Just because Ron Livingston’s character dies in Wednesday’s premiere of “A Million Little Things,” that’s not the end of the road for the Marion native on the ABC-TV ensemble drama.
No, that’s not a spoiler. Ads for the show, which have been airing for weeks, make that clear.
“That’s not the defining part of the character — it’s where he ends up,” Livingston, 51, said in a phone interview this week from New York, where he was promoting the show. The Marion High School and Yale University graduate has been living in Los Angeles for 25 years and now is a married father of two daughters, ages 2 and 5.
He’s married in this latest role, too, playing “the guy in the middle of it all,” as part of a tight group of three couples and “one sort of incorrigible bachelor” who have known each other for years.
“He’s the person that organizes things, and he’s the guy that seemingly everything he touches turns to gold. So when we start the show with this guy taking his own life, it’s a huge rock in the pond for everybody else in the show,” he said. “And they have to struggle with the obvious questions of why did this happen, what could I have done to stop it, and why didn’t I know, why didn’t he reach out. But then to me, the ultimately more interesting questions are, what does this mean and what’s my life about and where are we going to go from here.”
It’s not hard to see similarities with the Oscar-nominated 1983 ensemble film, “The Big Chill.” He agreed.
“It definitely has a quality, in that there’s just a thing that happens when you experience a hard, tragic loss,” he said. “As much as it’s devastating, it also opens you up — it kind of cracks you wide open in a way. Colors get brighter, your senses get heightened and you realize for a brief while about just how precious life is, and you examine the way that you’re living it. Am I really getting the most out of this time I have, or am I just blindly lumbering on in whatever rut I’ve created for myself? “
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After his suicide, his character, Jon, continues to appear in flashbacks to shed some light on the darker aspects of his mind.
“I don’t know if there’s ever an answer about why he did it, but we’re going to learn more about the person that he was that made him capable of doing it,” Livingston said.
Getting into his character’s skin isn’t such a hard task for Livingston.
“Right up until the moment that he takes his life, I’m not playing a guy that’s taking his own life. I’m playing a guy that is considering the idea or contemplating the idea, and that’s a very different thing. I think that’s a fairly common thing for people at some point in their life, to have some experiences at least fantasizing or having daydreams — even if it’s just in the Tom Sawyer way of ‘I’m going to go to the island, then I get to come back for my own funeral and think about how much everybody misses me.’”
This role is one of a string of successes Livingston has had, from the early buzz of his big-screen turns in “Swingers” in 1996 and the cult classic, “Office Space” in 1999. Amassing credits in more than 50 movies and 25 TV shows, Livington’s other high-profile projects include the films “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” “Dinner for Schmucks,” “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” and “The Conjuring,” as well as the television shows “Townies,” “Band of Brothers,” “The Practice,” “Sex and the City,” “Boardwalk Empire” and “Loudermilk.”
It’s his previous role as Jack Berger, Carrie Bradshaw’s writer/boyfriend on “Sex and the City,” that created his slam-dunk favorite fan moment. It came when his then-agent game him courtside seats for a Lakers basketball game.
“It was one of those bizarre moments,” he said. “ ... On an inbound pass, when Kobe (Bryant) was like 8 feet away, he glanced over and then did a double take and said, ‘Berger?’ And the Lakers were like down 6 (points).
“It was a really bizarre moment. It just felt really, really odd. We’re two guys that are both in entertainment, standing within 6 feet of each other, but he’s Kobe Bryant. And I was surprised that he watched ‘Sex and the City.’ I wouldn’t have pegged him for a ‘Sex and the City’ viewer. ... Maybe his wife was in charge of the remote at that point.”
• What: “A Million Little Things,” starring Marion native Ron Livingston
• When: 9 p.m. Wednesdays, beginning tonight
• Where: ABC-TV
• Details: abc.go.com/shows/a-million-little-things
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