FOX’s first year comedy “The Mindy Project” hasn’t aired for two weeks, but it’s back just in time for Halloween with an episode titled, appropriately enough, “Halloween.”
“I love holiday episodes, so we really made it special,” series star and creator Mindy Kaling promised in a conference call with journalists back when the episode was originally scheduled to air Oct. 23. A series of confusing scheduling moves prompted by a baseball rain delay pushed “Mindy’s” Halloween episode to Oct. 30, but what better timing to take advantage of the holiday itself?
Kaling went all out for a half-hour that features a return appearance from guest star Bill Hader and Mindy’s epic struggle to find exactly the right Halloween costume.
“I wear a series of costumes,” Kaling says. “I did about five or six costume changes. The premise is that I’m going on a Halloween date with Josh [played by Tommy Dewey] who we met in the last episode [“In the Club”]. The Halloween costume is stressing my character out a lot, which that is very true of me, myself. But there is some pretty awful and some pretty hilarious costumes that you get to see during the show. I look crazy in a lot of them too. They’re not sexy hot girl costumes.”
That’s key to how Kaling’s romance-obsessed character — Dr. Mindy Lahiri — approaches relationships. Although she tries to model her life after romantic comedies, she’s far from an idealized comedy heroine. She’s more like Renee Zellweger’s Bridget Jones with a less expected dose of “Curb Your Enthusiasm’s” Larry David.
“[Curb] is one of my favorite shows,” Kaling explains. “Larry David often acts in what some people might characterize as obnoxious ways, but he’s also doing something that most people who like the show are like, ‘I wish I could do and but I never can.'”
“My goal with the character [Mindy] is that she is doing stuff that we all — women watching and guys watching, wish they could do that but they just can’t. So many of the female characters I see on TV are just kind of put upon and kind of boring and they’re so worried about viewers not being able to handle them. Every woman I know can be occasionally selfish, and also can be heroic and funny. I’m just trying to make her interesting and nuanced. If some people think she’s obnoxious sometimes then yes, people are obnoxious sometimes.”
“The Mindy Project” is still finding its footing — “Halloween” will only be the fourth episode to air — but FOX has given the series a full season order of 24 episodes, so Kaling will have plenty of time to explore the world she’s establishing for her character and the promising supporting cast.
It also sounds like Mindy’s current love interest Josh will be around for awhile, and Kaling is enjoying the dynamic she has with Dewey: “It’s been really fun shooting with Tommy because on his surface he just looks like this handsome ‘90210’ kind of character, but we’re playing him as a little bit of a weirdo. He comes out a little strong, he’s a little off-putting, and to me seeing people like that redeem themselves is much more appealing. A lot of romantic comedies use this kind of generic, boring good looking love interest and he is certainly the anti that.”
Subverting expectations is definitely part of Kaling’s game plan for “The Mindy Project,” and as the series continues she says viewers shouldn’t expect Dr. Lahiri to always stay exactly the same. “I always think in a good series, a good hero or heroine will change and evolve,” Kaling says. “My character isn’t 19. She’s 31 or 32 in the pilot. Having a love of romance is a great thing for any age, but I think the character should mature over the years.
“She should learn and she should grow, a little bit like how Michael Scott on ‘The Office’ was very different when he left than he was at the beginning. A part of loving romantic comedies is a little bit childish. The character definitely has arrested development. I would hope, and who knows if we’re lucky enough to go for many years, I would love to see her shed some of that adoration for romantic comedies and kind of embrace her own life a little.”