*Fox’s “The Mindy Project” is still on the air, thanks in large part to a stealth tweaking that took place between the first and current second seasons, and a fierce fan base that belies its ratings struggles.
The series follows “The Office” alum Mindy Kaling in her role as Mindy Lahiri, an OB/GYN who awkwardly balances her personal life with her career at a small medical practice in New York City.
The first season relied heavily on laughs from Mindy’s interactions with her quirky co-workers. But when viewers failed to latch on, producers gradually shifted the focus toward Mindy’s dating disasters outside of work.
“I had only come from ‘The Office.’ Obviously that was the only show I worked on, and I thought that [‘The Mindy Project’] would be in large part the structure of an office comedy,” explained Kaling at a TCA press conference regarding the show’s first season. “When we started seeing cuts in episodes we noticed that was a part we loved about the show, but there was this seeing Mindy on dates [that] was really fun, and seeing a person fail at romance in funny ways was enjoyable in a way that we couldn’t really show on ‘The Office’ because that really wasn’t a part of that show, so that’s probably been the single biggest difference in my opinion.”
These days, Mindy stumbles through the dating world with either the two cents or down right involvement of her staff: best friend and off/on love interest Danny Castellano (Chris Messina), British doctor Jeremy Reed (Ed Weeks), ex-con nurse Morgan Tookers (Ike Barinholtz), former frat-boy Dr. Peter Prentice (Adam Pally), and blunt-speaking nurse Tamra – a cross between Brandy’s streetwise Chardonnay Pitts on “The Game” and Niecy Nash’s put upon Nurse Didi Ortley on HBO’s “Getting On.”
“She’s a little indifferent towards the things that are going on, but she likes everybody,” actress Xosha Roquemore says of her character Tamra. “If there’s a conversation, she’s in it, but usually she’s kind of like off in her own world.”
When Kaling was still on “The Office” and writing for the series alongside Charlie Grandy, they caught Roquemore opposite Gabourey Sidibe in “Precious” and immediately wanted to write a part for her in the NBC comedy.
“She was so hilarious,” Kaling said, looking toward Xosha on the panel. “You have only two scenes or something in it, but you’re so — she’s so beautiful and funny and bright and bubbly and just kind of pops off the screen. But even Precious, who is in the worst life circumstances since Job, kind of smiles at her and was like ‘I want to be her friend’ before all the horrible stuff happens to her.
“We saw her in that, and Charlie and I thought this girl is so talented. We didn’t use her on ‘The Office,’ which was to our advantage.”
Below, we ask Roquemore why she thinks “The Mindy Project” has found its footing among fans.
“The Mindy Project” airs Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. on FOX. Below, Roquemore previewed the current season for PopSugar Entertainment.