“The Mindy Project” writers took the stage at the Upright Citizens Brigade Sunset location on Wednesday for a hilarious and informative panel Q&A.
The panel featured nearly all of the show’s writers — Mindy Kaling, Matt Warburton, Charlie Grandy, Tracey Wigfield, Ike Barinholtz, David Stassen, Lang Fisher and Christopher Schleicher — who reflected on some of their choices in the show’s first three seasons, and previewed the fourth.
On moving to Hulu:
While the show spent its first three seasons on Fox, Kaling said one of the benefits of switching to Hulu for season four is having more freedom. “We can plan out all 26 beforehand which is a luxury that I’ve never had,” she said.
Hulu also allows the show some content liberties that it wasn’t allowed on the network, but Kaling said the show will most likely stick to brand. “We’ll have cool stuff this year, but it’s not just going to be, quote, ‘sexier.’ We’re going to do lots of different stuff, but it might be in concept or format.”
On season four:
The staff has only been in the room working on season four for about a week and a half, so the bulk of the plot hasn’t been determined. But Kaling did confirm where season four will start: “We are going to pick up where we left off, but we do do some big jumps in the first episode because Danny’s in India. So it’s kind of the biggest cliffhanger we’ve ever done,” she said.
They are also working on casting several new characters. “We have to cast my parents now. So today we spent most of the day kind of writing and pitching in their voices what they would be like. And they are such funny and big characters.”
She also hinted at several new characters in the office. “We’ve come up with two characters that we love,” she said before specifying that they would not replace Adam Pally, who left the show after season three.
On Mindy and Danny getting together:
“We heard a lot of people who were, like, ‘When you get a couple together, are you worried about it being less interesting?'” said Kaling, referring to her relationship on the show with Chris Messina’s character.
“But our feeling had always been that shows that are bad when couples get together, the characters are bad. We know interesting people who are in love. So we just didn’t worry about it.”
Warburton added his thoughts: “I remember the discussions and it was important for us to tell the audience, ‘They’re together and their troubles have just begun.’ That storytelling-wise, this is going to be the craziest thing for the two of them to have done,” he said.
On creating a realistic relationship:
“People are so used to watching fakeness on TV constantly,” said Kaling about the staff’s approach to Mindy’s character compared to the precedent set by other television shows. “You’re watching a woman who is completely irrational who’s like, ‘You didn’t like my haircut, I’m moving out,’ and that’s just what we’ve come to expect. And I think that what was nice (about Mindy and Danny) is that they’re two adults who want to make a go at it, and they love each other and there are problems, but they get over things. We made Mindy really resilient. She doesn’t just bail because her feelings get hurt.”
On being a role model:
As a female lead in a sitcom, Mindy is constantly addressing questions about being a role model — especially considering the quantity of questionable decisions her character makes on the show. Kaling expressed her desire to keep her personal role model status distinct from her character.
“I do feel like with my job that it’s important to be a role model,” she said. “And I think that it becomes tricky because I don’t think that Mindy Lahiri is a role model, she’s a comedy character the way that Michael Scott is a comedy character and Kenny Powers is a comedy character. We crave women as leads so much that I think we conflate the two. But if anything, I would like to be the person that girls look up to.”
While the staff is passionate about the show, perhaps the most excitement they exhibited during the Q&A was about their favorite snacks.
“Every day I eat three peanut M&Ms as a delightful treat,” Schleicher said. “I eat 40,” added Fisher who also expressed a deep affection for something the writers call “the trough.” “When our writers assistant goes out and gets our lunches, they get all the special appetizers that everyone pretends they don’t want because they’re like, ‘I’ll have a salad.’ But then they get egg rolls, chili fries and they’re just sitting at the end of the table, and they are completely devoured by all of us.”
(Pictured: Mindy Kaling and Ike Barinholtz at “The Mindy Project” FYC event)