×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Mindy Kaling on the Freedom of Hulu, ‘Mindy Project’ Future: ‘I Have an Ending in Mind’

Mindy Kaling does not miss the panicky day-after phone calls that are a way of life for showrunners on network TV series.

The Mindy Project’s” move from Fox to Hulu last year for its fourth season has been a creatively “freeing” process that has been invigorating, Kaling told the crowd Tuesday at Variety’s TV Summit.

The lack of pressure that comes with overnight ratings reports is a welcome relief, Kaling said during her keynote conversation with Variety’s Elizabeth Wagmeister.

“I don’t know what the ratings are. They tell me we’re doing great and that’s it,” Kaling said. “I think that’s great. I don’t need the Wednesday morning panicky feeling. The ratings from the [night before] govern your entire morning. I’m so happy not to be part of that anymore.”

Moreover, Kaling appreciates the certainty that she has on Hulu about the number of episodes for each season. “I know going in how many episodes it’s going to be. We go in planning our season, not hoping that one of your other friend’s shows dies so that you can get a back nine.”

“Mindy Project” delivered a whopping 26 episodes for its fourth season and has been renewed for Season 5. Although the workload was intense for Season 4, Kaling kept her staff lean by design. She has a co-showrunner in Matt Warburton and Howard Klein as exec producer to liaise with the network and handle other business-centric matters that crop up. And her writers room is only a handful of people by choice. “When I was on ‘The Office’ we did 22-24 episodes with a staff of seven or eight writers. I like the feeling as a writer that the show is going to be good or bad based on your contribution to it. I like that feeling of being on the hook.”

Season 5 is likely to run 16 episodes, broken up into eight-episode blocks, she said.

Kaling referenced the twists and turns that the show has experienced as being a good education for her as a showrunner and as a leader. “Mindy Project” was initially developed for NBC, then got picked up as a series at Fox, and then moved to Hulu when Fox dropped it because “Mindy” reruns had performed so well for Hulu.

Kaling gave a shout-out to former Universal Television president Bela Bajaria for showing her by example how to be an effective leader. Kaling was on camping vacation in Montana with her “30 Rock” writer Tracey Wigfield last summer when she got the call that Fox was dropping “Mindy Project” after three seasons.

Bajaria “neither luxuriates in praise or in failure,” Kaling said. “She told me ‘Fox is opting not to pick up the show and we’re going to have it on Hulu.’ That was her plan. I think that’s very leader-y. When you’re a showrunner you’re not always bringing the best news to your staff. But I appreciated that she came with a plan. No one wants to see their leader say ‘I don’t know what we’re going to do.’ I really appreciated that she had a plan.”

Among other highlights from the conversation:

** Kaling credits the explosive growth of TV options for allowing her show to exist, especially in its current form where her ethnicity is not the central focus of the show. “For someone who looks like me — my career only exists in this new time when there is so much opportunity. As recently as five or six years ago minorities could only be on television if that was what the show was about. (But) the name of my show is ‘The Mindy Project’ not ‘The Indian Girl Project.’”

** How long does she envision “Mindy” running? “I have an ending in mind. I don’t know when it would be,” she said. She has aspirations to write and direct a movie and do other pilots. “I am tempted by a lot of other interesting things.”

** Kaling cited Tina Fey and Emma Thompson as important role models. Seeing Thompson nominated at the 1996 Oscars for both acting and writing was eye-opening for Kaling.

** Kaling is using “Sex and the City” as a guide for how it is handling the transition of the character of Danny that Chris Messina plays on “Mindy Project” in the fabric of the show. She cited how Chris Noth’s Mr. Big remained a presence on “SATC” even though he was not seen much in the later seasons. “He’s going to be in it — it’s just that not having him in every episode allows my character to have adventures without having the specter of my ex-husband there.”

More TV

  • HBO logo

    TV News Roundup: HBO Announces Recipients of 2019 HBOAccess Writing Fellowship

    In today’s roundup, Fox Nation announces a fresh slate of programming for the summer and HBO announces the recipients of its HBOAccess Writing Fellowship. DEVELOPMENT: HBO has announced the recipients of its 2019 HBOAccess Writing Fellowship. The eight writers selected out of the 3,000 submissions will participate in an 8-month program of master classes and [...]

  • Big Bang Theory

    'Big Bang Theory,' 'Manifest' Among Top Live+7 Gainers of 2018-2019 Season

    With 2018-2019 broadcast season wrapping up, certain shows stand head and shoulders above their competition in the Nielsen Live+7 rankings. Live+7 data is currently available only through May 5, but the top dogs will likely see little change once the final numbers are in for the traditional September-May season. The top gainer in adults 18-49 [...]

  • Anna Kendrick Paul Feig

    Anna Kendrick, Paul Feig Team for Comedy Anthology Series at WarnerMedia Streaming Service

    Anna Kendrick and Paul Feig are coming to the WarnerMedia streaming service Variety has learned that the upcoming streamer has ordered the romantic comedy anthology series “Love Life,” the first season of which will star Kendrick with Feig executive producing. WarnerMedia has ordered a 10-episode first season of the half-hour series. Lionsgate Television and FeigCo [...]

  • Jon Feltheimer

    Lionsgate Posts Loss, Underperforms Wall Street Expectations

    Lionsgate has posted a quarterly loss and its revenues and operating income have come in under Wall Street projections, despite growth from its premium cable channel, Starz. The studio reported a net loss of $24 million, or 11 cents a share, with adjusted operating income of $103 million for its fourth fiscal quarter ended March [...]

  • ‘Gentleman Jack’ Gets Season 2 at

    ‘Gentleman Jack’ Renewed for Season 2 at BBC, HBO

    “Gentleman Jack” will return to TV screens on both sides of the Atlantic after the BBC and HBO ordered a second season of the period drama. The series is based on a true story and stars Suranne Jones as Anne Lister, a lesbian, and the proprietor of her family’s coal mines. She has to walk [...]

  • Jane Austin SAG AFTRA

    SAG-AFTRA Secretary-Treasurer Jane Austin Running for President

    Jane Austin, the National Secretary-Treasurer of SAG-AFTRA, has become the third candidate for the presidency of the performers union, joining incumbent Gabrielle Carteris and Matthew Modine. Austin is running as an independent for the top post at SAG-AFTRA, which has 160,000 members. Carteris will seek re-election as the head of the ticket for the Unite [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content