Allison Miller on ‘A Million Little Things’ and Maggie’s Story

Allison Miller portrays Maggie Bloom in A Million Little Things. The show originally premiered in 2018 and is currently in its fourth season. New episodes air Wednesdays at 10 PM ET on ABC.

I had the chance to speak with the actress over zoom about that big cliffhanger for Maggie and Gary, her journey on the show, special fan moments, directing episode 17, Maggie’s birthday party, what she wants to take from set, and so much more! Keep reading for our discussion.

ABC/David Bukach

First off, I want to thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. I absolutely love you and your work, especially on the show. It’s a real pleasure.
Allison Miller: Oh, it’s so nice to talk to you too. It’s exciting! I’ve heard good things from James Roday Rodriguez.

Thank you. Talking to both of you in the same month, I have to admit is like the best thing for me. But when I spoke to James, I did not know the cliffhanger we were going to be left on in last week’s episode, so I have to ask you about it. We had that blissfulness with Maggie and Gary, which was so nice, we even had them talking about having kids. Then it all came crashing down with that final scene. What can you tease for me about what’s next? Because I know it’s never easy for our favorite TV couples.
You know, that’s what we do on our show. We like to set things up, and then crash them down and make everything crumble into a pile of tears. Look, it’s definitely not going to be the end of Maggie and Gary, and it’s just another road bump that they have to overcome together. So that’s something I think they’ve gotten pretty good at and we’ll continue to explore because that’s life is just getting through the challenges together. And they had what, half an episode to be happy? That’s all you get.

A Million Little Things is in its fourth season now and I’m sure it’s a really amazing thing for you, as an actress, to be able to explore one character for so long. So how would you describe your journey and everything the series has brought you?
Wow, you know, I was just talking about this, because I went for a walk this morning with Cameron, who plays Greta. There’s something about this show where probably because it’s been four years, all of us have had huge transformations in our personal lives at the same time that these characters are going through huge transformations, and because we’re all in Vancouver, and it’s this little tiny community, we’ve been there for each other. I babysit people’s kids now that they didn’t have when we started. It is really interesting to live with someone else as a character for so long because it does become sort of second nature and ingrained. But then you go to work, and you want to find new aspects and find new things about them. So it’s kind of like we’re on journeys together, like Maggie and I are doing our thing, our lives are completely different, but there’s stuff I can take from her and apply to my life, and vice versa. It’s just been really nice to settle into a character, it’s not something I’ve gotten to do before. I’ve had one season and then we’re done, and I’m always curious what would have happened to these people I’ve played before. Now, I actually get to find out with Maggie. It’s fun.

ABC/Darko Sikman

Yeah, it’s amazing. And James actually told me something that I could not believe. He said that they weren’t sure if Maggie was going to continue on the show and I was shocked. I truly cannot imagine the show without her. So what was that like and what attracted you to the role originally?
Yeah, I didn’t know that when I auditioned and then I found out later that Maggie was not going to make it. So I felt a little bit like Aaron Paul on Breaking Bad. I’m working with time that was not owed to me. So I’m very grateful to continue on to the fourth season with a character who was supposed to just disappear, and I’m very grateful for that. Yeah, I can’t imagine what would have happened if this character had disappeared. I think the friend group would have continued on. There’s been some terrific storytelling that we’ve gotten out of this. When I first read the character, I mean, I read the pilot script, I cried, and that doesn’t happen a lot, especially with network television. It’s kind of formulaic, you know what you’re gonna get, and the scene with Rome and the hockey game, when he confesses to his friends that he’s depressed and he’s been suicidal, I was so moved by that moment. It got me, and the character, Maggie, I felt like I understood her so well. I’ve witnessed so many people go through a breast cancer struggle, and then survival at young ages and it felt like a really personal and exciting thing to be able to put on TV to try to really show people what it’s like to be dealing with cancer before you’re even 30 years old. So yeah, I just loved her. I loved her spirit, her intelligence, and her tenacity.

I’m so grateful that she’s still here.
Me too!

She was one of my favorites since day one. But the fan response to the show has been incredible to see. I love seeing it on social media. I feel like that’s something you can’t predict. Did you know what was going to happen after the show premiered? Were you ready for that?
No. I mean, I’ve been on shows since Twitter has existed, but the reactions from this one have been above and beyond. And God, I love the gifs and the memes that come out of it. It’s really like I sift through all of them. I see people be like, “I think the person who plays Maggie on the show liked my Tweet,” and I’m going through the hashtags because it’s so funny. No, I could not have imagined, especially the personal messages that I’ve gotten, or people coming up to me in airports or on the street and telling me that what we’re doing is meaningful to them. That I could not have expected at all and it’s the best part of the show.

With a show that deals with these topics, I can imagine how many fans stop you to thank you for your work. Is there a moment that really sticks out to you or that moved you and was just unbelievable?
I mean, multiple. I think maybe James told you or has spoken recently about the time when we went down to Portland to surprise a woman with one of Maggie’s wigs. She was finishing up treatment and that was so awesome. Even small interactions I’ve had, it’s always airports, you’re all stuck together in a space and someone’s like, “well, here’s my chance to go say something.” I’ve had breast cancer survivors come up to me and say thank you, it’s just helped. I can’t imagine, people are watching the show while they’re going through treatment, and still coming up to me and saying thank you. That means a lot because it’s so present and painful right now in the immediacy, and the fact that they can still find an escape in what we’re doing is profound to me. I recently had a woman text me or DM me a photo of herself wearing a pink wig because she was going through chemo and wanted to get a Maggie wig. It’s so touching because I wanted that wig because of a friend of mine who was going through treatment, who had a really cool wig that I thought Maggie would look good. And so, it’s this kind of ripple effect that is so special.

ABC/Robert Trachtenberg

Yeah, James told me that story about you delivering the wig and it’s unreal. I was genuinely tearing up when he told me and I’m tearing up again now. It’s beautiful to see the effect firsthand. A lot of people underestimate what TV can do for fans.
Yeah, I mean, we on our show are just like, “there’s no way people care about what we’re doing,” and then suddenly you get a message like that. I had one woman, I’m just remembering, this is a while ago, I got a DM on Instagram. It was a woman who said, “My name is Maggie, I’m 28 years old. Watching the show made me want to go get a mammogram. I went and I did have cancer, and I would not have found it.” It was just so much synchronicity, I guess. It was really, really sort of shocking, but also, I’m so grateful that she found that.

I have to admit you had my favorite storyline in one of the recent episodes this season, when Maggie was standing up for what she believes in after a listener calls in about abortion. I thought your performance was just amazing, but it was great to see that storyline on television as well. What was your reaction to receiving that content? And then what was it like doing it?
I was so surprised that the network was letting us do that. It was so exciting because in the previous season, we had Maggie’s abortion and it really felt like we were having to skate this line of, well, she had to but she didn’t have to, and we were kind of towing, we were playing with it. This season, there was no denying what the message was, where Maggie stood, and what her beliefs are. I was impressed by the writing because we do a table read for every episode and that’s always the first time we’re reading it out loud, and I was sitting there reading it kind of really getting fired up. I was just like, “oh, this will be really easy to perform because her views align with mine,” and I think it’s so incredible that we’ve been given an opportunity to have that voice on a network show. Like what an incredible gift, so I was really glad that they gave Maggie that voice, a mental health professional.

ABC/Jack Rowand

You’re playing this character for so long. I have to imagine you have some hopes for her, dream storylines, or an idea of what you want her ending to be. Is there anything you want to see Maggie tackle before the end of the series?
I think we’re headed towards figuring out if Maggie can be a parent and have a child, and I think that’s a really beautiful way to send her off or end things. It’s something that she’s had in mind and has been thinking about for years. There’s some great stuff coming up in this season, but hopefully, if we do another one, we could see her figuring out the balance between being an on-air psychologist and having a child, and hopefully, healing some of the relationships with her own parents, and what that would look like. I really just would like to see a happy ending, you know?

Please, fight for that. We need happy endings.
Yeah, I think all of these people could deal with some good news to send them off into the sunset. Maybe we do like the ending of Grease where they all get a car and fly off in the car in beautiful leather jackets together.

You have to be our voice for that.
I’m gonna call DJ Nash right after this and pitch that ending, and I think he’s gonna go it.

Another aspect I love is the friendships between all of the characters. Which is your personal favorite to bring to life or see play out on screen?
Oh, that’s a great question. I mean, I kind of loved the way that Eddie was there for Rome this season because we don’t get to see them, just them very often and so I thought that moment was really sweet. Also, I mean, I love Maggie’s relationship with Sophie too. That’s kind of mine.

ABC/Darko Sikman

I was hoping you were gonna say that. They have some great stuff together, really powerful.
Yeah, and Lizzy Greene is such a great actor. I just have watched her soar in the last few years, and she’s got so much ahead of her. But it’s so fun for us when we get to play together. It makes me feel young and cool when she shows me funny videos on TikTok, and I show her R-rated movies that she’s never seen — this is in real life. We have a good time, it’s really fun. She babysits my dogs. And now, I’m just talking about my relationship with Lizzy and not Maggie’s relationship with Sophie, but it kind of interweaves.

Do you know what James’s answer to that question was? Because I think it’ll make you laugh.
Something to do with Colin? [Laughs] Colin is really the focus of our show for so many people who work on it. I mean, he was on set yesterday when we were working and it is like the Pope has entered a Catholic church when that dog is on our set. That dog is also a vegetarian, he’s allergic to meat. So the treats they give him are either cheese or Beyond Burger, and it’s just the cutest thing in the world, especially since James is a vegetarian too. So it’s like these two are made for each other. I knew that would be the answer.

I have to ask you about Maggie and Gary’s relationship, of course. I’m personally a fan of them, what you two have created is beautiful. But it really felt inevitable from the pilot and I’m curious if you felt that way when you were reading the scripts. Did you think that they were going to be an endgame relationship? Because I feel like you have to have a sense when a relationship is that special like, this is going to be part of the fabric of the show, even when they were broken up.
Yes, I always thought they were going to end up back with each other and they needed that time apart to figure that out. Did Maggie handle it as well as she could have? No, this woman drives me crazy sometimes! But I felt it from the beginning. It just seemed like these two had a bond that was very special, and I can’t imagine the show ending, eventually, without them being together.

As a fan first, it would be really beautiful to see them in that family dynamic. That would be like my dream storyline for the show.
That would be pretty fun. I think they would be cool parents.

ABC/Darko Sikman

I mean, the Made You Look game — I feel like they would just be the most fun parents.
Yeah, pass that on. They keep it going through the generation.

You also directed this season! I was so thrilled to see that, huge congrats. What was that experience like for you? And what was it about that role that made you want to take it on for the series?
I did, thank you. It was the best! Oh my God, Sophia, it was the best time I’ve had on set. I showed up the first day of filming, and we do a safety meeting every morning when the ad tells us, “here’s what’s happening on this location, don’t be on your phone while you’re walking,” this is a thing. Then suddenly, I looked around and every member of the crew was wearing a t-shirt with my face on it and said, It’s Miller Time. It is the most supportive group of people and I had the best time. I love every aspect of storytelling and it was like, I got to take the job that I do all the time with my prep work and expand it, and get to do the prep work for every aspect of it. Like what did the sweatshirts look like for these people? What is the school going to be like? Well, I like having control over things, so that’s one aspect of it. I just have to control everything. So I directed a short and I kind of did a lot of it myself because I didn’t have money, and suddenly, I get here and I’m like, “Oh, I just tell you what I want and it shows up. It’s like magic.” And so, it was so gratifying, and working with the actors in that capacity was really, really fun. I think it kind of made all of us, you know, we were towards the end of the season; it’s episode 17, we’re all kind of tired, it’s winter, we’ve been working 12-hour days every day for nine months. So it just felt like I was enlivened and inspired in a whole new way. It made me see other sides of our show that I hadn’t gotten to see before, even shadowing other directors. It was just the most fun, and I’m really excited for everybody to see this episode.

What can you tease about your episode?
There’s a really nice, reuniting moment between two characters. We will leave you on a bit of a cliffhanger. And there’s some really funny stuff in there too. I think my favorite line in the whole show comes from Theo.

You’re gonna have to share what the line is after it airs.
I will. You might know by the time you finish it.

ABC/Darko Sikman

It’s really awesome to hear the behind-the-scenes about filming it, because I feel like as an actor, reading the scripts on the page has to be so different from not only acting it out but then also to be directing it. It’s like the full circle. It must be amazing.
Yeah, just tying all the themes together, and I don’t know if this is going to happen, but I was on a zoom call with Bryan Adams the other day, who may be writing an original song for the episode. It’s just next level, like Robin Hood in my episode.

It’s just gonna be the best one. I don’t even need to watch it.
DJ directed episode 15 and David Giuntoli directed episode 18. So this season’s got all kinds of good stuff, interesting, new people.

The cast is amazing, you all are just so great, and I have to imagine there’s a bond between all of you off-screen as well. Do you have a favorite memory from filming this past season?
Oh, this past season? You know what was really fun was the Maggie’s birthday party stuff that we shot over those two episodes. We very rarely get to all be together in scenes anymore because COVID kind of changed the way that we work. A lot of it was right before Christmas when we were filming it. So there was already sort of a festive feeling and we were all on a different stage than we ever used. So all of our trailers kind of grouped together inside this covered parking lot. Every day, Christina, who plays Regina, and Lizzy, who plays Sophie, and I would have lunch together in one of our trailers. It felt like the way we used to do things, which was we could be around each other a little bit more, and it was just… having the whole group together is really, really, really fun. Really hard for directors. It’s like herding cats. We become intolerable and loud.

That’s the best kind of set to be on, though.
Yes, we love it. They hate it.

ABC/Darko Sikman

You mentioned the birthday party, so I do want to ask you, what was your reaction when you found out what Maggie was going to be doing in that elevator? Were you shocked? Were you ready for it? Were you like, where is this going?
I knew something was coming, but I didn’t think it was going to be like that. I was a little upset because I was just like, “This is not okay! No, wait. Do it right! Clearly, you want to break up with this guy, just go do that, and then go do whatever else you’re gonna do. But don’t kiss him in the elevator at the party!” I was mad. I was mad, and that’s when you have to drop your judgment, just live the character’s life, and make the bad decisions. I don’t approve, but it all turned out nicely.

We don’t always make the best decisions. It’s true to humanity.
Cam deserves better, and I’m sure he’ll find better. He’ll end up with somebody great. It’d be great if like he ended up with Claudia or something. Like they discover “oh, it’s been you all along!”

When the show does end, hopefully not anytime soon, is there anything you want to take from set?
I’ve had my eye — well, here’s one of the things, every kitchen set on the show has a mortar and pestle. No one in their life uses a mortar and pestle, but I would like to take one just to have it in my kitchen to laugh and look at it. Maybe I’ll put some guacamole in there. There’s also this little dish that is in Gary’s apartment that I just can’t stop looking at and I would take that. I was on set the other day and the ad was trying on all the clothes in Maggie’s closet, and she was like, “Oh, I have a meeting tomorrow on Zoom. Maybe I should wear this.” I was like, “Yeah, and put this with it,” and we were like shopping in her closet. So I don’t want any of her clothes — well, I want all of her clothes. I would take a mortar and pestle, some of her jeans, some of her shoes… our wardrobe person lives across the street, so I’ll go over there and harass her.

Just try some stuff on, accidentally forget you have it on, and walk out the door.
I’ve never done that before!

ABC/Jack Rowand

Television and film are such powerful ways to give audiences messages. Is there any sort of message that you want Maggie to give viewers?
I mean, I feel like she has already said just so much, but the main thing I want people to take away from Maggie is that there is life after the crisis that you are going through or the hard time that you are going through. There is something to live for, things can change in an instant, and you just never know what’s coming around the bend. So I think she’s shown that through her story, and also through the things that she tells people when she’s a therapist. I think that’s been a really, really important thing, that the struggle is temporary. There’s more life on the other side.

That might be my favorite answer. Obviously, this show deals with some very heavy topics, which can be a lot, but it’s needed, because it’s not always portrayed. Was there a storyline or scene that really pushed you acting wise, was a challenge for you to take on, or that you maybe even related to?
So much of what happened in season two was so heavy for Maggie, but I think it was really important for her to figure out life, like what I just said, she got through the darkest part, but then figuring out what life is going to look like on the other side of that, she needed space and time to do that. I was really happy that she took the time away from Gary, even though it was, again, sort of handled badly. But I think it was really important for her to do some self-discovery. I think that was a good thing for me to also be doing at the same time. So that was a really hard season because I felt like every time I came into work, I was like having to have some sort of breakdown. Then in real life, I was having a hard time as well. So in a way, it was a little therapeutic, but maybe it was a bit too much. But I’m glad we touched on that because I had been saying like, “I want to see who this character is, not in relation to a man,” and I think we got some of that in that season and that’s good.

I have to say as a viewer and someone who writes about TV, it’s really nice to see a show that allows their female characters to have actual storylines outside of the male characters. It sounds so insignificant and small, but it’s not.
But it’s not! Yeah, and TV is changing now and movies are changing, but for the most part, my early career, I was playing this guy’s girlfriend, this guy’s wife. My storyline was always going, “Are you okay, what’s going on?” That was it. That was what I did. So yes, I agree. It’s nice to see women having lives.

If pilot Maggie could see Maggie as she is in this season, what do you think her reaction would be? They’re in such different places, obviously.
I think she would be shocked. I think she would be shocked that she’s alive, first of all. I think she would be shocked to see the trajectory her career has taken. And I think she would be really shocked that Gary that is the guy that’s she’s gonna have a kid with. That guy? Alright!