‘A Million Little Things' Boss Reveals PJ’s Unseen Backstory
A Million Little Things fall finale required tissues. During the Thursday, November 21, episode of the ABC drama, PJ (Chandler Riggs) first approached his “parents” with the news that he knew Jon (Ron Livingston) was his real father. However, his mom shocked him with other news — the hair that was used in the DNA test was not Jon’s but actually Jon’s best friend Dave’s and he is actually PJ’s dad. PJ was already livid at his parents for lying to him — Mitch (Rhys Coiro) had stepped in when Barbara (Drea de Matteo) was pregnant following Dave’s death on 9/11 and decided to raise him as his own — but now, PJ also had to deal with the fact that his real father was not Jon, someone whose family he had spent weeks trying to get close to.
After the reveal, he broke down, heading up to the roof and stepping onto the ledge while in tears. Rome (Romany Malco) called his wife in that moment, who put him on speaker while the group all listened to both men crying and Rome trying to help PJ, reminding him how loved he was. In a desperate moment, Rome stepped onto the ledge next to him to show him that he was once in that state of mind too — and that now, he was OK and could help him. Finally, PJ stepped back onto the roof and Rome embraced him.
That was only one heartbreaking story line in the fall finale. Creator DJ Nash answered all our burning questions following the episode and teased what’s to come below.
Us Weekly: Was this always the plan with PJ?
DJ Nash: PJ was originally introduced as someone who would respond to Rome script and have depression, and I wanted to put Rome in a situation where he was helping someone through it and to have that victory. As we were rounding out our first season with Barbara Morgan and looking for Barbara to have a child, we said, Oh, could it be the same person? … When Gary came to the door that day looking for Barbara Morgan and Barbara lied, PJ was in the next room and heard his parents fighting. Then he followed his mom the next day and she went to talk to Sophie and entered into the Dixon house. PJ is waiting outside for his mom wondering ‘What’s going on? What’s the whole story that I don’t know here? …Then that guy Gary, who he recognizes comes out of the house headed somewhere and he decides to follow Gary to the hospital. And that’s where he met Rome. That was a whole backstory that we didn’t care whether we showed onscreen or not. We just needed to understand how this would work. And then the character, for us, really became this cautionary tale to Delilah and Eddie or wondering what to do about Charlie’s paternity.
Us: It seems like Sophie and PJ would really be able to connect over this. Is there hope now for that relationship?
DN: We were very much split as a room! A lot of people were like, “How could you not make him Jon’s son? It’s so great for story. There are so many things we could do.” Then some of us were in the camp of, “It’s what you’d expect it to be, so we’ve got to flip the card, and how do we go on a ride?” One of the pluses of having PJ not be Jon’s son is that you don’t have a Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia situation where brother and sister are kissing. In terms of what happens with that, I will say that as we get to the second half of the season, while Sophie started the season of being this innocent little girl, as a result of finding out the truth, she almost in an instant becomes a woman who is now faced with the reality of her life.
Us: Maggie and Gary are done for now. Eric got a call from someone — does that have anything to do with his dead ex, who we know will be appearing soon, most likely in flashbacks?
DN: With our show you never know. But does the call Eric receive have something to do with Chloe? I don’t want to say. I love the speculation. That’s a really interesting theory. I’m fascinated by that. I’ve heard everything from “Is it about his feelings for Maggie?” “Is it about whoever is on the other end of that call?” Obviously by calling the person “buddy,” I didn’t want you to think that it’s Chloe.
Us: Maggie and Gary are a fan-favorite couple. Is this really the end?
DN: They met at a cancer support group, and that was by design. The idea that the worst things in your life can lead to the greatest parts of your life was really the message. Losing my friend was horrible, but he sort of helped me reinvent my life. Their whole relationship was about cancer. When it was about love, it was really about cancer. The struggle really is how do you figure out who we are without cancer. It’s not black and white. It’s the gray areas. We spent more time writing that scene than I spent on any scene — and probably more than I spent writing an episode of our series. It was so important to get that right, to understand Maggie’s side and understand Gary’s side. Our show is all about the ifs. If Gary hadn’t called about Jon, Rome would be dead. If Maggie hadn’t applied to Oxford, she wouldn’t have been looking for her passport and found the ring. If she hadn’t found the ring, they wouldn’t have had this conversation and they’d still be together, right? We wanted to show how fragile life is going forward. Maggie and Gary are going to figure out if they can live without each other, without being in each other’s lives romantically and whether they can exist as friends, or if they want more. … Obviously with them not together, it opens the door to Eric, it opens the door to Gary and countless women but I think the friend group, like our fans, know that Maggie and Gary ought to be together.
Us: Where do we pick up when we come back?
DN: We’ll pick up three months later, and a lot has happened you know. Rome and Regina are on the road to adoption. Maggie and Gary, you will see where their relationship is or isn’t. We will see where Eric is or isn’t. We will see where Eddie, Delilah and Catherine are now needing to be a united front and handling a very messy situation.