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Maybe things are going to work out for Gary after all
[Warning: The following contains spoilers from the Season 5 premiere of A Million Little Things. Read at your own risk!]
It's time once again for the A Million Little Things friends group to rally. This time it's around Gary (James Roday Rodriguez), who we found out came out of cancer remission in the Season 4 finale. After Rome (Romany Malco) discovered Gary's new diagnosis in the video diary Gary has been making for his and Maggie's (Allison Miller) unborn child, the rest of the group was informed, and the Season 5 premiere was spent making sure Maggie and Gary were sure they knew they had support wherever and whenever they needed it. That also came in handy when Gary's dad died suddenly, bringing to the surface a lot of feelings about his own approach to fatherhood. Luckily, Gary got the good news that his body is responding to the chemo treatments, so he has a while longer to come to terms with exactly the type of father he wants to be.
Meanwhile, it was not going smoothly for the rest of the friend group. Rome is in for an emotional roller coaster this season with his dad starting to show early signs of dementia. Eddie (David Giuntoli) and Anna (Erin Karpluk) broke up, leaving him single once more. And while Katherine (Grace Park) remains happy with Greta (Cameron Esposito), coming out to the world outside of the friend group is proving to be daunting task.
TV Guide caught up with A Million Little Things creator DJ Nash and executive producer Terrence Coli to talk about everything that went down in the premiere and what else they have planned for rest of the the final season.
You had the privilege of knowing this was the final season ahead of time. What goals or story points did you know you wanted to hit before this show says goodbye?
DJ Nash: I think the use of the word privilege is exactly right. I think whenever I have created a pilot, I know what the series finale would be…So I knew from the beginning that this is the story we wanted to tell. I'd let very few people into that circle to know. The writers knew because there's things that came up that would make that not work. The first day in the writers room I told them, "This is my plan for the last episode, and this is what happened to John at the end of Season 1." It's a lot to take in, so we had conversations about, is this six [seasons] or five? I always felt like it was five…This is so much more satisfying that we tell the whole story. It is a privilege for us to get to tell the story. It's a story the cast has known of the last couple of years now, and when we heard we were coming back to tell the story, they were all on board.
Gary's cancer is back this season, but he's responding well to treatments. What does his journey look like this season in light of that development?
Terrence Coli: Gary knows that the most important thing right now is to be the best partner he can be to Maggie, who is pregnant and expecting. We've seen Gary be a wonderful father, a surrogate father, to Danny and Sophie…I think his main goal is going to be, "I want to use that skill set for my own kid. I want to be around as long as I possibly can."
Nash: If our series was indefinite, as some people would like it to be, spoiler: They all die. So the question is obviously, does Gary die? I wanted to tell [the story of] Season 5 because we saw Gary in general, as a result of Jon dying, be there for everybody, sometimes when he shouldn't be. He didn't read a room really well, and then went to Peter's…there's stuff that he's done, this self-imposed role that he plays. He needs to be on the receiving end of it…The caretaker needs to be taken care of. For Maggie, it's repaying a debt that is not really a debt, but she sees it that way. For the friend group, it's, "We need you to know we've got you." We'll see that happen. The show ends in the most optimistic way and it is an ending that when we pitched it to the studios and the network, they were screaming, "That's great!"
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You have teased that Stephanie Szostak and Ron Livingston are coming back as Delilah and Jon. Is there anyone else that you can tease might return to say goodbye?
Coli: Rome and Regina came into this season struggling with what it means to be empty nesters, having invested so much time in Tyrell and his college journey. I think they quickly realize they are not going to be empty nesters for long. That's a fun journey for them. We're going to see some folks from Rome's family come back…We're going to see some familiar faces at Rome's school. Maddox is back. Someone from Eddie's past comes back in a really important way this season. Someone from Maggie's world who we've heard a lot about but haven't actually met on camera.
Speaking of Rome, you're tackling dementia with his dad. That's a tough subject to do.
Nash: When Rome's mom died, he said at the funeral, "There's nothing I need to say to her or something I need to hear her say." He knew he wasn't at that place with his dad, and he knew by the time he's gone, he wanted to feel the same way. Now, Rome realizes that's a ticking clock. Rome is realizing there are a lot of ticking clocks in his life, so we're watching that story.
Let's dig into that, because in the premiere Rome is in some serious denial about what's going on with his dad. How long is that going to continue?
Coli: At the end of the episode, he starts to realize he's going to have to take this seriously. As we go into Episode 2, he's really, shall we say, road testing the condition. I think he quickly comes to terms with the fact that this is real and he's going to have to in some ways be the parent to his own parent. And learn that part of that process is saying goodbye every day, a little bit.
I want to talk about Eddie and Anna next. Did they break up? Is that it?
Nash: That's it. She's moved away and made room for something incredible.
And finally, Katherine. Last season was so much about her accepting her sexuality for herself. It seems like we're heading in a direction where she needs to figure out how much she wants to express that sexuality outside of herself. She has a new haircut! But how else is that journey manifesting this season?
Coli: Katherine will have some real opportunities down the stretch to show Greta how important she is to her. The thing I love about the relationship between Katherine and Greta is that somebody was asking if Greta was going to stick around, and in some ways it feels like Greta has always been around. It's a testament I think to how great Cameron Esposito is on the show and how hard it is to come into a fourth and fifth season of a show and be so seamlessly integrated into the cast.
A Million Little Things continues Wednesdays at 10/9c on ABC.