The New FOX Tuesday lineup has made quite a splash this fall season with the new show, The Mindy Project. Created by Mindy Kaling, the show has already received an order for nine more episodes this season.
Tonight, The Mindy Project returns at 9:30 p.m. with the episode, “Halloween.” Kaling recently took the time to speak with press about her popular new series, where she discussed wearing multiple hats as the show’s star, creator, and executive producer; if she would like her former Office co-stars to appear on her show; and shared some scoop about tonight’s episode.
In the last episode we saw, you kind of had a nice little spark with Tommy Dewey, who played Josh. I know he’s back in the next episode. Is this going to be a little romance that we’re going to see play out for a little bit?
It is. I just shot with him last night, and I’m shooting with him again today. It’s been really fun shooting with Tommy, because on the surface, he just looks like this handsome, 90210 kind of character, but we’re playing him as a little bit of a weirdo. He is a weirdo; he comes out a little strong, he’s a little off-putting. And to me, seeing people like that redeem themselves is much more appealing than kind of just – a lot of romantic comedies use this kind of generic, boring, kind of good looking love interest, and he’s certainly the anti that.
Since you wear so many hats on The Mindy Project, what is it like to be you in a typical day, right now?
Typical day? Typical day is I wake up between 5:30 and 6:00 in the morning. I walk like a zombie to my shower and take a shower. I have [a lot of] family and friends on the East Coast, so I’ll answer texts from them. Drive to work, listen to some Justin Timberlake in the car on the way there. Hair and makeup. My God, this is so boring, I can’t believe it.
I check in with the writers. They get in around 10 a.m., and I’ve been acting for a couple hours and am always excited to see them, because when I get to work, it’s like a ghost town. It’s like The Walking Dead when I first show up. There’s nobody, except for me, so I wait until they get there a little while later.
I wrap, usually around five or six at night and in between writing stuff, I will go check in with the writers and then I stay between ten and midnight hanging out with them. It sounds like a long schedule, but because it’s my show and because I’m working with essentially all my best friends, it feels like a very grueling vacation, if that makes sense.
You’re billed as the quadruple threat; you’re an actor, you’re a writer, you’re a producer, and you’re a director. What’s the key to being successful in doing all those, especially when you are doing it all on one series?
Well, the good part of it is that I can’t fixate on any one thing, because there’s too many things happening at once, so that’s very good. I constantly have to shift focus, which I think is really good in keeping me no fixating on things. I have an amazing team. I spent a lot of time hiring people. It was really tough getting people out of contracts and things like that, so I spent a really long time hiring amazing writers, heads of departments, all the actors and everything, so that I trust them a lot and I can delegate things that I wouldn’t normally necessarily do. If it wasn’t for that, then I actually couldn’t do this job. I also every morning drink a blend of vegetables and fruits that’s a disgusting green potion that I believe keeps me alive.
Is there one particular stereotype that you want to avoid when you were writing the show, in terms of sitcoms/comedy series you’ve seen before?
I think almost every comedy writer, at least on my staff, we have lists of things we try not to do. From someone who loves singing and dancing a lot, as evidenced on The Office, I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of singing and dancing on the show. I also think that there’s a trap that comedy writers can fall into, which is like making things too meta.
I really want this show to appeal to a really wide audience, so I didn’t want it to be too specific or niche to just a really small group of hipsters in L.A. and N.Y. would understand or like. In general, I just didn’t want the characters to be stock, you know, I don’t want a character to be a bimbo or a sassy black woman. Those are things you see sometimes, and I think they’re not very fresh. I just try not to do stock characters.
How were the characters on your show defined before you cast people? Did you write for them specifically, or when people got cast, did they kind of get to mold those characters and make them their own?
Well, I’ve been so lucky that the actors have really helped inspire a lot of the writing for the characters, especially Chris Messina. He’s just an interesting guy, and so a lot of the character, Danny Castellano, comes inspired from him. In general, I had a pretty specific idea of what I wanted the characters to be like and that kind of came before the casting.
You had Ed Helms on the pilot episode, do have plans to bring B.J. [Novak] onto the show?
Well, I love those guys and if our show is lucky enough to continue on for many years, I can’t imagine a world where I didn’t ask both of them to be on the show. With B.J., I see him a lot, because he’s one of my closest friends. When I’m with Ed, I don’t necessarily see him as much, but I miss him a lot. So, a good way to get to see him is putting him in the show, and he’s actually coming back in an episode that airs in a couple of weeks.
With B.J., it’s hard, because with Ryan and Kelly, I didn’t have that much screen time with Ed Helms on The Office. I probably had four scenes [with him] in the six years we worked on The Office together. But with B.J., all of our scenes are together on The Office, so since the show is still new, I wanted [the audience] to see my character as my character, rather than, “Oh, it’s Kelly and Ryan again.” I think it will be a little bit longer. I love him and I love working with him, so I’d like to see that in the future.
How similar is the voice of Mindy to your own voice, and how are we going to see the character develop the rest of the season?
I think the character is pretty different than me, Mindy Kaling. I have the lifestyle of a nerdy, boring writer. The character has a kind of great glamorous job, an exciting job, and a kind of even noble job as an OB/GYN. Loves to party and to go out. I think that the character wishes she could do that most nights of the week and isn’t able to. We both had arrested development, I think that’s where we’re very similar, like both [of us] were nerds. Elementary school, high school, college; that’s where me and my character really differ. When she finished medical school, she really likes to party, she likes to drink. She is definitely more boy crazy than me. Whereas, I just don’t have that in me, but I like writing that character. I think it’s really fun. If I wrote characters that were actually me and my life, no one would watch it.
Throughout the series will you have your character keep her love of romantic comedies and that eternal hope that her life will turn out to be a romantic comedy, while faced with the real world?
You know, it’s interesting. I always think a good series or like a good hero or heroine in the show will change and evolve. My character isn’t 19; she’s 31 or 32 in the pilot. I think having a love of romance is a great thing for any age, but I think the character should mature over the years. I think she should learn and she should grow, and a little bit like how Michael Scott on The Office, he was very different when he left at the end of his time at The Office than he was at the beginning. A part of loving romantic comedies is a little bit childish. I would hope, and who knows if we’re lucky enough to go for many years, I would love to see her shed some of that adoration for romantic comedies and kind of embrace her own life a little.
Can you talk about Tuesday’s episode, “Halloween,” and can you reveal what you’re going to be on Halloween?
I can tell you that I wear a series of costumes. I did about five or six costume changes, and I can tell you a little bit about the premise. The premise is that I’m going on a Halloween date with the character Josh, who we met in the last episode. The Halloween costume is stressing my character out a lot, which that is very true of me, myself. I don’t have a Halloween costume and it’s already starting to make me panic a little bit. But there is some pretty awful and some pretty, I think, hilarious costumes that you get to see during the show. I look crazy in a lot of them too. By the way, they’re not sexy hot girl costumes. They’re pretty funny, I think. Bill Hader comes back and there’s just a lot of really funny, fun stuff. I love the holiday episodes, so we really made it special. I think you guys are going to like it.
The Mindy Project’s all-new episode, “Halloween,” airs tonight at 9:30 p.m. on FOX.
Photo credit: Mary Ellen Matthews/FOX