Behind the Screens with Joshua Maloni
“A Million Little Things” is TV’s most underrated series.
Though it doesn’t have the buzz of cable and streaming programs, the ABC drama has the hallmarks of a show worth watching: characters we care about, relationships to invest in, light-hearted and legitimately funny moments, a storyline that keeps viewers on the edge of their couch – and so. Many. Plot twists. Heck, just in this third season alone, “AMLT” has touched upon disability, divorce, the courage of coming out in high school, sexual abuse, suicide, the weight of the coronavirus pandemic and the tensions that arose from the death of George Floyd.
In fact, creator DJ Nash and his team brought the past year squarely into the lives of the characters – and onto our screens.
Few shows have depicted the onerousness of COVID-19 – wearing a mask, socially distancing from loved ones, wondering if your job will exist tomorrow – better than “AMLT.” Perhaps worse than the virus itself is the isolation it caused – and that feeling is deeply explored in each of the on-screen roles.
With Delilah (Stephanie Szostak) stuck in France due to travel restrictions, Gary (James Roday Rodriguez) and Darcy (Floriana Lima) have to move into her house and look out for her children – Sophie (Lizzy Greene) and Danny (Chance Hurstfield) – during quarantine. As if that’s not taxing enough on the new couple, both teens face major life issues. Danny fears losing friends if he tells them he is gay; while Sophie, determined to be accepted into a college of music, is manipulated and assaulted by her guitar coach.
At the same time, the marriage of Eddie (David Giuntoli) and Katherine (Grace Park) is falling apart. He tried to right a past wrong, but instead wound up getting hit by a car outside of a bar. Paralyzed from the waist down, Eddie relapsed into addictive tendencies. Though Katherine and company made the Saville household handicapped-accessible, and Darcy provided physical therapy, the pain was too much for Eddie.
Rome (Romany Malco) and Regina (Christina Moses) have had the greatest challenge, first in finding out their planned adoption fell through once the birth mother, Eve, had second thoughts at delivery. As they slowly recovered from that blow, their dream jobs fell apart.
He had a chance to direct a major motion picture detailing his depression and the suicide of the man who brought everyone together, John (Ron Livingston) – De’s husband and the father of Sophie and Danny. But when COVID-19 struck, the movie studio pulled the plug on Rome’s film.
Regina was operating her own restaurant – a final gift from John before his suicide. She had to close/reopen/modify her eatery to abide by safety regulations, which of course meant less tables. An attempt to secure government funding feel through, as Regina forgot to send in necessary paperwork. She has been dealing with memory loss after hitting her head at a Black Lives Matter march.
Regina (Christina Moses) shares a moment with Tyrell (Adam Swain) on ABC’s “A Million Little Things.” (ABC photo by Jack Rowand)
In the middle of all this, Rome and Regina took in Tyrell (Adam Swain), whose mother was deported. Seeing the country in chaos, and wanting to be a good example to their high school ward, they begin to speak out against racial inequality and injustice.
What we find each week is this TV series tackling serious issues better than most "news" outlets.
Consider this powerful dialogue from a recent episode and see how “AMLT” is pushing us to reconsider how we treat one another. This is from a woman Rome and Tyrell interviewed for a documentary they’re filming:
“The day after Trayvon was murdered, I remember going to school, and looking around and thinking, ‘How can people just go about their day – like nothing happened?’ I couldn't do that. So I sat down, right in the middle of the hall. And some people laughed, and kept walking by, and then … a few kids sat down with me. And then Mr. Johnson, the history teacher, sat down. And in the end, there were 50 of us sitting there, talking about what happened. …
“Sometimes I still feel like that little girl who's sitting on a floor – like half the world is laughing at me, and the other half is just walking by. There is this armor that we have to wear just to get through the day. And every time another innocent Black person is killed, that armor gets heavier and heavier.
“But I've seen what can happen if we just keep showing up. … Things can change.”
Of all the characters on “A Million Little Things,” no one has had higher hurdles to clear than Regina. Even before the events of 2020, she was abused by a family member; struggled to find harmony with her mother, who is white; and saw her first restaurant fail. Oh, and Rome was about to commit suicide before receiving a call about John's death.
Through it all, Regina presses forward.
Moses, who skillfully brings Regina to life each episode, recently chatted with BTS. The gifted actor and newfound foodie shed light on why “AMLT” is a reflection of what’s going on outside the studio walls. She shared thoughts on Regina’s labors – and even offered some new favorite recipes.
An edited Q&A follows.
Christina Moses as Regina Howard on “A Million Little Things.” (ABC photo by Matthias Clamer)
Q: It is lunchtime. And, of course, on television you play a top chef. I'm wondering if you, in real life, are culinarily inclined, if you will.
Christina Moses: (Laughs) I am culinary inclined; yes. I would not say anything close to chef level, but I do like to cook – and I cook a lot.
Q: What's the go-to?
Christina Moses: Oh jeez. OK, well, I have different go-to's. So, for breakfast this morning, I just made something super simple. I have this really good sausage. I've been really into making hash browns lately.
Q: Oh, nice.
Christina Moses: (Laughs) Yeah, and it's super simple, but it's so good. And I just put a bunch of seasonings in there, like fresh herbs and sometimes vegetables, and then like eggs over easy.
Oh, and I just recently started liking mushrooms. I've never been a huge mushroom fan, but I discovered I really like oyster mushrooms. So, sautéing them with thyme, in grass-fed butter.
And my other favorite new dish for dinner is cod.
I'm discovering all these foods that I like – like I love to eat sushi, but I've never been a big cooked fish fan. I’ve been trying out all these different cod fishes, because it's a light fish that I can handle cooked. And wild-caught cod and you make it with parmesan, or like lemon and capers, and tomato.
Q: It sounds delightful. I can't agree with you on the mushroom thing, but I won't hold it against you.
Christina Moses: Oh, no, it's fine. That's pretty much as far as I can go with them.
Q: All right, something I love about this show – there's many things I love about this show – but something in particular that I've asked a handful of your castmates is when did you know this show was going to be so suspenseful and so edge-of-your seat? When did you know that would be a thing – and what do you think about that thing?
Christina Moses: I think I found out along with the rest of America, maybe. (Laughs)
No, I think I found out after the pilot. Reading the pilot, and booking the job once talking to DJ about his plans for the show, he said, ‘Look, I'm always going to be doing car flips. I'm going to lead it in one direction and, just when you think this certain thing is happening, I'm going to flip it to the other one.’ So, basically before we started filming the season.
And it's great; that's how life is, and that's how we should be reflecting it, right? I think that he's kept his word around that. And I think it's a good thing, because that is how life is. We can't plan or control anything, as hard as we try.
I like it – and I like suspense anyway.
Q: For sure. I'm always mad at the end of the show – I'm like, “Five more minutes!”
This show has really done an admirable job dealing with the two biggest news stories of the past year, year-and-a-half: coronavirus and George Floyd's murder. I'm wondering, was there conversation between the writers, producers and all of you that they were going to have this be part of the storyline, or how did it come about?
Why do you think it's important for the show to include that into the storyline, and how have you done it as well as you've done it?
Christina Moses: I don't really know what made them choose to do the COVID, as in like real time, other than they just want to be as true to what's happening in reality as possible. So, I think that was always on the table for them. I definitely wasn't involved in those discussions.
But in terms of the many racial revolutions that we've been having in this country, and particularly thumbed by George Floyd's death, that was a discussion from the summer of last year, before we started filming. DJ, and the writers – but DJ presented it to me first – he's been so gracious in including us in that, particularly Romany and I.
And before we knew exactly when we were going back and what the protocols were, we were going to continue having the storyline with Eve – the mother of the baby Rome and Regina were about to adopt. Not necessarily adopting the baby, but having her in our lives; and it would tie into race in the United States on a microlevel reflected in the macro.
And then George Floyd happened, and he wanted to include that in some way, in some fashion. And so, obviously we couldn't keep the Eve storyline going, mainly for protocol reasons – with having babies on the set and whatnot. So, it had to change on a dime. But we were always in discussions about really just having some important conversations around race, but not making it a highlight in the sense of like a PSA type of feel, you know? Just like this is what's happening in America right now, in the world right now; and this is what's happening in our lives. And it's impossible for us not to be affected by that as humans.
I just thought it was extremely bold of us to tell that story. And it's important, too, I think, to not just reflect what's happening as accurately as possible without hammering any agenda or political point of view on anyone's head, but just present what's actually happening and how it affects these characters based on how it somewhat affects us personally, as the actors. Not like this is our personal story that we're telling, but just like how we as actors of color experience the world.
It's not necessarily, “Oh, that's my particular story.” But I am a woman of color in the world, and I experience it in a particular way. And I have access to kind of different lenses from the people in my life. Things I've read, things I've studied with the lens of a black woman – a biracial woman – and just kind of putting my opinion into the mix, in the writers room for them to then create something.
“A Million Little Things” – “listen” – In response to the killing of George Floyd, the group of friends are forced to reevaluate their own racial biases and take to the streets of Boston. (ABC photo by Jack Rowand)
Q: Like I said, you have done a great job. I think there's many other shows that have just kind of pretended the past year didn't happen. I think that's been to their loss. … I appreciate you explaining how that all came to life.
With regard to Regina, I mean, you probably have the most complex, complicated, three-dimensional character on the show. She's shown such great resiliency in the years that we've known her. She's overcome the abuse she suffered as a child; she persevered when the adoption fell through; and now she's basically adopted a high school student. …
So many different things you've had to bring to life with this character. What do you like about these challenges – and how do you “go there”?
Christina Moses: Great question. Yeah, I love the journey that Regina has taken over the years.
I really love the fact this human being, you know, she has a dream that she thought was just kind of always outside of her reach. She can kind of touch it, but it's like, I think being a chef or owning a restaurant is akin to being an artist. It's so hard to make that happen, and to have longevity in that business. And so, when her dream finally came true, it's like, “Wow.” Her journey of just kind of getting over her own fears around that – because she had a failed restaurant before, and stepping into this is like an artist’s journey.
I really appreciate that. I can kind of tap into it from a personal experience in that way. And the journey of going from being clear in not wanting to be a mother – partly because of the trauma she experienced in her life. Also she's just very career-driven and relationship-driven. To watching the man that she loves step into needing and desiring being a father, and watching him being actually able to do that and overcome his own demons, so to speak. Not just overcome them, but just learn how to be really responsible for his own physical well-being, his mental health. All of that became something that was really admirable for her and ignited this desire to create a family with this man that she loves.
Yeah, it really sparked this desire to be a mother. And I think once that lit up in her, there's kind of no stopping her. And to be able to be flexible enough to be like, “OK.”
And I think with John's death, that was like the one thing that they all really took to heart is that life is going to throw you curveballs; but really how are you going to deal with that? How are you going to take the dream that you thought you had, or the life that you thought was going a specific direction, and then really be present to what's available, what's actually showing up? And then making lemonade out of lemons, so to speak.
So, you know, she couldn't have the dream family she wanted – that she didn’t even know she wanted. And here is this kid who needs them. And this is the family that's presenting itself. For her to take that risk and be open, I admire that about Regina.
The two-hour “A Million Little Things” season three finale airs at 9 p.m. Wednesday on ABC (WKBW-TV Channel 7). Learn more about the show and watch past episodes at https://abc.com/shows/a-million-little-things and www.hulu.com.
A masked-up Christina Moses talks with director Nina Lopez-Corrado inside of Regina’s kitchen. (ABC photo by Jack Rowand)