'Mindy Project' Boss Talks Danny's Big Decision: "It Only Leads to More Problems"

"He keeps raising challenges that are even harder for him, psychologically, to deal with," showrunner Matt Warburton tells THR about Danny's surprising move.
Patrick McElhenney/FOX

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the season four premiere of The Mindy Project, "While I Was Sleeping."]

Mindy is getting married! The mother-to-be and hopeless romantic finally got her commitment-phobic baby daddy (Chris Messina) to put a ring on it at the end of the season premiere. Although Mindy (Mindy Kaling) had decided she would be OK without saying "I do" after a nightmare – in which she was married to Joseph Gordon-Levitt and sleeping with Mark Duplass' Brendan – Danny also changed his mind about marriage after going to India to meet her parents (Ajay Mehta and Sakina Jaffrey). So how soon can viewers expect wedding bells? And are Danny's commitment issues really behind him?The Hollywood Reporter spoke with showrunner Matt Warburton about all those burning questions and more.

Why was now the right time to have Mindy and Danny get engaged?

Obviously, it's a lot happening at once. For Mindy, it's something we're really going to explore once the baby is born, It's a symbol that she can rely on Danny in a way that she always hoped she could because it was his biggest stumbling block given his history with his ex-wife and its something that we've explored throughout the season. For a while, she's just going to be relieved that she actually has a rock, and she has a baby. I think we're going to focus the first part of the season really on Mindy and Danny parenting together and, in her mind, she's like, 'Well, I got the ring. We can put the rest of this on the back burner.' She's going to find later in the season that exploring what it means to be engaged and when they're actually going to get married is a whole other ball of wax for her Danny to have to deal with. It's another box she gets checked and realizes it only leads to more problems, in a way that she didn't expect.

How do they navigate that balance between being new parents and getting ready to wed? Like you said, the latter is a huge process unto itself.

Her first big problem is when she gets engaged. Now that she's pregnant, her finger is swollen and the ring barely fits. So she's going to have to take care of that first. …It's something we really explore especially a little bit down in the season. What she realizes, in kind of a grown-up way, is it's great to have this commitment from Danny but once the baby comes – and the baby comes very early in the season – they both look at each other and say, "This is the focus." What they find is they have so many issues to sort out as far as who's going to take care of the baby during the day? How much is Mindy going to be working? And Danny has a few crises of his own pretty soon in the season. It's sort of like they have to take care of all of that before they can even set a date for the wedding. I think it's one of these things where the Mindy now versus the Mindy we met at the beginning of the series is probably less fixated on the marriage stuff that she would have ever imagined, but given that Danny makes such a big point of it throughout the series, it's almost like she needs to get him to cross that river. After the premiere, he does, I think, in a really moving way in Chris' performance. Such that now that he's shown that commitment, she's really scared. She's pregnant and she was alone for the course of the first episode, now they can deal with all this other stuff. The trappings of wedding stuff, they just put it the side. It's a sign of adulthood for the character that she's more excited about these other parts of her life than the immediacy of the wedding.

I'm still a little scared of how much of a bridezilla she'll eventually become.

Yes, definitely, and Danny will be a groomzilla.

He's had issues with marriage for so long that you can't just shut off them off after one episode. What will his issues look like as the season progresses as they start to focus on the wedding later in the season?

As with anything with Danny, it's very complicated. What the character always does, I think, is he convinces himself to make the gesture and then thinks his troubles are over without thinking through: Now I have to live in the reality where we're getting married. The consequences of this life that he's built with Mindy are going to keep bringing up demons from his past, from his childhood, his relationship with his own dad is going to be an important part of this season, the fact that his dad left his family in a way that messed him up long-term. Danny keeps thinking if he makes one more concession to reality, his life is going to get easier and what he's going to find through this season that he keeps raising challenges that are even harder for him, psychologically, to deal with. We're really going to be putting Danny through his paces this season.

How likely is it that we'll see them walk down the aisle this season? You have a big 26-episode order.

There are a lot of twists and turns between these two characters before that option is going to be on the table. But like you said, it's a long season.

You always have such great guest stars on the show. Beyond the season premiere, is there anyone else you're particularly excited to introduce or other names you can tease?

We're extremely excited about having Garret [Dillahunt] and Fortune [Feimster] come as a brother and sister presence in the office. He plays a Southern gentleman, and it's a great new character that plays his strengths as an actor, and it's also a new kind of dickhead to throw at Mindy. I feel like Adam Pally was our last big character like this. We always think, 'What kind of guy, what kind of masculine energy is going to drive Mindy insane?' So the Dartmouth frat guy was our last one, and I think Garret is really going to be our next big male character to throw at her. Fortune is great. We're also really excited about some people that we're bringing back. We'll be seeing Cristin Milioti again. The Duplass Brothers are amazing. They're going to have a really fun role to play in the second episode. As Mindy is getting really close to her pregnancy, they have a lot of thoughts about how she should do it in the most annoying way possible. Rhea Perlman – our audience really fell in love with her and her relationship with Danny. She's only going to get more annoying as she becomes a grandmother to Mindy's baby. She'll all but want to kidnap the baby away from Mindy's clutches.

Danny and his mother are very close and she obviously is still fiercely overprotective so how does him becoming a dad change their dynamic?

Danny's perception of what his mother wants is very different from what she actually wants. He treats her like this saintly character and she's actually this real person who is flawed and angsty about these things. What Danny is going to have to do is manage her insecurities in a big way, especially when we get to meet Mindy's parents. She has anxieties about what this other family is going to think of her as a Staten Island woman who cleaned hotel rooms for a living for a lot of her career. … It's a two-way thing where Annette is extremely judgmental of the parenting styles of both Danny and Mindy, and Danny is really sensitive to his mom as a person who went through a lot as a single mom, and going to have some trouble figuring out the whole grandma thing.

What can you say about Mindy's dynamic with her parents because we didn't get to see that in the premiere?

We will definitely get to explore [that]. It's sort of Mindy getting to talk to the two sides of her personality, which is funny because you have this theatrical Bollywood actress and this thoughtful, scientist person, which I think is the ying and yang of what's going on in Mindy's head a lot of the time. Also, Mindy's relationship with Annette has really become a very strong part of the show. When you make a family, it's interesting because the non-biological relationships are just as important as the biological ones, and that's a really fun thing that we examine. It’s like she has two moms and they have very different roles in her life and the baby's life. Watching her navigate that, I think the audience will relate to that.

New episodes of The Mindy Project stream Tuesdays on Hulu. What did you think of Danny's proposal?