'I can’t believe it happened, it shouldn’t have happened. I’m thankful all of the time,' says Mindy Kaling.
There were a lot of misty eyes in the house on Friday night at the PaleyFest Fall TV on Hulu Preview for the sixth and final season of The Mindy Project.
The beginning of the end starts for viewers on Sept. 12 when new episodes return to Hulu, but the cast and crew only have a week and a half of shooting remaining.
The looming wrap date had the cast on hand (Mindy Kaling, Ike Barinholtz, Ed Weeks, Xosha Roquemore, and Beth Grant) emotionally discussing the legacy of the show and what the nearly six-year journey has meant to them.
“It was a really, really good show that was one of a kind, and it was groundbreaking in terms of the comedy and in terms of our creator, executive producer, and star,” Xosha Roquemore told EW.
“She’s a hero, she is a feminist hero, that is for sure,” Beth Grant says of Mindy Kaling. “I mean she’s my ideal – she’s who I want to be when I grow up. One woman stood tall and stood strong and let her voice be heard — that you could star, produce, write, shepherd, be a fashion icon, do it all — it is possible.”
Kaling said she always set out to make an impact with her work, “When I made the show, there were no women of color who were the star of their own show. There was not even a man [of color] who was the star of their own show since I don’t even remember when,” she told the audience. “Now my favorite shows are all women of color, the leads. Things move so quickly, now it doesn’t seem as scary.”
Ed Weeks marveled at the show’s ability to balance its comedic tone with biting commentary. “Enjoy the brightness of it and the fun and the romance and the yearning and the silliness and the wit and the fabulousness,” he said. “It’s a bonafide piece of escapism. But you look deep enough and there’s a lot of very trenchant, edgy jokes and commentary,”
He also reveled in the show’s rapidly shifting scenarios which could sometimes veer into magical realism. “It’s like we’re doing a million shows at once,” Weeks said. “It almost has the breadth of a sketch show in what we get to do, but it’s tied together by this unified, emotionally satisfying narrative.”
The most emotional stories came from Barinholtz and Grant, who, like Weeks, have been with the show from its inception.
Grant choked back tears and spoke with visible emotion as she described the impact of the show on her life. “I fell in love with Mindy and thought This is this brilliant young woman who has her own voice and I’m going to go and be of service to her. And it was my genuine heartfelt desire to do that, and of course, the irony is she was of service to me, and it changed my life” she said. “I’m not the same person I was six years ago. I was old and crabby and ready to quit.”
Though Grant says she knew from day one of shooting that it was going to something special. She was on also on the pilot of Friends, and she said the cast had the same energy and promise of that hit show.
Barinholtz told the PaleyFest audience that he learned many lessons from collaborating with Kaling, most importantly, “Don’t do a show that’s going to have your name in it and you’re going to star in it and you’re going to put your blood sweat and tears into it, if you don’t love it. And if you love it, and you’re going to do it, commit to it and make it your life.”
He also barely held back his emotions as he told a story that happened during the week following his neck injury, which he describes as “touch and go.” He called Kaling to discuss the necessity of working his injury into the final season, which led them to talk about what would become Morgan and Mindy’s final scene together. By the end of the conversation, he was crying over the phone.
For Kaling, she says it’s hard for her to take in what the legacy of the show might be as she says she’s more forward-looking than self-reflective. Still, she says she’s proudest of the boundaries she pushed with her character.
Initially, she says, there was a feeling of “Ok, you’re going to represent all dark-skinned Asian women on this show, and I was like I don’t want to, I want my character to be wild and do bad things.” Kaling admits that she still struggles with this and a fear that she’s letting women (especially women of color) down. “I think it’s going to be that way for the rest of my life because of the way that I look but I’m so proud of the show,” she says.
“I can’t believe it happened, it shouldn’t have happened. I’m thankful all of the time,” she concluded.
While the cast discussed the legacy of the show and fans prepare to watch the final season, there’s something bittersweet about the entire proceedings. But for those despairing, Ike Barinholtz has a proposal for Mindy, “When you have a few bad business deals in a couple of years, we can Will and Grace it and come back.”
The final season of The Mindy Project premieres Sept. 12 on Hulu.