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James Roday psyched about ‘A Million Little Things’

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Getty Images for Hulu
James Roday arrives at the 2018 LAFF Blumhouse at The WGA Theater on Sept. 21, 2018 in Beverly Hills, Calif.

LOS ANGELES — “A Million Little Things,” the new ABC drama, is based on the idea that friendship isn’t one big part of our lives but is made up of a multitude of tiny moments. Some are so small they are easy to overlook until a tragedy strikes.

The event that makes a group of male friends take another look at what brought them together is a suicide. The aftermath of that moment has the surviving friends — some of whom have achieved success while others are struggling in their careers and relationships — realizing there is a need to finally start living. And, that process means doing more than sharing seats at a sporting event but learning to talk and listen to each other.

As for the reason why their friend ended his life, that’s a question that may or may never be answered. Series creator and executive producer DJ Nash (“Growing Up Fisher”) lost a friend to suicide and knows from experience some questions never get answered.

Nash explains: “Our first season is about saying goodbye to John and looking at the reasons of why it might be. And we might discover what the straw was that broke the camel’s back, but we don’t know what all of the straws are, and we’ll never know which straw it was. And so I think that’s really true.

“I think, in telling the story about what happened to John and what happens to the rest of these friends because of John, we just want to be true to what would happen in life.”

“A Million Little Things” stars David Giuntoli as Eddie Saville, Ron Livingston as Jon Dixon, Romany Malco as Rome Howard, Allison Miller as Maggie Bloom, Christina Moses as Regina Howard, Christina Ochoa as Ashley Morales, Grace Park as Katherine Kim and James Roday as Gary Mendez.

Roday’s character shows the most anger at the death of his friend partly because he’s been in a battle with a not-so-common form of cancer in men for so many years. He has had no problem relating to the friendship elements of the story.

“I have some of the most incredible, sensitive, open male friends,” Roday says. “I think I may be the exception to the rule. I don’t know if it is because they are actors or artists or that their constitution is different, but my male friends talk the (expletive deleted) out of everything with each other.

“I probably do the least amount but I certainly listen and I feel like I know them very, very well.”

Roday’s best known for his eight-year run as Shawn Spencer on the USA comedy “Psych.” The detective series gave the Texas native a chance to show how he could make people laugh. One of the major reasons he wanted to be part of “A Million Little Things” is that he will get the chance to show he can play serious roles.

It’s also a chance for Roday to get back to acting after spending the majority of time between the end of “Psych” and the start of his new drama working as a director. Roday was behind the camera for episodes of “Rosewood,” “The Resident,” “Battle Creek” and “Rush Hour.”

“I really, really enjoy directing but it is tough to keep calling yourself an actor if you are not going to take a job like this one,” Roday says. “I really did find myself looking in the mirror and saying ‘OK, you either do this job and do all the other things or you pass on this job and you just do directing.’

“The show made me make a life-changing decision but these are really, really rich human beings. This is a show that everybody can relate to because they have gone through something. The catalyst that launches us into this universe is a suicide but the show is about picking up pieces and finding who you find yourself leaning on.”

His decision to go back to acting is one of the million little things that have gone into forming Roday’s life. He also thinks the decision he made to leave the East Coast — where he had studied at New York University’s Theatre Wing and earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts — to move to Hollywood was another of those little things that had a big impact.

Roday always thought he would live a New York life full of theater but in 1999 he was cast in the short-lived series “Ryan Caulfield: Year One” and moved west. He never went back.

“It was 180 degrees different,” Roday says. “Life became a completely different animal. When you do this for a living, you can have all kinds of mixed feelings about it but you know you have to get on the train if it comes in. You are not sure where it’s going to take you but it has been a really good ride.”

Rick Bentley is a Tribune News Service (TNS) writer.

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