'Mindy Project' Finale: Mindy Kaling on That "Risky" Cliffhanger, Potential Season 4

"I refuse to create under the assumption of failure," Mindy Kaling tells THR of her show's uncertain future.
 John Fleenor/FOX

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from "Best Man," The Mindy Project's third season finale.]

After a season of major change for Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) — including a somewhat rocky relationship with Danny (Chris Messina), a short-term move to San Francisco, a new business and pregnancy — things couldn't end without yet another shake-up.

"Whenever Mindy's life seems too perfect ... it's important that we throw her a curve ball," Kaling tells The Hollywood Reporter.

And that the show did just that.

It turns out Mindy and Danny are both having second thoughts about the future of their relationship. Danny doesn't show up to Boston to meet Mindy's parents because he knew he didn't want to get married again. Mindy, meanwhile, had been waiting to tell her parents about Danny until said meeting, because she didn't want to introduce them to yet another man who would be out of her life just as quickly as he came into it.

The couple was forced to confront this uncertainty during a baby shower at which four of Mindy's exes showed up — thanks to Morgan (Ike Barinholtz), who was convinced one of them was the actual father of her baby. Ultimately, Mindy and Danny come to a compromise, and Mindy opts to save the email to her parents explaining who Danny is rather than sending it. Meanwhile, Danny hops on a last-minute flight to meet her parents and declare his love for their daughter.

The episode left the couple in different places — and with no official fourth season order from Fox, the finale left things very unresolved should the perennial bubble series fail to earn a renewal.

"The show’s so much about the romantic sensibility and reality versus fantasy, and I feel the show is at its very best is when [Mindy’s] being tested but still manages to keep her funny disposition and romantic sensibility," Kaling tells THR. "Danny’s this very cynical guy who has lost that, but it has been reignited a bit through her, and that’s an interesting journey to watch. In the last five minutes and two acts of this finale, she has changed so much to be with this guy; she’s met his family and done all of these things, but she refuses to lose this general optimism. She believes in marriage, and she believes in this institution — which a lot of people today would say is very old-fashioned — but she doesn't care; she still believes in it. Personally, Mindy Kaling falls more in line with Danny Castellano’s beliefs than Mindy Lahiri’s; this is one of those times as a writer where I just identify with him more."

"They’re so good together in so many ways, but in this one fundamental way they’re not."

Read more Mindy Kaling Is Having Trouble Dating Because of Her 'Mindy Project' Character (Video)

THR caught up with Kaling to talk about that cliffhanger, the road that got Mindy and Danny there and what she's thinking about a potential fourth season.

We have to start with that ending. Why did you choose to leave Danny and Mindy so unresolved, especially with the show's future so uncertain?

I love cliffhangers. I do think it is risky to literally open the door to new characters who hopefully we are going to care about: Mindy’s parents. [But] I I just have faith we’re going to come back because I feel the love for the show with my fans [and] with the network and studio. We knew that it was a big choice, but I never thought it was a miscalculation; I was always excited about it. I didn't write the finale as though it were the series finale. I just have too much faith that the show will continue.

Did the fact that the show was on the bubble affect the way you structured the ending at all?

The way that I work is different from the way other people work — maybe because I refuse to create under the assumption of failure. I don’t think you can be productive that way. It definitely doesn’t always work out that way. If I’m the creator, and I'm not thinking that we’re going to keep going even though I believe in the show’s quality and because I love it and because I think it’s the funniest comedy on TV, then who else is going to think that? That’s how I feel, and that’s how I felt from the beginning. When we got picked up to pilot, and when we got the back nine, all along the way various news outlets and journalists were like, “Kiss it goodbye, because you’re not going to get a second season!” But we’ve kept going, and I’ve always had faith. I feel like it’s not broken, so I don’t examine the process by which I’m hoping for another season, I just let it happen.

The finale does leave Danny and Mindy in very different places, physically as well as fundamentally. Is his action one that should be seen optimistically, because he's literally gone the extra mile for her?

We made the decision that Danny does not go there and say, "I want to ask for your daughter's hand in marriage." We made a point of that not being the case. He makes these gestures — and Danny's such a great, romantic boyfriend because he makes these gestures. Mindy has even said this season, "I don't need big gestures, I just need us to be more similar!" (Laughs.) We left it purposely as not a proposal because I don't think he's changed his mind. He wants to change his behavior, but not his mind. So [hopefully] we can explore that next season because I think that's interesting. Will Mindy completely change what she wants? Will Danny? Will neither of them?

What conversations have you had with the studio about continuing?

[Universal Television's] Bela Bajaria has been curious as a fan as to where the show is going, and she likes to have a little bit of a heads up if we’re going to do a dramatic arc, but we’ve only spoken a couple times about what we thought — in just really broad paint strokes — about what next season could look like. I always go in with a general idea, but it changes so much. For instance, when Rhea Perlman came on the show in episode two this year, she was such a force, it was like, “OK, well let’s tell more about her!” Because opening her up as a character is really bringing out a side of Danny that I think is fascinating. So I've told Bela some ideas.

If Fox opted not to renew the show, could you see it jumping networks?

I haven’t thought that much about it. I just think there are more stories. Obviously the person who wrote the finale that ends the way that it does has more they want to see! So, yeah I do think there’s more to tell, and I think fans would be disappointed not to see more adventures with these characters. But I came from a show [The Office] that I was on for eight seasons, and it continued for another year after that, so I am accustomed to long runs of television shows. I would be up for that challenge.

There's an interesting comparison between Danny and Mindy, who are left in very different places, and Peter and Lauren, who actually have resolution to their romance. Why was it important for you to have Peter around for the whole season in order to do this?

Peter was one of Mindy's best friends this season and last, and it felt unrealistic that he and Mindy would completely stop communicating once he moved to Texas. He has also become one of the most romantic figures on the show, and it's good to remind Mindy that she used to be like that — especially when she is confronted with all the challenges of her relationship with Danny.

Read more 'Mindy Project' Says Goodbye to Adam Pally, But Teases New Addition

What new dynamic did you want Mindy's pregnancy to add this season?

Whenever Mindy's life seems too perfect, I think it's important that we throw her a curve ball. Just as she started dating Danny, she's faced with his mother. Then later, when she was succeeding with her fertility clinic, she finds out she's was pregnant. Life is hard for most people, and I don't think people want to watch a TV show about a girl with perfect clothes and a handsome doctor boyfriend who isn't dealing with big challenges

Why did you choose to have their relationship move so quickly once they were together?

Danny is 40, and my character is in her mid-30s. And also, I just wanted to surprise [the audience]. I don’t think it’s fun to watch a character where everything is going as she planned it. I don’t think you’re rooting for that person. Instead I’d rather have things being thrown at Mindy Lahiri all of the time; when one element of her life is going well, there absolutely needs to be something going wrong [elsewhere] in order for you to have empathy or to care about what happens to her.

We didn't meet Mindy's parents on-screen in the finale. Was it always planned to keep them off-screen?

Meeting Mindy's parents is something I've been looking forward to for a long time. We haven't cast them yet but I have some ideas.

If "Best Man" does have to serve as a series finale, are you satisfied with the scope of the story you got to tell overall?

I will always be proud of the show no matter what, but there are so many stories yet to be told. I haven't thought more practically about it than that, but I think there is a committed audience of people who want to see more.

What did you think of The Mindy Project finale? Sound off in the comments below.

Twitter: @danielletbd

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