Spoiler alert: This story contains plot details from “Revenge of the Nurse,” season 5, episode 7 of The Mindy Project.
The Mindy Project has never been short on guy drama over the course of its five seasons, so naturally Mindy Lahiri (creator, star, EP, writer, and producer Mindy Kaling) faces quite a bit in the Hulu comedy’s 100th episode and mid-season finale, “Revenge of the Nurse.” Her current beau — Ben (Bryan Greenberg) — and old flames Jamie (B.J. Novak), Casey (Anders Holm), and Josh (Tommy Dewey) — are the ones at the center of that this time around.
To recap, Mindy runs into Jamie, now a mystery thriller writer, on the subway and he invites her and her co-workers — yes, even Morgan (Ike Barinholtz) — to his book party. There, a TODAY show personality is looking for an on-air nurse for a segment, and ultimately Ben fills the role. Ben and Mindy go to dinner to celebrate and run into Casey, Mindy’s former fiancé, who brings up their past and his health guru. When Ben doesn’t show up for another segment the next day, Morgan fills in and completely wipes out on air — and later has a party to celebrate his internet celebrity. Jamie shows up and kisses Mindy, who is upset because she hadn’t heard from Ben in two days, BUT Ben did go to the party and arrived just in time to witness the lip lock.
Ben storms out and Mindy chases after him. She says she didn’t mean to do that, that she was just drunk, which he obviously doesn’t take too well. He says they just had a small fight, then she’s kissing Jamie, but she says it was much bigger than that with him disappearing on her. What it comes down to for him is that he told her repeatedly that he didn’t want to do the show, and he’s upset that she never tells people that he’s a nurse.
Then Josh happens to walk by and has an uncomfortable chat with Mindy, who is very upset about the fight in progress. In the end, Ben says, “All this time you’ve been wondering if I’m good enough for you, huh? Well, you know what Mindy, I don’t think you’re good enough for me.” YIKES. So, their future is very much unsteady.
Here to unpack all of that are Holm, Dewey, and Greenberg, who speak to their storylines in this particular episode and love for their characters. Plus, they share memorable moments from set, relationship takeaways, their characters’ legacies, and much more. With that — imagine Chris Harrison’s voice — the boyfriends of The Mindy Project tell all… and we mean ALL.
On what they love about playing their characters and, for the exes, what makes them keep coming back, especially for episode 100
HOLM: These days I like coming back to play Casey because I never know what he’s going to be doing. He’s kind of turned into this Wheel of Fortune wheel, like what’s he going to be this time she runs into him? He’s had so many professions and all of them are equally as stupid and ambitious, so it’s fun to see what the writers come up with.
DEWEY: First of all, huge thanks to Mindy for inviting me back for the 100th episode. One hundred of anything is such an accomplishment and I feel very honored to put my head in for it. I like how weird Josh is. I think whatever I brought to the table, Mindy and the writers picked up on, and wrote to this weirdness in the character that’s really fun to play. I think that’s why she and her team are so brilliant is that all the characters on the show defy easy classifications. He’s cocky, but he’s also really troubled. He’s a complicated character and for an actor, that’s what you look for.
GREENBERG: [Ben’s] so accepting of Mindy’s idiosyncrasies and she’s such a far-out character… he’s so quirky and funny and lives in her own world. What I love about the relationship is he doesn’t judge her for it. He actually is charmed by it… I think the audience can sense a real comfortability between them.
On where Holm and Dewey stand in this particular episode
HOLM: I think that Casey might represent Mindy’s character not sticking to her guns, being who she is. She could go chase this Casey guy, but he turns into a different thing every time, so you know she’s kind of selling out to herself and not figuring out who she is, so she shouldn’t be chasing this guy who doesn’t know who he is.
DEWEY: The irony is Josh says [his run-in with Mindy is] awkward and confusing, but he’s [the one] making it awkward and confusing and laying it off on her. We did one take where I just kind of stand there and look at her after I say it’s awkward and confusing, but I like to think that the confusing part comes out of something real. I always played it that Josh really cared about Mindy, but he was so troubled and so high apparently for most of the time that he couldn’t make it stick. I think that’s why the show transcends comedic schtick so well. It’s wildly funny, but at the same time you care about Mindy and her relationships, and that extends to the peripheral characters as well.
On if Ben and Mindy broke up, and what it would take to work things out
GREENBERG: It’s pretty rocky. [Their relationship status is] kind of open. It’s a pretty big fight, but we’ll have to tune in and see if they make up. I think Mindy has a lot of apologizing to do in order to get back together. She really took him for granted, and tried to make him into something that he organically wasn’t. He stood his ground and hopefully she’s realized the error of her ways.
On improvising, cut bits, and memorable moments — on and off screen
HOLM: Because Mindy is in charge, and she’s so good at improvising and going off the page herself, it’s always fun to take a detour. I always wait for her to initiate because it’s not my show. I show up for a few days here and there, but as soon as she takes a right turn, I’m like, “Alright here we go, let’s have some fun and see if we can make each other laugh.” This probably is inappropriate, but I think there was a part [that was cut], I think it was written and then we kind of beat it like a dead horse. We were in bed for some episode and talking about something and then my penis came out of my boxer shorts and I want to say I personified it and started talking and she kept telling it to go back into its boxers and it was telling her that he wanted to come out and hang out with us. That didn’t make it onto network television for some reason.
DEWEY: Maybe my favorite cold open in all of television, not just the stuff I’ve done, is there’s an episode in the first season where I accidentally put on Mindy’s jeans and we could not stop laughing. It’s a miracle we got anything usable, but it so perfectly defined their relationship — speaking of awkward and confusing — and who that Mindy character is, her worst nightmare playing out in front of her, and Mindy’s willing to go to those places. It’s a perfectly written scene, hilarious and says so much in [about] two pages.
My first day with them was a club scene where I meet Mindy. That one stands out because there were a bunch of NBA guys in that scene. As a sports fan, getting to play a sports lawyer and actually work with some of these guys is really fun for me. Amar’e Stoudemire and Baron Davis; Clay Matthews visits me in rehab, some of that fanboy stuff is really fun for me to do. In this episode, Bryan Greenberg is a great actor. I’d never met him, so it was cool to spend an evening with him. What’s fun and cool with a character like this is it’s so well written, so well conceived that you can fall right back into it. To get back on that horse is fun and I’ve gotten to do it once or twice a year since they started the show.
GREENBERG: I haven’t done a lot of comedy in this sense. I do a lot of half-hours that are kind of funny, but kind of serious. This is full-on comedy, so it was a little different for me. I remember the first day I worked with Ike Barinholtz. I was on my heels a little bit because this guy, he can improv with the best. He might be the best comedic improvisational actor out there. Everybody says, “Oh Ike, he’s the best.”
The first day I was like “Whoa, I don’t know if I can keep up with this guy,” but then when I shot my last scene a couple weeks ago, I was going toe-to-toe with him and throwing stuff back at him… I felt I came a long way on this season as an actor, to be able to hang with them because Mindy and Ike, they’re so funny and fast. It’s truly a muscle. They’ve been doing it for years, not even just for the show, but before that. I haven’t been in the gym, so I kind of joined. I got into shape a little later, but I think I’ve made it.
NEXT: Relationship takeaways, character legacies, and the chance of returning… [pagebreak]
On the chemistry and dynamic with Mindy Lahiri and Mindy Kaling
HOLM: As characters, I think it’s interesting because, like I was saying, Casey’s this guy who’s chasing the new, flashy thing and he has this freedom in his personality that he’ll do whatever he wants, whereas I think Mindy’s a little bit more thoughtful. She’s not going to jump into the pool with two feet; she’s going to dip her toe in. So when she runs into him and he’s doing these fabulous, crazy things, it can seem appealing for a moment, but she knows that it would drive her crazy if she had to continue a relationship with a guy who’s just off to the next thing.
As far as us as actors, I think it’s fun because the characters are already there, the relationship’s there so we can come in, make each other laugh, and poke fun at what the characters have become now, their relationship, and how random it is that [they] keep running into each other. I know that happens in New York even though I never lived there, but sometimes it’s comical that it’s like “What, you’re here at this restaurant? Again? You’re doing what now?”
Then the outfits they put me in are insane too, which is always fun. He’s way cooler than I am, like the shoelaces on the shoes, they’re always longer than the shoelaces I have. They go all the way up. They’re like super high tops from like Barneys that take 10 minutes to put on, and jeans that are screaming to get taken off my body before they explode. Then Casey must have a collection of 50 scarves that he wears because they always put me in a scarf. Nothing against scarves! Like the whimsical scarf, magician type guy.
GREENBERG: I think [Ben and Mindy make a good couple] because they challenge each other. Ben, you see in the episode, he ends up doing the TODAY show because Mindy thinks it’s a good idea. It’s not something that Ben really wants to do. He doesn’t give a s–t about being in the limelight, but if it makes her happy he’s like fine. Ben is really comfortable with who he is in his shoes and he’s not trying to be anything he’s not and I think that’s really hard for Mindy to understand, that he’s just okay with his lot in life. He’s not a very ambitious, overachieving guy. He’s actually very comfortable with who he is and I feel like that makes her uncomfortable, so it’s an interesting dynamic.
I love working with [Kaling] because she’s so funny as an actor, and I love watching her come up with bits right on the spot. She blows my mind, to be honest, because not only is she the creator of the show, she’s got all these other side things going on — movies, books — but she has the presence of mind to be in a scene with you as an actor and make it fresh and always find moments and then she’s off to the writers’ room on her lunch break. On top of that, the cool thing about Mindy is that she’s a nice person and I’ve met a lot of ambitious, go-getter types, but everybody is super happy on that show from the camera department, to craft services, to the PAs, to the actors and the writers.
She creates a very warm and welcoming environment. I’m not used to coming on to shows mid stream. I’ve always kind of been around from the beginning, so this is the first time I’ve ever joined a cast that’s already been together for five seasons. It’s a little nerve wracking for me to walk into a situation like that, but because Mindy is so cool, she’s created an environment where I feel very comfortable to come and play. I think as the episodes go on, you see me actually warm up and get a little bit more loose with the character, and I’ve really enjoyed working on the show.
On relationship takeaways, and lessons learned from these partnerships
DEWEY: It may be that despite both sides’ best intentions, some things are just destined for failure. I think she genuinely liked Josh and another thing, to spin it more positively, would be that [they] embraced the weirdness in each other. Josh and Mindy in that first season weren’t afraid to be strange and opinionated in front of each other. One thing that was sort of plain was that he speaks before he thinks, so as cocky as he may come across… he’s weirdly honest, he’s not really putting on airs to try to impress anyone. He ends up doing the opposite quite often, so I think the sunny side of it would be there’s beauty in each others’ idiosyncrasies; the other side of it [is] you can’t fit a square peg in a round hole.
I think he can only [mature so much] or you lose the threat of that character. If we see him polished and with it, he may not be quite as funny and weird, but I think he’s grown up a little bit. He’s sobered up, so he’s taken that step. I think the second season where she comes to his wedding, he shows some emotional maturity in that episode, but baby steps. He’s not a fully reformed man.
GREENBERG: It’s about acceptance. [Ben and Mindy are] both in a very similar place in their life being single parents and it’s a really warm and comforting relationship, and sort of refreshing. Mindy, I think she’s never really had the right fit. It’s always been all this drama and Ben is drama-free. He’s just a real dude. He’s not about any of that drama, he’s not about that life, so I think it’s very jarring for Mindy because she creates drama because that’s the cycle that she’s used to.
Ben, he’s not a pushover. It doesn’t fly with him. He calls her out on her bulls–t, and I think she actually respects him more for that because she’s the type of character that will run over every guy that she comes across. She’s expecting a little pushback and if she doesn’t get a little pushback she won’t respect the guys, so I think she respects Ben because he stands his ground and pushes back. He’s not trying to get in a fight, but he knows who he is and he’s a grown man. He’s got a kid, he’s not playing any little games.
On their characters will go down in The Mindy Project history
HOLM: Besides being the No. 1 most influential character in television history, I think he’s the one you think you let get away, but he’s definitely not the one that got away. You think about him, you’re like, “Man, that was fun,” but with a reality check, you realize there’s no way you want that dude to be your dude. He’s a nutjob, and you don’t want that. If you’re really going to settle down with somebody, in my opinion, not that it matters, you want to have someone who’s ready to settle down as well — and this dude is not that…. [Plus] I think Casey made it ok to say the word “babe” a bunch.
DEWEY: Josh is Mindy’s first boyfriend on the show and originally we were just going to do like three or four episodes and it was clicking, so I ended up sticking around and coming back. Being the first is a cool label, and they’re all so wonderfully strange. I can’t claim weirdness just for Josh, but I liked being there as all the characters, and the particular character of Mindy, were being defined in the first 13 episodes.
GREENBERG: There’s so many chapters, aren’t there? He’s this grounded, real guy that she’s not used to. Sometimes the easiest or best option is right in front of your face. I feel like in her past, she’s been trying to look to this idea of a perfect guy, or who she thinks is a perfect guy, and maybe he’s not, maybe he’s an average nurse, [or] maybe he is… Maybe he doesn’t last forever, I don’t know, but Ben challenges her conceptions of what she thinks the perfect guy is and I think it’s good for her. I think his normalcy actually is different from what she’s used to…. I think the fire is he doesn’t take any s–t. He gives it back, and he’s got a sense of humor. He’s not an over-the-top character, like a lot of these guys she’s dated, but he can hang.
On whether they’d come back for future episodes, and closing remarks
DEWEY: Absolutely. I’ve told Mindy and everybody over there that I’m there when they need me, so I would love to come back.
To sing her and their praises, it’s so rare to get that tone just right, what they do on that show. It’s hilariously laugh-out-loud funny and also moving. I love doing stuff like that. I do a little of that on my show Casual on Hulu. It’s good, meaty stuff for an actor to do, and it’s really hard to get that right. Stuff can be really funny, 10 jokes a page, but you don’t really care about the characters. Then something can get a little too precious and you lose the humor. They’ve been doing it now for 100 episodes, consistently funny and sweet and smart and everything in between, so I’ll leave you with that.
GREENBERG: I’m honored to be on a show that has 100 [episodes]… I feel like I’m cheating. I went to the 100th episode party and everybody was like, “Yeah, we did it!” and I was like, “We did it!” I feel kind of like an imposter, but I’ve enjoyed being a part of it and I’m proud of it. I do feel like this season I got to know everybody. They’ve taken me in as part of the family. At first I was proud for them, but I do feel like I am part of the show now so it’s been really nice.
New episodes of The Mindy Project stream Tuesdays on Hulu.