On March 8, the cast and crew of The Mindy Project were honored by the Paley Center as part of the annual PaleyFest. We spoke with creator and star Mindy Kaling, executive producer Matt Warburton, and actors Ike Barinholtz (Morgan), Zoe Jarman (Betsy), Ed Weeks (Jeremy), and Beth Grant (Beverly).
1. Mindy Kaling is a Transformer.
She’s a robot in disguise. OK, not literally, but… “I feel like it takes a room full of people to equal one Mindy in the writer’s room,” Matt Warburton offered, “and so, when she’s on set, the eight to ten of us sort of fulfill that function. We combine like Voltron to form a Mindy when she’s not in the room.”
2. The scripts get better and better as more writers give input.
In addition to playing Morgan, Ike Barinholtz and his writing partner have written two episodes this season. “These amazing writers just go through it and layer in all these amazing jokes that never occurred to you,” he said. “You get mad, too, like, ‘Shit.’ It’s pretty awesome to turn it over to great writers.”
3. Right now, the concern is just letting these characters develop naturally.
Already thinking about Mindy and Danny ending up together? It’s a little early for an end game, as Warburton explained. “We want to let them live,” he said. “We definitely don’t think of endings, we just think of what turn can we give people that’s gonna open them up in any way and make their relationship with the other characters more interesting.”
4. Believe it or not, Morgan is doing his best.
“In his mind, he can fix it,” Barinholtz explained. “He can make it better. And he makes it so much worse, whether it’s Mindy’s birthday party, which he totally ruins, or Danny’s life, it’s coming from a good place. He wants to throw Mindy a good birthday party, but he goes about it in the worst possible way. He wants Danny to be happy with a woman, and he mails this very personal letter. So he’s trying, which is why we’re rooting for him. He is … an idiot.”
5. He might even make a great dad one day.
“I could see him being a very good father,” Barinholtz continued. “Maybe having some foster kids. ‘Morgan’s Kids.’ That’s a good idea. ‘Morgan’s Kids.’ Note to self: episode called ‘Morgan’s Kids.’” Season 2, maybe?
6. Betsy is also one of the sweetest characters, but she’s not all sunshine and roses.
Like Morgan, Betsy is clearly just trying to make everyone happy. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a dark side, though. “She does, definitely,” Zoe Jarman affirmed. “She does snap, but it’s also genuine. She’s not gonna stay there, but it is true: Someone that nice, there’s definitely some weirder stuff going on.” Jarman went on to say that Betsy will stand up for herself at least once this season.
7. Zoe Jarman helped develop the role by virtue of being different from what they were looking for.
“When I auditioned for the pilot, it was a character that was very unlike me, and it seemed like they were looking for a funny person to embody their version of that character,” she recalled. “So in a sense, I came in and I was like, ‘I’m not this description, but I’m gonna do it in a way that I think is funny.’ And it worked out.” And Jarman’s not the only one. She continued, “I think as all of us have come to the show and done more episodes, the writers know us better. The character and actor, they sort of merge a little bit.”
8. Beth Grant loves learning more about the characters every week.
Since her background is mostly in film, Grant is thrilled at the opportunity to be a regular on a TV sitcom. “I just keep pinching myself that it’s real,” she admitted. “It’s like having a family. I’ve never done a character for this long.” She went on to say, “I love the surprise element of doing a series. Every time you get a script, you learn new things about her.” And she loves Mindy, naturally.
9. Betsy and Beverly will continue to bond.
I miss Shauna, too, but at least Betsy and Beverly are getting into the zone with one another. And yes, Beverly is figuring out computers. “Beverly and Betsy become cool,” Zoe Jarman said. “Beth Grant and I have so much fun working together, and we’ve sort of become foils to each other because we’re weird in different ways, different ends of the spectrum. We do more stuff together. It’s fun.”
10. Developing these friendships between characters is one of the writers’ major goals.
The romance and doctor stuff is important, sure, but The Mindy Project is about more than that. As Matt Warburton put it, “I really want to make sure we’re building out Mindy’s relationship with her friends and her life outside of work. I feel like this season we’ve really nailed what her dynamic is with Danny and with Jeremy at work, but we want the show to be a portrait of a whole person.” He said the show isn’t a workplace comedy so much as “a romantic comedy with a strong workplace element.” Sounds about right.
11. That having been said, Mindy Kaling loves having her friends play Mindy’s lovers.
Who wouldn’t? “Right now it’s very hard to resist the, ‘Oh, you’re available this week, actor? Come and do this,’” Kaling confided. “When Mark Duplass isn’t shooting a movie I get to have him show up. When Bill [Hader’s] not doing SNL, for him to come back and do things.”
12. But Mindy can’t be single forever. And marriage could be kind of fun to play.
Down the line, of course. “I’ve always thought there’s something about my character being married — she’s probably kind of a fighter and argues a lot in a funny way,” Kaling shared. “I would love to see a functional marriage that has a lot of funny disagreements. I think that would be fun, at some point, to play a wife in a big tumultuous relationship.”
13. Naturally, Morgan is holding out for Taylor Swift.
“I really want to see him with a girlfriend,” Ike Barinholtz said. “We’re out to Taylor Swift. She keeps saying no. I just go to her house and I just kind of yell, ‘Taylor! It’s me!’ I’ve been tased four times.”
14. Even a cad like Jeremy could settle down eventually.
“I think he’s gonna need to,” Ed Weeks speculated. “I think Jeremy’s gonna very quickly arrive at a point where he’s not getting pleasure anymore from the endless revolving door of women.” Whether that’s in a few weeks or a few years, however, he couldn’t say.
15. In the meantime, Jeremy is dating Maggie, Mindy’s very aggressive friend.
Remember when she cornered him at that party? Apparently a good tactic! “She is not the normal type he goes for,” Weeks reflected. “He normally goes for his models and his 10s, and Maggie is a rather unreconstructed gym teacher, slightly rough hewn, resolutely Chicagoan, not seduced by any of Jeremy’s BS, by the suits and the accents and the amazing hair. So I think that’s gonna be really good for him.”
16. And hey, don’t rule out Jeremy and Mindy just yet.
Sure, their early hook-up was just a fling — but history has a way of repeating itself. “Mindy, I think Jeremy adores, sexually at the time and now as a friend,” Weeks speculated. “He still has a bit of a crush on her. She’s so free and she’s so crazy. I can imagine they have fun.”
17. Oh, and Beverly? She’s a total cougar.
“I just found out she’s had a whole bunch of ex-boyfriends,” Beth Grant said. “She just mentioned it in passing, and I think, ‘Ooh, I like that! She’s been around the block!’” As for who should play Beverly’s potential harem of young lovers, Grant suggested all the handsome actors who have played her sons in various movies: Mark Wahlberg, Tom Cruise, and Dennis Quaid, to name a few.
18. The second season pick-up is exciting, but it hasn’t changed things yet.
There’s been a plan since the beginning, and they’re not switching it up any time soon. “From very early on, Mindy had a goal for where the character is and where her relationship is with certain key characters in the series,” Warburton noted. “We haven’t really strayed from that. All it’s done has gotten us excited for what we’re going to do next.”
19. And rest assured that no matter what, Mindy will always be … Mindy.
“In general, life is hard for most Americans and people,” Kaling said. “It’s great that I get to wear sometimes nice outfits and date cute guys, but it can never be too good. Otherwise you’re like, ‘I hate this.’ I’ve dated like three guys my entire life. I’ve had three boyfriends. So for me, I don’t relate to that character unless they’re like embarrassing themselves.” Thank the TV gods that awkwardness is here to stay.