Mindy Kaling Defends ‘Mindy Project’ First Season at Fox Panel

The title “Girls Night Out” was a fitting name for the panel that Fox held at the Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre in North Hollywood on Monday, as some of the net’s most prominent female figures turned up to talk their career beginnings, their shows and the challenges that come with working in the industry.

Mindy Kaling (“The Mindy Project”), Jane Lynch (“Glee”) Chelsea Peretti (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”), Alex Borstein (“Family Guy”), Yeardley Smith (“The Simpsons”), Liz Meriwether (“New Girl”) and Heather Kadin (“Sleepy Hollow”) were all in attendance at the panel. Lynch was sure to tease the audience with some info about “Glee’s” final season.

The Emmy winner said that they hope the last handful of “Glee” episodes all carry a very strong message with them, and even revealed they might get “some of the old kids back” to close out the show. She grew somber, however, when asked about Cory Monteith, who played Finn on the show and died last July.

“In the choir room, we have a photograph of Finn with one of the funny lines that he said,” Lynch said. “So we see him every day. I think he had such a big part in why this show is such a hit and it’s really, really difficult. Everybody gets through it in their own way, but there is a huge gaping hole in the show.”

Still, Lynch emphasized her excitement to do the sixth and final season of the show.

While there was talk of “Glee’s” end, Kaling had plenty to say about “The Mindy Project’s” beginning. The first season of the sitcom is considered by many to not be up to par with the most recent seasons — similar to “The Office,” another hit comedy Kaling was in — and when that was mentioned, the comedian stood up for the show’s beginnings.

“I personally think the show was better earlier than other people do!” she said, eliciting cheers from the audience.  “I feel like people expect me to be like, ‘Oh, season one just sucked!’ ‘The Office,’ I felt that way about our season one episodes, and on season one of this show. I think they were great. And people learn more and get more attached to characters, but I’m going to stand by that first season.”

Kaling’s favorite part of the show? She joked it’s the fact that she gets to make out with a lot of good-looking men. Peretti, though, works with someone she had a crush on in her younger years. She co-stars with Andy Samberg in “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and even went to the same high school as him. She laughed as she recalled some of her interactions with him during those years.

“I thought he was very dreamy at the time, and I indicated that by calling his house and hanging up on his mom,” she remembered.

Though they were happy to discuss the perks of their jobs, the women on the panel had no shortage of stories of challenges to share. One such challenge that Meriwether, creator of “New Girl,” faced was the loss of Damon Wayans, Jr. after the pilot. He still appears from time to time in the sitcom and, though she was grateful they didn’t kill his character off, she joked about the writers’ solution to the problem of his character disappearing.

“The brilliant solution that the writers came up with was that he moved to Santa Monica,” she laughed. “I don’t know! I mean, people come back from Santa Monica. Sometimes when your friends move to the West Side, you don’t see them for two years.”

Kadin, executive producer on “Sleepy Hollow,” faced a very unique challenge of her own, one that probably only the supernatural drama could face.

“Mark Goffman, who runs the show, wanted to do an episode where we capture and interrogate the headless horsemen, which, for various reasons, is a challenge, so the network was really concerned,” she said. “We went through various iterations of, ‘Oh, maybe he could write on a whiteboard!’”

The eventual solution? The headless horsemen communicated through John Cho’s character.

When it comes to challenges, just being a woman in the industry can pose a difficulty. But Lynch drove home the fact that, despite the difficulties, television looks good for women right now — but as for movies, not so much.

“It’s a good time for women in television, maybe not so much in films right now,” she said. “If you run down Sunset Boulevard and look at billboards for films, it’s all men with guns and a woman in the background looking worried for them.”

“So You Think You Can Dance” host Cat Deeley was also scheduled to attend, but could not be there. Following the panel, guests were treated to cocktails and appetizers.

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