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Behind the Screens with Joshua Maloni
Lizzy Greene has achieved something many of her contemporaries have not: a second act.
Having started as a child actor on Nickelodeon – one of the stars of “Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn” – Greene has successfully transitioned into an adult role, that of Sophie Dixon on “A Million Little Things.”
On “AMLT,” Greene’s character is miles removed from the carefree quadruplet the actor portrayed for 84 episodes starting at the age of 11.
In the pilot episode, Sophie loses her father, John (Ron Livingston, “Band of Brothers”), who takes his life when faced with crushing guilt over financial concerns and the loss of a friend on 9/11. Soon after, Sophie learns her mother, Delilah (Stephanie Szostak, “Iron Man 3”), had an affair with her guitar teacher and family friend, Eddie (David Giuntoli, “Grimm”) – and, of course, John is not her baby sister’s dad.
Sophie turns her attention to MMI, the music school she hopes to attend. But at her tryout, she’s told her music lacks presence. Her auditioner, Peter (Andrew Leeds, “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist”), offers to train Sophie. Just as she’s starting to find her voice, he steals it from her by assaulting Sophie.
Fighting back, Sophie arranges a new tryout at MMI – and asks Maggie (Allison Miller, “13 Reasons Why”) to record a podcast where she names her attacker. The recording serves as a warning to future students, and it buoys Sophie’s spirits.
But that feeling doesn’t last long.
When Delilah goes to France to see her ailing father, Gary (James Roday, “Psych”) is tasked with watching Sophie and her younger brother, Danny (Chance Hurstfield). It was on his watch that Sophie met Peter, and Gary can’t handle that – particularly when the Boston police decline to file criminal charges. He pays a visit to Peter, who winds up in the hospital.
You do the math.
Peter agrees to “forget” Gary’s break-in, but only if Sophie pulls the podcast – which she does. In the meantime, Delilah returns … intent on moving the family to France.
Seeing her friends off at college – and realizing the most important adults in her life constantly and spectacularly disappoint her – Sophie turns to partying.
An unexpected pep talk from Eddie leads to a mending of fences. Sophie returns to her guitar, knocks a new audition out of the park, and finally finds a little happiness along the way – thanks, in part, to some newfound band friends.
Did I mention the person bringing forth all of these emotions and shouldering the weight of this character started on Nickelodeon?
Or that she’s only 18?!?
On a show chock-full of TV titans – the aforementioned, plus Grace Park (“Hawaii 5-0), Romany Malco ("Weeds"), Christina Moses ("The Originals") and Floriana Lima (“Supergirl”) – Greene is establishing herself as a formidable on-screen talent. She not only holds her own, of late she’s stealing scenes and making good episodes great.
The actor shared her journey to this role in a recent Q&A.
Sophie auditions for a spot at MMI on “A Million Little Things.” (ABC photo by David Bukach)
Q: One of the things I really like about this show is that it does a great job including everyone in the cast. Everyone is essential to the storyline. That’s not always the case – particularly with offspring of the older adult cast members. I’m glad it has been the case. But what appealed to you about this series? What was your expectation – and what was your hope?
Lizzy Greene: I came straight off of Nickelodeon. And so, my experience in the television world was kids comedy. When I went out for my first pilot season after that show had wrapped, I got this show that came in front of me. It really spoke to me, because of how it talks so openly about mental health. And the pilot itself is just so, so amazing.
Just getting it in front of me, it was just an amazing script. I just loved the story that was going to be about a bunch of friends and how they heal from something that is so tragic.
As to what you said about usually the kids aren't really brought it all that much: Yeah, I know. And so, when COVID kind of hits, and everyone's storylines kind of had to be sort of very separated in a way because of COVID, if you don't really work with someone in your scenes, you don't really see them all that often. And so, when Delilah went to France and it was just kind of me and Danny, it opened a really great storyline of Gary and Darcy (Lima) getting to kind of babysit us and everything. And then, yeah, I did get this amazing opportunity for this really moving storyline. It's all been a really, really awesome process.
Q: You’ve been absolutely crushing it the past two seasons – with everything that happened between Sophie and Peter, and your more recent scenes with Stephanie, James and David. Tell me about your character’s growth from season to season, and what those particular scenes were like – talking to her mom about moving; and Gary about the break-in; and she says to Eddie about lining up all the adults who’ve disappointed Sophie. How exciting has it been for you as an actress to have that kind of material to deal with of late?
Lizzy Greene: Oh, my gosh, yeah. I mean, if you think about all that Sophie has experienced over these four seasons, it's so much turmoil (laughs) for someone who's only 18. And her ability to be able to experience this stuff and then come out of it stronger, I think is such a testament to her strength – and also the support system that she has around her.
And so, all these scenes, I mean, as an actor, yes, it's so exciting to be able to really dive into deep storylines. Reading these storylines and doing these storylines, even when it's like behind the scenes, we all are the same; we’re like, “Oh, this is so sad,” like when Sophie is yelling at Gary, because of what he did. So, there's definitely that excitement, and also how we deeply feel these storylines.
We feel for these characters. We are these characters – and then when the cameras cut, we also are like, “Aw, dang, I hope that we can forgive each other and everything.”
That scene with Stephanie, when she is deciding to go to France, I think that's also a moment that shows Sophie's growth, because she's talking to her, and she loves her mother so much, and I think her mother has been there to comfort her through all that's gone on these last few seasons. And I think that was a moment where it was kind of a flip, and it was Sophie kind of comforting her mom, and telling her, “You need to do this for you. You need to be in France. That's what you want. That's what's best for you.” It was a cool little dynamic switch there.
With David, with getting to do that scene where I am talking about how a lot of the adults have disappointed me – and that's where there's been a time jump and Sofia's kind of sat and marinated on all of the stuff that has gone on, and this is after Delilah, and this is after everything that went on with finding out about Gary being there at Peter's house. She's kind of rebelling a little bit, with throwing parties. I think if any good were to come out of the really sad storyline between Gary and Sophie, it is that Sophia and Eddie kind of got to mend the relationship.
That scene in the car is such a favorite for me, when they're both talking about how Eddie's talking about his trips. … They get to open up to each other, and then they get to get back to their whole mentor relationship.
And so, there's been a lot of really awesome moments, that everything just kind of is like a little domino effect about how everything works.
Sophie has been helped by Maggie (Allison Miller) … but not so much by Gary (James Roday). (ABC photos by Jack Rowand and Darko Sikman)
Q: Eddie is talking about going from being a rock star to being, essentially, like an Uber driver, right? And it’s dealing with the hand you've been given, and making the most of it. Would you say that’s what Sophie is doing, too – she's sort of trying to accept the cards that she's been given of late, and make the most of it?
Lizzy Greene: Definitely. Yeah. And so, again, it shows how strong she is as a character. I mean, it goes as far back to episode two of season one, where it was the father-daughter dance, and everyone was like, “You don't have to do it.” And she's like, “No; I'm going to do it.” In that way, she wants to be strong, and she wants to not let these things that have happened to her define her. I think that's a really amazing character quality. And I think that's also a lot of how our show is, it's about taking what's happened to you, and how you move on and heal from it.
Q: I have two questions for you, and I'm not sure if you can answer them. If you can't, no harm, no foul; I completely understand.
Lizzy Greene: Go ahead! Go ahead! (laughs)
Q: The first question is have we seen the last of Peter?
Lizzy Greene: I can't say anything about that (laughs).
Q: Totally fair. How about this? We know that Sophie did really well at the audition. She got into MMI – but then she's auditioning for a band. What can we expect from her, as far as her musical choices in the near future?
Lizzy Greene: I mean, we'll have to wait and see. But I think that joining this band was a big deal for Sophie, because she got MMI, and the thing that she's been working towards for so long; she's so excited to get in, and then she has it – and it's in her hands. And she's realizing, “Maybe this isn't the right path for me.” And so, joining this band, I think, is another big step for her, because she's going to be able to take everything she's learned in her music, and do live stuff, and be with a support group. It's just going to be a really cool adventure for her, and we'll get to see some performances. Maybe we'll get to see some fun stuff come out of it. So, I'm excited.
Q: You have been a working actress for many years – as you said, you came from Nickelodeon. You've gone from one end of the spectrum to the other, now, with this series. What is the conversation with fans like? Is there one that they like to talk about more than others? Is it a mix of both?
Lizzy Greene: I mean, I've had the really great experiences that my fans have kind of gotten to grow with me. Going from Nick and then coming to ABC has been a really great transition for me. And I think they've all kind of, you know, from that 6 to 12 age range to now we have like a more broad age range on this show. It's been really cool. I love talking about them both. They're both very perpetual experiences, and they've both shaped me in so many ways.
I can credit so much to Nick, and I can also credit so much of acting wise and just what I've learned from ABC. I say it all the time when I talk to people, is this show is like going to acting class every day, because I've learned so much from all these awesome actors around me. It's been such a great experience.
But I truly love talking about them all. And it's been a really cool opportunity to be able to go from something very different, and then being able to get on this show, which is cool.
“A Million Little Things” airs at 10 p.m. Wednesdays on ABC (WKBW-TV Channel 7)
Visit Lizzy Greene's website to learn more about the actor and singer.
Sophie and Eddie (David Giuntoli) outside a club where she meets some new band friends. (ABC photo by Darko Sikman)