The big question surrounding the fourth season of The Mindy Project — which has switched over to Hulu after being axed by Fox earlier this year — is how the move to Hulu will affect the goings-on at the OB/GYN clinic.
As it turns out, not much. Mindy Kaling joined executive producer Matt Warburton, producer/co-star Ike Barinholtz, and the rest of the cast on stage during Hulu’s panel day on the Television Critics’ Association press tour to assure critics’ that though some technical changes have occurred — a return to a three-act structure versus Fox’s four-act, for instance — most of the show will remain exactly as Fox left it.
“Our demo is like, Stephen Colbert’s daughter,” joked Barinholtz. “Young women that are going to rule the country one day. And I think if we really change the show too much and made it more risqué and put it more on a tilt towards stuff you might find on HBO or Showtime, we would maybe turn off some of our core viewers.” Barinholtz said the writers have made a conscious effort to keep the show’s tone similar, although they acknowledge the non-network freedom of suddenly being allowed to “have a scene that ends with Mindy [saying] ‘God damn it.’”
The length of each episode is no longer constricted to network guidelines, said Warburton, meaning that season 4 has opened up the ability to feature supporting characters like Beth Grant’s Beverly or Xosha Roquemore’s Tamara. “The thing that’s been sacrificed on our show is often the ensemble,” admitted Warburton. “One thing we’re already seeing is we don’t have to sacrifice all those lines. The show can breath a bit more and…it’s going to let everybody shine even more.” Adds Grant: “They’ve promised me sex.”
Season 4 will also include a slew of new cast members to welcome the show to Hulu. Garrett Dillahunt will play a doctor who replaces Mindy at the practice while she’s on maternity leave; comedienne Fortune Feimster will recur as his sister, a nurse at the practice. They’ll join previously announced guests like Frieda Pinto and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (as Mindy’s husband in an explored future where she never got involved with Danny).
And yes, the impending birth of Mindy’s baby will shake up pretty much the entire season — but not the entirety of Mindy as a character. “We always say that the character can only change five percent at the time. Certain things like motherhood will bring out aspects of her personality [like] that maternal instinct, which we’ve not seen before,” said Kaling. “Maybe this is a little cynical, but we feel like people don’t change…she has a kid now, and Mindy’s behavior is, my kid should be a model, my kid should be a child actor. Her personality, it’s been really fun to see how it transforms when she has a kid.”
Warburton adds that with the new baby and the introduction of Mindy’s parents (Sakina Jaffrey and Ajay Mehta), the show will be able to pull from a new wealth of romantic comedies. “Parenthood, Meet the Parents…” he teased. “We’ll have both sides of family members in play, and it’ll hopefully expand the stuff we can draw from.”
“I feel personally…I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the show, and I’m so grateful,” said Kaling at the end of the panel. “I’m such an ambitious person and I am so grateful to Hulu for giving us this opportunity, and I just want to make the show better than it’s ever been, and we had the opportunity and I think it is. Twenty six episodes is more than I’ve done on any series I’ve ever been on. It went from being, ‘We’re never going to do the show again’ to ‘We’re going to do more work than we ever have.'”
Both Barinholtz and Warburton also recognized the success of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and mentioned that comedy may have found a better home on streaming services than on network TV. “The freedom of being able to say a joke and not have to neuter or soften it, I think that’s a struggle for a lot of shows on networks, especially single-cams…I think for comedy, where we’re at in Netflix or Amazon, to have that freedom is much more fertile ground.” said Barinholtz. “If Tina [Fey] sold 30 Rock this year, I don’t think it would be on a network. The same thing goes for Parks and Rec. I just feel like streaming is a great home for them.”
The Mindy Project will premiere on Tuesday, Sept. 15 on Hulu.