Post Mortems

A Million Little Things' James Roday Rodriguez on How Gary's Bombshell News Will Shape Rest of Final Season — Plus, Grade the Premiere

Warning: This post contains spoilers for A Million Little Things‘ Season 5 premiere. 

Just when you thought A Million Little Things might’ve exhausted its supply of “bittersweet plot twists,” along comes Wednesday’s Season 5 premiere, which revels in the upcoming birth of Gary and Maggie’s baby but also reveals that Gary’s cancer is never going to go into remission.

The news, while gutting, is not as immediately dire as it first seems — we’ll get to that in a moment. First, here’s a rundown of the other major plot points in “The Last Dance:”

* The Friends of Jon let Gary and Maggie in on the fact that they know about Gary’s illness. Everyone hugs and cries. Later, they also accompany him to his doctor’s appointment, where they all learn that Gary’s cancer will be around for the rest of his life. Maggie gamely points out that they’ll have to do as much as they can to make his life as long as possible. Then Gary slips and refers to the baby as a “he,” and Maggie confirms it: They’re having a boy.

a-million-little-things-premiere-recap-season-5-episode-1-gary-cancer* At some point during a seven-month time jump, Gary’s father, Javier, dies. From the way the post-funeral reception is shot, it seems for a minute like Gary might have died. But he didn’t! Related: Maggie is very pregnant. Gary and Danny find Gene, the guy who loved Douglas, Javier’s war buddy who died. They share stories about their loved ones who have passed. At one point, Gary starts sobbing. Danny thanks Gene for paving the way for him as a gay man. Once again, everyone cries.

* Anna is released from prison. Instead of moving in with Eddie, like he wants, she decides to make a fresh start by moving to her sister’s place in a different city. They part on good, if sad, terms.

a-million-little-things-premiere-recap-season-5-episode-1-rome* Rome’s father, Walter, is starting to forget things. His girlfriend, Florence, tearfully tells Rome that she’s going to end the relationship, because her husband suffered from dementia, and “I can’t take this journey with him.” Later, Rome starts to see signs that Florence’s fears about Walter may be accurate.

* Regina offers Sophie a job at the food truck, and Sophie accepts.

OK, back to Gary. TVLine chatted with James Roday Rodriguez about what his character will face in the ABC drama’s final season and how the latest diagnosis affects the father-to-be’s outlook on life. Read on to see what he had to say!

TVLINE | Gary gets some news at the end of the premiere: His cancer’s not advancing, but it is also not ever going to go away. Take us inside his head as to how he’s going to deal with that as the episode ends and through the season.
I say this bearing the responsibility of a dramatization of something that so many people have actually had to deal with for real, which affects families and loved ones and everything:  I do think that there is a bizarre, perhaps somewhat macabre level of security in just knowing that I don’t have to cross my fingers and hope for an all-clear every six months. Because I think that, in itself, can create so much anxiety in a human being.

So, the diagnosis that, “Hey, this is the deal,” it is what it is, you know? It gives Gary permission to start living for every moment, not knowing how many he’ll have left. As opposed to that, “You know what? I can be one of those people that just beats it,” and the energy that goes into that.

TVLINE | Before Maggie got pregnant, do you think Gary realized how much he wanted to be a dad? How much it would mean to him?
I think Gary has played a father-like figure to so many characters on this show that, even if he hadn’t looked in the mirror and said “I want to be a dad,” it’s sort of second nature to him. Being a father to a child whose mother is Maggie is probably the thing he didn’t realize could be so good. I think she was the missing piece of that equation for him.

TVLINE | Talk about how Gary’s dad’s death hits him at the beginning of the season and how that evolves throughout the season.
Well, I think the theme of appreciating life while you have it is certainly supplemented by the death of his father. Gary probably has regrets about times that he could’ve spent with his father, but he didn’t because of petty stuff that didn’t even need to be there. And I think that lesson, that reality, “Wow, I really, really miss my dad, and I really wish I could’ve been around him more,” both inspires him and drives him to make sure that the same thing doesn’t happen with him and his son.

a-million-little-things-premiere-recap-season-5-episode-1TVLINE | There’s a little fake out in the post-funeral scene in the premiere: We think maybe Gary’s died, but it’s his dad. Can we anticipate any other card-flips, as [series creator] DJ Nash calls them, during the season?
DJ Nash is a bottomless fountain of card flips, and you can expect as many card flips as 13 episodes can deliver.

TVLINE | There’s a very significant time jump, seven months, in the premiere. It seems like we might see Gary and Maggie’s son arrive sooner rather than later. Is that anything you can confirm?
What I can confirm is that, to the best of my knowledge, we are going with a traditional nine-month human gestation period for this child. So, if the jump is seven months, then I think using just basic arithmetic, you can assume that our child is not special in that way.

TVLINE | Any more time jumps in this final season, beyond that one?
I would expect so. It’s always been a part of the DNA of the show, whether it’s forward or backwards.

TVLINE | Is the season fully shot? Are you done?
We’re not. We still have four or five left. But I think we’ll continue to play with time. I think there’s also an expectation from fans that we continue to sort of do all the same things that This is Us did. And I think they did time jumps in their last season.

TVLINE | Your and Maggie’s kid is going to be a singer in the year 2073.
That’s right. Get ready for the big fire episode, everyone. — With reporting by Matt Webb Mitovich

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the premiere? Grade it via the poll below, then hit the comments!