THE MINDY PROJECT: Matt Warburton on Moving to Hulu, Meeting the 'Male Mindy,' Danny's 'Weird,' 'Internal,' 'Neurotic' Journey - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

THE MINDY PROJECT: Matt Warburton on Moving to Hulu, Meeting the ‘Male Mindy,’ Danny’s ‘Weird,’ ‘Internal,’ ‘Neurotic’ Journey

September 14, 2015 by  

Credit: John Fleenor/NBC

Credit: John Fleenor/NBC

THE MINDY PROJECT’s second life — on Hulu — is just around the corner.

Almost immediately after the comedy was canceled at Fox, rumors started circulating that Hulu was looking to revive the series. It took only nine days for the move to become official, and the show was even able to come back as the traditional fall season kicked off.

The season 4 premiere picks up immediately where season 3 ended: after Danny discovered Mindy never told her parents about their relationship — and after he made it clear he doesn’t have a desire to get married again — he is in India, on a mysterious mission.

As Danny’s away, Mindy goes on her own journey. In “While I Was Sleeping,” she dreams what life might be like if she was in a relationship with someone a bit more similar to herself.

I spoke with THE MINDY PROJECT showrunner Matt Warburton about the show’s move, creating the “male Mindy,” Danny at “his most weird and internal and neurotic,” and more…

What was MINDY’s cancellation and revival like for you? Did you always feel the show would be revived, or did you have concerns?
Matt Warburton: We felt like we were pretty confident the show would land somewhere. We had a lot of time to think about it, because the whole time we were at Fox, we were given a few episodes at a time; maybe we’ll come back, maybe we won’t.

What we would find is the show was always doing great on Hulu — they tell you what people are watching on Hulu, you can watch it in almost real time. Our fans seem to be really finding the show on Hulu. It seemed, to us, the most obvious place to go. And it felt like we had always been there, so it felt very natural.

What kind of conversations did the team have with Hulu about how and when the show would launch? And was there any thought of delaying the premiere a few months since the actors have been doing so many other projects on top of this?
MW: [Putting them out weekly] was one of the first things we discussed, and was so easy, because it was what Hulu wanted and what we were hoping they would want. Because our show is really, I think, very into communicating back and forth with our fans, and letting our fans talk to each other about the show. Having all the episodes come online at once, it means you’re going to have a wild weekend — or a wild two weekends — where everybody is going to want to talk about the show. But the Hulu model lets us [release episode] every week; people have the opportunity to check in on what’s going on, and it keeps the whole year fun for our fans, hopefully. We’re extremely happy about that part of it.

We try to be very accommodating to [the actors]. As the show has gone on, a lot of our cast keep getting more and more opportunities to do amazing things. We found ways to let everyone do what they need to do. I think one thing that helps is splitting the season into two big parts. There’s a break for the actors in the middle as they get to do other stuff while we write a bunch more episodes. It’s surprisingly easy to let people do what they need to do with all the [various storylines].

That makes sense. How has Hulu’s commercial-free option impacted the way you break these stories?
MW: We still break stories exactly the same way, with act breaks and everything. We feel that’s part of a rhythm for our show…people are used to watching shows without ads, but still having that [beat] — if you’re watching something on Netflix, you can see where the act break used to be, but it doesn’t throw you. You kind of treat it like chapters in a book. There’s no ad break in that, but it gives you a moment to register a huge moment of storytelling.

One great thing about Hulu is they’ve given us a lot of flexibility about where you put the act breaks, how long are the acts. I think we get to keep the best parts of it from the Fox days, and give us a little more flexibility that has been an enormous help, storytelling-wise.

What kind of self-policing have you had to do in terms of playing with the freedom of not having a set air time, but also not having the episodes run too long?
MW: I have been surprised where we haven’t run into the [mindset] of wanting to make things super duper long. I think, in general, we’ll be a minute or two longer than a Fox show. It’s been interesting, because we used to really agonize over having all this great stuff on the [cutting room] floor. And it’s been less of an issue than we thought it would be.

There’s already been some great moments [we got to keep]; in the premiere, there’s a scene where Morgan is in a wheelchair, that in the old days would have to go, because it doesn’t have a huge storytelling benefit. But it was so, so funny. We just get to keep the stuff audiences are going to love, and let them play out without being too rushed.

What do you want fans to know about the premiere?
MW: I think it’s important for people to know it picks up right where the last one left off. I think people are going to be surprised. People would assume Danny is in India to ask for Mindy’s [hand] in marriage; that’s not why he’s there. He’s always weirder than that. His reasons are so confused and Danny-ish, that it takes an entire episode to sort them out, in a way I think is honestly the character at his most weird and internal and neurotic.

It’s giving Mindy an opportunity, while Danny is gone, to sort of imagine — she’s got this guy who is very weird about marriage. So it’s this way to test, “What if I got the marriage, but didn’t get the guy? What if I got a different guy? Would that be better or worse?”

What I like about it is it’s a SLIDING DOORS episode — or IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, or any of these references we discuss in the episode itself — that tests the really important question for the character and the season, right from the bat.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Matt) had previously worked with Mindy Kaling (Mindy) and Chris Messina (Danny) on his own show. Was that how he came to guest on the show, or was he someone you had your eye on for a bit?
MW: I think the reason Mindy and Joseph got in touch in the first place was he and his wife are big fans of the show. We always keep track of that. [Premiere guest star] Freida [Pinto], actually, kind of started the same way: Mindy had dinner with her, and they’re friends, socially. Always in the background, we have a mental list of people we know have told us they want to come on. You have to luck out and have a great person who wants to do it, and everyone’s so busy, it has to work out, scheduling-wise. Joseph Gordon-Levitt squeezed in his appearance right before his wife gave birth; that seems to happen to us a lot! [Laughs]

We have a running list in the background for when we need someone. All the time we break a story, and we go, “We need a guy who’s a certain type. Who is on our list?” We luck out more than we fail.

What is Mindy’s relationship like with Matt in this dream world?
MW: What drives a lot of our show lately is that Mindy and Danny love each other, but they’re such insanely different people. And a character like Mindy has to wonder, “Is this worth the trouble? Wouldn’t it be better if I married someone who is like me?” So we designed this guy to be someone who is a lot easier for Mindy to be with — he’s a producer on REAL HOUSEWIVES, he’s super rich, he does whatever she wants. What are the good and bad parts of that? It’s like a thought experiment — is this better or worse? And the answer isn’t quite as obvious as she thinks it is. Making a male Mindy was a fun thing for us to do, and to put poor Joseph Gordon-Levitt through.

THE MINDY PROJECT’s season 4 premiere launches on Hulu on Tuesday, September 15th.

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