20 Things You Might Not Know About The Mindy Project
Mindy Kaling finished her run on The Office in 2012. Her own show, The Mindy Project, premiered a few months later. Although it was recently canceled after three seasons, the series and its beloved star still have a major fan following. Perhaps as a result of the Twitter outrage over Fox's decision to give it the axe, Universal Television is in talks to bring season four to Hulu. But for now, they're just that—talks. Which means you've got plenty of time to catch up on seasons one, two, and three, and study these fun facts about everyone's favorite fictional gynecologist.
1. It could have been an NBC series.
Kaling originally developed the pilot for NBC, which had aired The Office. They passed before Fox swooped in and picked up The Mindy Project for 24 episodes in 2012.
2. It broke boundaries.
The Mindy Project was only one of a few TV shows in history to have as its star and be run by a woman of color.
3. It was inspired by the gig that made Kaling famous.
The relationships on The Mindy Project were directly influenced by those on The Office, according to Kaling. She explained her thought process in a chat with Entertainment Weekly:
It is a reaction to 'The Office' in terms of the way it’s shot, and also the main central love story. In 'The Office' were Jim and Pam, characters that are so deeply good and in many ways don’t have a ton of flaws. But they were so compatible that in many ways maybe their personalities overlapped with each other’s. And I love that 'Much Ado About Nothing,' passionate, smart fighting. I love fighting with guys, and that’s something that I don’t get to see: arguing at a high level with a member of the opposite sex. That didn’t really happen that much on 'The Office.'
4. The Mindy Project wasn't its working title.
The show was originally called It’s Messy.
5. Kaling was also inspired by her late mother.
Kaling decided to set the show in a gynecologist's office because her mother, Swati, was an OB-GYN.
6. Kaling knew exactly who she wanted to be her leading man.
The role of Danny was written for Chris Messina, who Kaling knew through The Office’s John Krasinski. Kaling has said she “[finds] him so watchable. One of the highlights of this whole process is working with him. He’s like an old-fashioned movie star, so appealing and masculine.”
7. She was also set on making Ike Barinholtz part of the cast.
Ike Barinholtz had auditioned for the part of Danny. He was then hired as a writer before his character, Morgan, came to be. He said that when Kaling met him, she instantly told him that she wanted him to be on the show. Barinholtz figured it would be a part like “the kindly janitor you would see every fifth episode.” It turned out Kaling had a scene written for him on the first day—he jumped right in without having to audition for Morgan.
8. Ed Weeks' British accent almost didn't make it to the small screen.
The part of Dr. Jeremy Reed was written for an American. Ed Weeks planned to audition using an American accent, but his roommate convinced him to use his natural, British accent.
9. The show's opening credits were originally going to be animated.
Scenes from Mindy Lahiri's life were drawn by the artist Henry John.
10. Jesse Novak wrote the theme song.
A composer, Novak is also the brother of Kaling’s former Office co-star, B.J. Novak. And that’s actually Kaling you hear in the opening credits. She recorded her voice, which they arranged into the tune.
11. B.J. got involved, too.
Novak has starred in three episodes, directed two, and executive produced twenty-five. Kaling and Novak actually co-wrote the season one episode, “Harry and Sally.” According to Novak, “She wrote a very basic draft—like, half an outline—and then I filled it in. And then we got together and discussed it with the rest of the writers.”
12. Kaling wanted her stars to look real.
Kaling asked Barinholtz to refrain from being “like every other guy on TV who, when they get a part, instantly loses 50 pounds.” So, he made an effort to gain some weight for the role.
13. Its early cast shifted around. A lot.
The show made headlines early on for its constantly changing cast. Anna Camp originally played Mindy’s best friend, Gwen. And former Gossip Girl star Amanda Setton appeared as the office receptionist, Shauna. A couple months into the first season, Camp was downgraded from series regular to recurring and Setton disappeared from the show altogether. By the end of the season, Camp was gone as well. Kaling mentioned in early 2013 that Camp had asked for more time to audition for other roles. Then, Adam Pally joined the show for season two. After his show Happy Endings got canceled, Kaling called him and offered him the part of Peter.
14. Some people were upset by Mindy's taste in men.
The show has also caught some flack for not casting a more diverse group of men to date Dr. Lahiri. The group Media Action Network for Asian-Americans wrote a letter to Fox, stating, “We are concerned that in the course of two seasons, her character, Dr. Lahiri, has had a ‘white-only’ dating policy involving about a dozen men.” Of such criticism, Kaling has said, “Do people really wonder on other shows if female leads are dating multicultural people? Like I owe it to every race and minority and beleaguered person. I have to become the United Nations of shows?”
15. Improv was encouraged on set.
The showrunners were generally open to improvisation, allowing improvised takes for every scene while filming certain episodes. According to Rhea Perlman, who played Danny’s mother, it worked well because there were so many writer-performers on the show.
16. Perlman wasn't the only high-profile guest star.
Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy executive producer Shonda Rhimes played herself. When Rhimes got the gig, she tweeted, “Shh. Nobody tell @mindykaling that I can neither act nor appear lifelike on camera. NO ONE STOP THIS FROM HAPPENING! #dreamsDOcometrue.” After filming, she sent an Umami Burger truck to set with a note that read, “Thank you for enduring my incredibly horrible acting. You are all amazing to work with.”
Another famous guest star, James Franco, was most interested in Beth Grant, who plays abrasive nurse Beverly. Kaling recalls Franco showing up to set, "[and] we were trying to make small talk with him. It’s impossible to make small talk with James Franco. But when he saw Beth, he lit up.”
17. Fans questioned the Mindy-Danny pairing.
Viewers were concerned about Kaling's decision to have the coworkers get together so early in the show’s run. Unlike many sitcoms, there weren't seasons of buildup. Barinholtz claims the move had to do with the characters’ ages:
This isn’t Gossip Girl. These are not, like, super young teenage kids. These are professional doctors who are in their early- to late-40s and to kind of tease it out too long seemed a little unrealistic, you know? Watching them together is so fun that there was a little bit of back and forth last season in the writers room—should it happen? Should it not happen? But then eventually you just get to a certain point where we want it, the fans want it, the characters want it.
18. Kaling didn't think Lahiri was responsible enough for a dog.
Kaling joked during her 2014 Harvard commencement speech that Mindy Lahiri might be getting a puppy. Later, Kaling admitted that it would be nice to have a puppy on set, but “Mindy would probably kill the puppy like someone does with a plant.”
19. Danny really did take it all off for that photoshoot.
Chris Messina stripped down for Christina's shoot in season one: “That was a big photo shoot, and there was another photo shoot in the second season. So there’s a lot of silly pictures of me doing stupid poses with my clothes off somewhere, in somebody’s library on their computer.”
20. Kaling never saw a wedding or a baby as something that would ruin her show.
Kaling wasn’t worried about the show jumping the shark if her character settled down. Because Mindy Lahiri is so entertaining in her own right, she has said, “I think it would [still] be tumultuous and interesting, which … is good for the show.”