Chances are you’re still not over last week’s Mindy Project breakup, and we can’t blame you. But the good news? Mindy (Mindy Kaling) and Danny (Chris Messina) might be done for now, but they’re not done forever.
“I think the dynamic between them is special and different and they are unlike any other couple on TV because they are such distinct characters and they fight so much,” says Ike Barinholtz, who plays lovable nurse Morgan on the show and co-wrote the big breakup episode. “To put them back together just makes so much sense…eventually.”
Below, Barinholtz talks more about writing the scene that ripped your soul apart, and we give you an exclusive look at the original script, annotated (hilariously) by Kaling, Barinholtz, and episode co-writer David Stassen.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This season has been great.
BARINHOLTZ: Thank you. My parents say the exact same thing. They love it this year.
…and, what, last year they were on the fence? [Laughs] ‘Eh, it’s so-so.’
Yeah, right? ‘We weren’t sure…’ [laughs] But the feedback has been amazing. Everyone from [journalists], who write about it and tell people to watch it, to randos at Whole Foods and the airport. It used to be that it was just young women who would come up. And now you get kind of bro-y dudes who are like, ‘Hey dude. My girlfriend watches that show, and I love it.’ So the reaction has been really, really good.
Always trust the randos at Whole Foods.
They know what they’re talking about. Hey, and they have good taste in food.
Before we tackle this breakup, I want to talk about Mindy and Danny as a whole. It was such a bold decision to have Mindy and Danny kiss fairly early in the show’s run, what went into that decision? If this show was on ten years ago, I feel like it would have been 8 seasons before we saw that.
Yeah, like Cheers — I don’t know how they did it but I know it wasn’t right away. They teased it out a little longer. But, I think one thing about it is that 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. This isn’t Downton Abbey — let’s give them a little bit of what they want. And yeah, there was a lot of discussion and a lot of different ways about how it should work. But we thought bringing it back to the airplane, which was the first time they had a little bit of a physical connection was kind of a cool turn around.
That’s a good point you make about them being adults because that’s true — adults don’t really hold back after a certain point.
They don’t. You just get to a certain point where if you’re Danny Castellano, ‘I’m not too far away from 40, and I don’t want to keep doing this thing where I have feelings for a person in secret. I want to at least try it for a minute and explore those feelings.’ So we just felt like it was the way it would happen in life.
Tell me about writing this break-up scene.
It was interesting. The only thing we had clear when we went to start writing it, besides the general story deets, was the last scene. That was talked about a lot and put under a microscope a lot in the writers room. We kind of reverse engineered a lot of the episode to fit this last scene. And we just decided that having a fun party and kind of putting everyone in the same environment while all of this stuff between Mindy and Danny was going on — which no one knows about except Peter (Adam Pally) — we just had a lot of fun writing it. We love writing party episodes because every one gets to put on their nice clothes, we get to eat a lot of prop food, which is a big deal.
Sometimes a whole gingerbread house.
A whole gingerbread house! Actually, when we write a episode, David Stassen and I say to the prop master, ‘Hey, so we specifically wrote that we want boneless buffalo wings in this, so they have to be from Chili’s. And he’s like, ‘Can’t I just get the frozen ones?’ And we’re like, ‘No. Go to Chili’s and get us the real ones because the characters will know the difference.’ So we always try to write a lot of party episodes for the good.
‘The Chili’s chicken wings are an artistic choice!’
An artistic choice! ‘You’re blocking my viewpoint. I can’t have this! I can’t work like this, Kevin Shaw, prop master!’ But it was a really, really, really fun episode to write. And we felt like it was an important episode in the series.
For more from inside the writers room, pick up this week’s issue of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY.
(Annotation key: Blue = Barinholtz and Stassen; Red = Kaling)
The Mindy Project airs Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET on FOX.