Syndicated and vindicated, ‘The Mindy Project’ marks 100th episode
It’s a show that has been on the brink of cancellation, officially canceled on Fox, then rescued by Hulu.
To say “The Mindy Project” has endured a winding road on the small screen would be as understated as one of the outfits worn by its titular character, Mindy Lahiri.
The comedy, about a pop-culture-obsessed OB/GYN (played by Mindy Kaling) and her love travails and quirky coworkers, has not only endured for five seasons but, as of Tuesday, is now a card-carrying member of the 100-episode club. That had long been the magic number for a show to become viable for syndication. Kaling is not only the show’s star, but also its creator. Next up, audiences will see her on the big screen in “Ocean’s Eight,” featuring an all-female cast.
To ring in the 100th episode, which is available to stream on Hulu, we spoke to Kaling about the milestone.
Did it feel like, maybe considering the show’s early bubble status, that you might never get here?
You know, because of coming from “The Office,” where we also did 100, I’ve kind of just been trained to expect long runs of shows, which is probably naïve. But these are the only two shows I’ve been on, and in my mind I think I’m programmed for this longevity of the show, which is unusual but very helpful.
How have you seen the show evolve over these 100 episodes?
I think that the learning curve is mostly the first year. I think the tumultuousness of any first-year show on a network is always the hardest. That’s the “we’re coming into work on the weekends,” that’s the 18-hour day — all of that was kind of the first year. Each subsequent year became easier and more manageable, and yeah, it really did work the way I hoped it would. That’s really a testament to [executive producers] Matt Warburton, Howard Klein, and the cast — all of us jelling in our chemistry even stronger.
At the beginning, there’s growing pains: trying to figure out the characters and, certainly when we were on network, there was a lot of constraints of what they needed based on their lineups. What was especially helpful when it came to Hulu, was really being able to write the characters the way we thought they would be funny, rather than having a third party express how they wanted the characters to be funny based on what they needed for their lineup.
Talk about what we see from the episode, which is titled “Revenge of the Nurse.”
It was a coincidence that “Revenge of the Nurse” is the mid-season finale, which is exciting, because Matt and I really like doing a cliffhanger whenever there is going to be a big break. I think we kind of love that in a show like “The Walking Dead,” a show that could not actually be farther from our show. We do like a nice, big, emotional cliffhanger in an episode. Usually there’s, you know, little mini-finale or internal finale, and the season episodes have things like guest stars, and parties and a lot of costume changes, lots of nighttime exteriors. That’s just sort of built into the way we do those kind of episodes. We do like getting excited about certain episodes. They are usually the Christmas episodes, holiday episodes, or the finale, or the premiere.
Once you became aware it was the 100th episode, was there some reflection in the writers’ room?
I think the way that our dynamic is in the room is, it’s a not very rest-on-your-laurels dynamic. I think comedy writers are like that because you’re always so worried about what’s around the corner, what could happen. It’s bad luck to sit in that. It’s not like we didn’t have a moment: We had champagne in the writers’ room. More than the average show, this show has had such an unusual existence, you know? We’re so lucky that it transitioned so well and it’s become the best show it could be on Hulu. It’s been a real adventure I think in a way that I never could have anticipated when I started the show five years ago.
What does it feel like to have a show that is syndicated? (Earlier this fall, the series landed syndication deals with VH1 and Freeform.)
I think it means probably slightly different things to different people. I think when you have a show, like a major show that has drawn huge Nielsen numbers on a network and that gets syndicated, that’s obviously, I think, a different experience. More than anything, it just feels like an accomplishment, because to me I think like, “OK, well, now there’s a canon, now three years from now my kids can watch the adventures of this character over the course of this length of time.” And that feels exciting. You start to feel like, “Oh great, we’re no longer brilliant but canceled.” We had a character that has had a real lifespan on the show. That feels so lucky because I loved playing this character, and I love that people feel connected to her, and her life, and her finding happiness. You can only do that with just volume of episodes, so that’s pretty nice.
Is all focus now on “Ocean’s Eight”?
I’ve done fittings and everything. I’ve got my big day with most of the cast in some group scenes soon. I’m very excited. It’s a different world than my show, obviously. It’s fun to be a character who is going to conspire with a bunch of other women and be tough and badass. I’ve never done that before.
And in my pilot, I yelled, “I’m Sandra Bullock.” It was like a big part of my pilot. I’ve been playing a character who has been infatuated with Sandra Bullock for so long, so it’s fun to meet her in real life.
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