'The Mindy Project's' Ike Barinholtz Talks About Getting Plucked From the Writers Room
The writer and actor from the Fox comedy tells THR about how he came to play car-stealing nurse Morgan Tookers, the role he originally auditioned for and how he's pitching a return to HBO's "Eastbound & Down."
Despite the fact that it may feel like the series premiered months ago, Tuesday's episode of The Mindy Project is only the show's fifth. And there's been even less time to get to know Ike Barinholtz, whose eccentric nurse Morgan Tookers joined the freshman Fox comedy after the pilot.
It's double-duty for Barinholtz, best known for a recent turn as Ivan Dochenko on Eastbound & Down or his five-year stint on MadTV. The comedian originally came to the series as a writer and story editor -- and that was after a failed audition.
"I actually auditioned for the show to play the part that Chris Messina is playing, Danny Castellano, and it didn't go as I would have liked," Barinholtz tells The Hollywood Reporter. "A couple months later, my writing partner David Stassen and I saw the pilot, and we loved it."
When the duo officially came on board, creator and star Mindy Kaling told Barinholtz she was a fan of his acting and wanted to include him on the show. "I put no stock in it, because it's Hollywood and everyone is a liar," says Barinholtz, "But the first day we were there she said, 'Here's the part. I wrote it for you.'"
That part, probably the most peculiar on the series, is an ex-con who lives with his grandmother (his best friend) and has a giant tattoo on his stomach that reads, "No more stealing cars."
"There's a big debate in the writers room about whether the grandmother should be completely unseen, like Vera on Cheers, or whether you get someone amazing to play her," says Barinholtz. "I would love for her to be not as old as you think, like Susan Sarandon, but I don't think we'll see her in the first season."
Barinholtz says that little pieces will start to fall in place for his recurring role, though. He expects a spring storyline featuring his cousin, who he did time with, and surprising revelations about Morgan's sex life.
"We need to show the audience that he's not just a crazy guy who lives in a flower patch -- he's actually a human... he just has very strange takes on things."
His duties to the writers room are also keeping him busy. Barinholtz and Stassen penned and recently finished editing episode 109 of Mindy's freshman season. It finds Kaling's character, a gynecologist, at conflict with her desire to be cool to younger people and her professional stance on teen sex.
The recent season four renewal for HBO's Eastbound & Down has also opened up to possibly he might reprise his role as Danny McBride's onscreen nemesis, the Russian pitcher with a bad haircut.
"I pitched them an idea that my character shows up as a limo driver in North Carolina," Barinholtz says, noting they go back to the work on the show before the end of the year. "They pitched an idea where my character is sent to an underground Russian prison in Siberia. So I think we're in very different places right now, but I hope we can find a happy medium so you can once again see Dochenko."
The Mindy Project airs Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET on Fox.