[Warning: The following contains spoilers for Wednesday's episode of A Million Little Things and potential triggers for victims of sexual violence.]
A nightmare came true for Sophie (Lizzy Greene) during Wednesday's episode of A Million Little Things as Gary (James Roday Rodriguez) investigated why Sophie was texting a man listed as her ex-boyfriend on her phone. It turned out that Sophie's guitar teacher, Peter (Andrew Leeds), hadn't been strictly prepping her for her college music auditions -- he had been grooming her to be a victim of his sexually deviant behavior.
Gary attempted to stay calm when he found out that Peter had convinced Sophie to perform in her bathing suit as part of an "exercise" to get her out of her comfort zone, but had to call in reinforcements when Sophie picked up on his reticence about the technique. As a trained therapist, Maggie (Allison Miller) was able to dig deeper and found out that not only had Peter filmed Sophie dancing in her bathing suit, she also coaxed Sophie into admitting that when she nailed her audition, Peter masturbated in front of her. In a misguided attempt to "normalize" the situation and center their relationship back on music, Sophie sent Peter photos of herself dressed as Britney Spears from the cover of the "Toxic" single, but the physical evidence of impropriety pushed Peter to drop Sophie as a student.
Luckily, both Maggie and Regina (Christina Moses), the latter of whom is also a survivor of sexual assault, were there to help convince Sophie that she did nothing wrong. However, this was a traumatic and devastating event for the young teenager and the road to recovery is only just beginning.
TV Guide spoke to Lizzy Greene exclusively about filming the harrowing episode, Sophie's next steps to recovery, and what she hopes viewers get out of seeing this story unfold as the season progresses.
What kind of prep were you able to do, especially considering the COVID limitations?
DJ [Nash, showrunner] actually pitched me this storyline in July of last year. I've had a lot of time to really research and gather as much information on this topic, and specifically grooming. I've had so many calls with people out of Los Angeles who I have yet to meet face-to-face, but I've been speaking with for months about the story. I've had people share with me their own experiences, which has been one of the most moving parts of all of this. I think being able to have that time of really knowing what this story was going to take on and really being able to prepare for that was really beneficial.
The scene between you and Andrew Leeds, who plays Peter, was really intense without being explicit. Can you talk about what the experience of filming that was like?
Greene: That scene was actually shot last on the last day of the episode. We moved through it fairly quickly. With intense scenes like that, and especially with such a sensitive subject matter, we found it really important to keep that intensity just for when they slate and then when the cameras cut, we get out of it. There's always a lightness kept between takes. This cast and crew are just like family and since Season 1, that's how our show takes on these really deep topics. It shows in the work because being able to kind of flip on like a light switch and flip it off when needed and when not needed is really important. Andrew is wonderful, by the way, and is such a great actor. I think just keeping the lightness between takes was really important.
This is a very traumatic experience for Sophie and it's happening with her guitar teacher. Is it going to hamper her love for music in any way going forward?
Greene: Absolutely. We'll definitely see this play out more so as the season progresses, but when you think about what she's given up, like Harvard for example, which is a bond she shared with her father, and it was because he's an alumni, and they had all these plans of what they were going to do when she went to Harvard. Her giving that up was a big deal and how she ended a relationship over wanting to have more time to be able to pursue this music career. She puts so much effort and energy into this and practically just puts all of her eggs in this basket. After this happens to her, she is in the back of her mind asking, "Was I ever even talented?" I think that's one of the most heartbreaking things. There's also that question of did Peter ever even see me as a musician? Or did he ever see me as someone who was wanting to take this seriously? We're going to really see this play out later on in the season. There are going to be some really great scenes with a few of the other cast [members] really getting into this specific question about what she is going to do with that music and what her plans are for the future.
What are the immediate next steps in her recovery now that the adults in her life know the truth?
Greene: Unfortunately, what's really common with survivors of sexual violence is there's the struggle with guilt and shame. We're going to see that happen. She's going to ask herself these questions of "Was I partially responsible for what happened?" Of course, the answer is absolutely not. Sophie did nothing wrong and I'm really hoping that she's going to realize that. She's going to really lean on Maggie's insight, which is going to be really important because Maggie can give her both her advice as someone that Sophie loves and also as a therapist.
Sophie calls and tells Delilah what happened at the end of the episode. Are we going to get to see Delilah's reaction, and who does Sophie lean on if her mom is stuck in France?
Greene: I'm going to say maybe [about the reaction]. I'm not going to say yes or no, but you will definitely see just how much Sophie's gonna rely on her mom, even while her mom is in France. You'll see that sooner rather than later, actually. With Delilah, there's this struggle of her desperately wanting to be back [in the States] for Sophie, but also struggling with her dad who has dementia and being stuck in France. That's really, really difficult for her. I think that you will definitely see the relationship and, in the midst of all of this, how it's going to play out.
What do you want most for Sophie after she has gone through this?
Greene: I really want her to continue to share her thoughts and feelings with the people around her. I want her to really, really reach the point where she knows that she did nothing wrong. I want her to not feel any guilt or shame for what happened to her. I think since she has such an incredible support system around her, if she continues to lean on them, I think it's going to be so beneficial for her healing process.
What do you hope viewers get out of watching this episode?
Greene: Firstly, [I] hope that this brings support and security and acknowledgment and healing to anybody who has been affected by sexual violence. I hope that this whole story that we're going to tell is going to be helpful in the healing process for them. For those that are maybe not super familiar with the topic, specifically grooming, I hope that this helps inform a lot of people about it and show that this can happen to anyone. I just hope that this makes people feel seen and I also hope that people will be able to really understand just how deep this issue goes.
A Million Little Things continues Wednesdays at 10/9c on ABC.
If you have a story like Sophie's, help is available. For anonymous, confidential, free support 24/7, call @RAINN's National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat at online.rainn.org.