[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the series premiere of A Million Little Things! Read at your own risk.]
If you were conscious in the month of September then you saw the trailer for ABC's new drama A Million Little Things, a series in which a group of friends must rally together after the leader of their group kills himself. The news of Jon's (Ron Livingston) death is devastating, but it turns out the secrets the friends have been keeping from each other are what's really threatening to tear them apart.
One was on the verge of suicide himself, one's cancer might have returned, and two others realized the only thing worse than losing the person you love most is the guilt of believing you were the cause of it. The final moments of Wednesday's premiere revealed that Eddie (David Giuontoli) was having an affair with Jon's wife Delilah (Stephanie Szostak) for months before Jon jumped off of his balcony. What's worse is that the last call Jon made before he died was to Eddie, and he ignored it because he and Delilah were in the middle of a tryst.
The reveal prompted way more questions than answers, so TV Guide talked to A Million Little Things creator and showrunner DJ Nash about the twist and what's next for this dysfunctional group in the wake of their shared tragedy. Read on to see what he had to say.
How long is this affair going to hang over the characters' heads?
DJ Nash: We're going to follow that and we're going to see how it affects the group and how it affects Delilah and Eddie individually as well. I think they both have families separate from this affair that are going to be challenged by everything that's happening.
Should we be more concerned about this affair or whatever it is that Ashley, Jon's secretary, is hiding? That also seems to be a very big deal.
Nash: Well, I think hopefully you're concerned about both, because we're going to be tracking both. I think in terms of Ashley, there's stuff going on about Jon that the rest of the group of friends wasn't aware of, and we're going to learn more about that as the season progresses, in terms of what happens.
I think what we are liking in the writers' room is having the basis of all of this stuff be characters and how it would authentically affect people. So as we're looking for why Jon may have made some of the choices he's made in this life, we want that always to be rooted in character. So the stuff in the envelope and what Ashley knows will inform that. As we look at the relationships in our show that progress and adjust as a result of losing Jon, hopefully that will come from character as well.
Is Ashley someone we can trust? Because she's a little bit outside of the circle, but it does seem like she genuinely loved Jon as well.
Nash: I think she genuinely loves Jon and I think she believes that all of the things she's doing are honoring Jon. ... What I like about our show is just when you think you know someone, you don't. ... In the pilot, you might not like Katherine so much, but in Episode 3, we learn to love her. In a similar way here, these card flips where you think, "Oh, Rome's going to kill himself. No, it was Jon." Or, "Oh, Eddie's having an affair with his guitar student's mom. Oh, it's Delilah." In all of these ways, we will flip these cards and I want us to — just when you think you know Ashley, you don't. Just when you think you know why Jon did it, you don't.
Do you ever plan on revealing why Jon did it? Or do you plan to keep it like real life, meaning you would never really get answers unless someone left a note?
Nash: The compliment that our show has received that means the most to me is [that it is] authentic, and I think, in real life, you do not have the benefit of knowing exactly why someone took their own life. You might know what the last straw was, but you may not know all the straws on the camel's back. I think, in a similar way here, we may have things that point to why Jon did this. At the end of the season we will learn something quite significant about Jon that will inform stuff. But, as you said correctly, in life, we never know exactly why. I think the title of the show refers to two things. It refers to what friendship is. At the same time, it also may refer to why someone might do this, and it's a million little things.
What does the scope of the season look like? In this premiere, we're dealing with Jon's death that has a huge impact on all of these characters. They're very much under the oppression of this grief. How long do you plan on keeping them in that place before letting them move on with their lives?
Nash: The farther we move away from the event, the lighter they can be, which is true to life. I had a friend I lost in eighth grade and every time I lose someone now, I think back on him, but the wounds aren't as fresh. But you can go right back there. So, I think in a similar way here, they're going to move on and things will remind them. But yes, you're correct. The farther we move away from his funeral, the more they're going to be able to move on.
How is Jon's suicide specifically going to affect Rome's recovery?
Nash: The show is not about Jon passing. It's about a friend who lives because another friend died. So the whole framework of the show, the whole reason I wanted to tell [this story] was that one friend's passing saved another. So I think that completely informs it. In the pilot, we see Rome going to a funeral that could've been his. He sits in that car outside that funeral and he has like a memory of what he almost did. Jon is the Ghost of Christmas Past to Rome. We see Rome now trying to, in Episode 2, walk in Jon's footsteps, looking for any way in which they're different and as he says, "I can't find it." Then, at the end of the episode, we see him, in a positive way, making a choice to step in Jon's shoes.
So, we are watching Rome come to terms with his depression. We will see some genetic factors and him making different choices than his family and him making different choices than his friend Jon. I think, hopefully, again that will feel like an authentic story and an authentic depiction of depression.
This feels like a really weird time for Maggie to fall into this group of friends, but then she fits in very well. Can you talk about what her journey is going to be like as a new member of this group that's very tight knit?
Nash: Some of the things that Jon says in the pilot are things I really believe. I really believe everything happens for a reason. Obviously, when you go to something horrific like losing a friend, it's harder to find that reason. ... If she hadn't met that guy at the support group and if she hadn't gone into the bathroom, she wouldn't have met that group of friends. She's making choices right now to live her life on her terms. I think what's so incredible about Jon and his relationship with this group of friends is he's affecting Maggie in a positive way, someone he's never even met.
We're seeing Jon a lot in these flashbacks and memories. Are we supposed to take those as true representations of what happened or are they sort of shaded by that character's perception of the memory? Maybe it's not the complete truth — it's their version of the truth.
Nash: That's exactly right. I think perception is everything and I love the idea of perception. We play with it right from the pilot because, as I said, you think Katherine is this horrendous wife and we find her humanity in Episode 3 and we'll continue to find it. I think that's what happens when you experience something. We tend to look at something from our own viewpoint. I can have an agent who doesn't call me back and I think why is she not calling me back? And it's because she's with her kid in the ER and I didn't think of it from that perspective. Throughout the series, we will play with the idea of perspective. So these memories are just that. They're memories and they may or may not be trustworthy.
What are you most excited for people to see in this first season of A Million Little Things?
Nash: I think what I'm excited for people to see is a group of friends who lean on each other and love each other and laugh with each other. I hope that the topics we're hitting, we're hitting with authenticity, humanity, heart and humor. I think there's some very serious topics we're hitting, but if I've learned anything in life, it's that just when you think you can't take any more, the world gives you a reason to laugh. You just have to be open to it. I think this group of friends will discover that friendship is the one thing that may save them from themselves.
A Million Little Things continues Wednesdays at 10/9c on ABC.