Stephanie Szostak has the most resilient tear ducts on television.
For the first six episodes of ABC’s “A Million Little Things,” she cried her way through scene after scene as her character, Delilah Dixon, coped with the unexpected suicide of her husband, Jon (Ron Livingston). “I never go after the crying,” says Szostak, 43. “I thought, ‘If it happens, it happens.’ We actually did shoot a scene where she completely breaks down and that didn’t go into the show. In real-life, there’s a point when you have no tears left.”
Delilah is not quite there yet, but fortunately for Szostak, she’s not the kind of widow who wears black for a year. She has two children to raise. And there’s one other thing. Let’s call it Big Secret No. 1: At the time of Jon’s office balcony leap, Delilah was in bed with her lover, Eddie (David Guintoli), one of Jon’s best friends, an unhappily married 40-year-old guitar teacher.
“Jon was the provider and the responsible one, but he didn’t hear or see Delilah,” says Szostak, 43. “Eddie is in the same situation. Their spouses don’t appreciate them. They find a real connection.”
“A Million Little Things” wouldn’t be ABC’s answer to “This Is Us” if there wasn’t a Big Secret No. 2: Delilah is pregnant. Delilah was so tortured that she tried to terminate the pregnancy — the show’s most graphic scene. “It was an uncomfortable moment to film and an uncomfortable moment to live in,” she says. “While I was doing the scene, I felt how your mind says one thing, but your heart says something else. You did not know what Delilah was going to do until the last second. It felt like an eternity.”
Szostak was born in France, in the Parisian suburb of La Celle Ste. Cloud, to a French mother and American father. She moved to the US after high school to attend the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. “We don’t have liberal arts colleges in France and we don’t have college sports and I play golf competitively,” she says. Her father introduced her to the game and she credits golf with improving her powers of concentration.
“A round of golf is four hours. You can’t let the bad shots get in the way of the good ones.” she says. “I think golf is a really good way to develop a good mental game.”
Before she went into acting, Szotak modeled and had a career in marketing, working at Chanel, a handy reference point for her role opposite Meryl Streep’s beastly Miranda Priestly in “The Devil Wears Prada.” Szostak played Jacqueline Follet, the editor of French Vogue, and says their rapport was easy enough that she was able to improvise en francais with Streep. “I said she had earrings like the Eiffel Tower,” Szostak says. “She said, ‘Deux Tour Eiffels.’ Didn’t make it into the movie.”
“A Million Little Things” films in Vancouver, taking Szostak far from her husband, Britt, and their two sons, who live in Connecticut. She flies home as often as she can. With the show wrapping early next year, she’ll get a break from the sobbing. “Delilah and Eddie are two characters the fans have a hard time understanding and forgiving,” she says.
“We all make mistakes. I feel for Delilah.”
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