exact opposite, so you're having to watch yourself in a different way. That is a real challenge but I had so much great support from our DP and the other actors in the scenes with me and from our producing director. They were all there, kind of making sure that I wasn't, you know, doing anything completely off.
What was the toughest scene in the episode to crack?
Miller: We initiated a new form of camerawork in the very first scene of the episode, which involves a walk-and-talk through a narrow hallway that I was also acting in and so could not see the footage of what was being captured on the handheld camera that Gary was carrying. That was complex. There really wasn't any time for me to sit down and watch playback so I just had to trust that we were getting what we needed. I think it worked out really nicely and it adds a lot of dynamic and energy to the opening of the episode.
And what was the most fun scene to shoot?
Miller: The most fun, I think for me, was directing all of Rome's themes in the classroom. Those kids were amazing. They were so funny. His performance was fantastic. We basically had most of the day to spend with him. And I just, I loved getting to work with Romany and I love getting to work with some of our new cast members, Ash and Kelsey, and they were just really fantastic. It was a long day in that one room and they were so consistently wonderful.
We learn in this episode that Maggie and Gary's baby journey is not going to be as simple as they hoped. How is Maggie going to react to that considering what she's been through the past two years?
Miller: It's just another hurdle for these two and they've gotten really good at jumping over these hurdles together. It is a common situation for people. You think that having a baby is the easiest thing in the world because in high school they tell you that you will immediately get pregnant. As an adult, you start to realize that it's much more challenging than that, especially for two people who have been through treatment for cancer. There's a whole other layer there. They are in for another difficult ride, but hopefully, it won't be as hard as they are anticipating.
What can you tease about what fans can expect from the final episode of the season?
Miler: There's a big cliffhanger at the end and you're going to want to find out what happens. Hopefully, we get a Season 5 to get into that. There are a lot of new beginnings for these characters. There are a lot of great resolutions with a lot of the storylines. Things are being tied up in a way that is really satisfying for a lot of people, but then the end of the season is going to be a shocker.
A Million Little Things continues Wednesdays at 10/9c on ABC, with episodes available to stream the next day on Hulu.