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Ike Barinholtz Previews ‘The Mindy Project’s’ Final Season: A Staff Wedding and Danny’s Return

Five years and two networks later, “The Mindy Project” is saying goodbye with a sixth and final season this September. OB-GYN Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) started out as bear claw-obsessed narcissist with a soft spot for rom-coms, and after many, many boyfriends, one child, and a new business, the show last left her engaged to her nurse boyfriend Ben (Bryan Greenberg).

“When we first met her, she wanted it all. She wanted a fairy tale wedding and whatnot,” series co-star, writer, and producer Ike Barinholtz tells Variety. But now, Mindy is “realizing that maybe she doesn’t really want that.”

Ahead of its final season premiere, Barinholtz talks with Variety about Mindy’s love life, his favorite guest stars, and how the creative team plans to wrap up the series.

Where do we pick up when the sixth season starts?

There’s a slight time jump not too long but Mindy has gotten married to Ben, a very handsome Jewish nurse played by Brian Greenberg, who, fun fact, in real life is a handsome Jewish actor. She’s taken the plunge, and she’s deciding that maybe marriage isn’t what Mindy Lahiri has been looking for. The premiere shows what happens when someone who’s had this idealized version of love and marriage their whole life realizes [they don’t anymore].

What gets Mindy to the point of not looking for marriage anymore?

Mindy has [her son] Leo, and she realizes now, at least for the time being, that’s the person that she cares about the most. With Ben, they were into each other, but he wasn’t “The One.” I think she might have even known he wasn’t “The One” [for awhile], but the idea, the temptation of getting married was so great that she jumped into it with someone who maybe wasn’t the right person for her. No one was cheating on anyone or anything like that.

Mindy and Danny’s [Chris Messina] relationship has developed and changed so much over the last five seasons. How do you wrap something like that up?

Danny and Mindy’s relationship has evolved into one where they get along and they share this huge responsibility in taking care of Leo, but what I’ve been excited about when it comes to Danny and Mindy this season is seeing how far they’ve come. They were everything to each other, and then it all exploded. Now that the dust has settled, seeing where they’re at, it’s really interesting. Mindy and Danny are two people that are always somewhat in love with each other. They always will [be], whether they end up together or not. I think they might be “The One” for each other, which is why it’s exciting to see them interacting, though they’re not currently in a relationship.

So then is there a possibility of them getting back together?

Anything’s possible.

That’s not a no!

I know. Anything’s possible. I don’t have a preference either way, if they ended up together or didn’t. This season gives us this feeling of ease, of like, if they end up together, great because we’ve seen them together, but if they don’t end up together, we see how they are now, and that’s pretty good.

How will the season be structured?

We only have 10 episodes [so] we really wanted a pretty good balance of work to Mindy love [and] romance stories. Everyone has their moment in the sun for the last season. There’s a staff wedding that’s the overarching thing everyone’s looking toward. It serves as the backdrop that we’re leading up to, and everyone has their season arc. Mindy was really great at making sure everyone has a story or a story and a half to go out on.

Who’s getting married!?

It’s two people who have been there for a very long time, and they’ve dated before. 

In saying everyone has a story to go out on, what does that mean for guest stars returning?

There’s just the people that are our favorites. We knew we needed to have Glenn Howerton back. My cousin on the show is Rob McElhenney, hopefully we get him back. It was so great having the Duplass brothers one last time. We did the math, I think Mark has done 20 episodes. He’s done more episodes than any non-series regular in the show. They’re the best.

Do you have any dream guest stars before the end?

We always wanted Judge Judy to play my grandmother. At the end of the day, she’s just too rich. She’s just not going to do it. When you have “Judge Judy” money you don’t have to do anything besides your job.

Mindy has said she has always known how she wanted the show to end. Did any of that change as you were breaking stories for the final season?

Small things come and go, and I’m sure moments changed, but Mindy is someone who always especially for premieres and finales has a very clear idea of what she wants. She knows the story she wanted to tell, and that’s what we do.

Has the writers room dynamic changed over the years?

It really hasn’t. Only because you’ve had, from day one, Mindy and [executive producer] Matt Warburton in there. A lot of shows go through new head writers or showrunners, but it’s always been Mindy and Matt at the core. Even though we’ve had writers come and go, we’ve had a lot of people who have been there for many years consistently. We lost Tracey Wigfield, but we got Guy Branum, and they’re basically the same person. They’re just both very loud gay men. But Mindy and Matt set the tone. When you have the two of them there, there’s just no confusion as to what you’re working on. They’re both A-students, and it’s a really very special room. Really funny things happen.  

The final season of “The Mindy Project” premieres on Hulu Sept. 12.

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