The Hollywood Reporter spoke with showrunner Matt Warburton on the "huge differences" between Mindy (Mindy Kaling) and Danny (Chris Messina), the office's new bromance and the show's "edgier" tone on Hulu.
The end of last season saw a couple big changes with Mindy getting pregnant and then starting her own fertility clinic. How much will those changes impact the show and change the show this season?
Both of them are going to be a really big part of the season, especially early on. The thing that was fun to us is we're always trying to throw as many crazy challenges towards this character and to get her two big ones right a the same time seemed like a fun challenge because this is someone who always wants to have it all and we're just going to watch her wrestle with: I can have everything I want, but can I have it all at the same time? The business and her struggles with that are going to be a huge point of focus, and the baby we'll be seeing pretty early in the season so she'll have all of these struggles at once.
These are two big changes for the show, to have the main character become a mom and have her move offices. What made you confident the show could withstand these changes?
The baby just gives another driver of story, another thing for Mindy and Danny to be concerned about. As far as the fertility practice goes, it's really more an extension of the workplace we already have rather than a new location. Morgan (Ike Barinholtz) works there, it's right across the hall, and she's still seeing patients at the practice.
You talked about throwing challenges at this character. What are some other obstacles she'll face this season?
We're going to meet Mindy's parents and they're really strong personalities. Even taking elements we introduced from last season like Danny's mom — now that Danny's mom is a grandma, that's going to add a whole new nightmare for Mindy to have to deal with. We're even going to see both sides of the family meet each other, causing basically a nuclear reaction.
Is that going to be a holiday episode or something having to do with the baby? What brings them together?
As you're going to see in the premiere, Mindy's parents are away in India so we're going to meet the baby and show Mindy interacting with one side of the family. We introduce the pieces one at a time so later in the season you're going to see the whole family get to meet in a big fun explosion.
The finale ended with Danny going to India to meet her parents. How does that play out and what is the next step of that?
You get to see Danny at his weirdest. He's gone on what is really a romantic mission, he's gone across the world to talk to his girlfriend's parents but he's actually there to talk to them about his own insecurities and how he's not sure if he wants to get married in a very Danny-ish way. We're going to continue to see, through the season, Mindy has brought this character along with her to be more like her, but only so much. He's still an incredibly neurotic, weird guy who's private and is going to project all that onto his kid, so meeting the parents and sort of freaking them out with his personality and having Morgan along on that story in a fun way is just the beginning of a full season of Danny being the weirdest he's ever been.
How has it been as a writer to navigate these two characters as they're going through these huge changes in their life? What else can we expect from that?
The fun of it is it gives the characters new excuses to test each other. Because now they have the cover of, 'it's about the baby now,' but really it's still about their fundamental differences. Right away, you're just going to see huge differences. Danny wants a barefoot-and-pregnant wife and Mindy is her normal strong-willed self. The baby really heightens the contrast in these two people.
What will the balance be between their struggles as a couple and parents, and stories set in the workplace?
The balance will be pretty similar to how it's been in past seasons. Mindy will be wrestling with how much time to take off. She has this extra part of her business now, the fertility practice, so there's the struggle of a small businesswoman to balance that. Hopefully dealing with the baby is going to be just another fun color to add to the types of stories we're already telling.
What can you say about what's in store for the other characters?
We're going to continue to torture poor Jeremy (Ed Weeks) with his love life. We keep offering him the carrot of a great girl and then finding a massive problem with her and that is going to continue. To the point where the rest of the characters just want this guy to catch a break, they want to help him. We're adding Garrett Dillahunt's character, Jody, who we're very excited about it. He loves Jeremy. Jeremy visited America in a study abroad program when he was in high school and they became best friends. So this guy has come almost to rescue Jeremy from how poorly the world has treated him in his love life and everything. We're definitely going to see more of that. Morgan, who has lived in squalor since we've known him, is going to really be empowered by helping Mindy with her new practice. Mindy still really looks down on him, and treats him to like garbage but he is finally going to feel like he's a small businessman in a way that we hope lets the character grow a little bit.
Mindy made a lot of news at BookCon when she talked about introducing a new female friend. What can you say about that character and what do you think that will bring to the show that wasn’t there before?
We do meet Eliza Coupe's character pretty early in the season. She's a really fun character, and it's fun to have Mindy have a friend who is even worse behaved than she is. It’s the kind of thing where she has a baby now and she finally meets this person that wants to go cause trouble out on the town, and she can't, so she gets to live vicariously through the character. It's nice to introduce people into this world and they're there when we need them. To me, the fun of it was Mindy finally meets someone she thinks is cool and she can't have those girlfriend adventures with her right away because of the baby, so it's almost like torture for her.
You said the baby is just the beginning. When the show started out, Mindy was a single girl going out on dates and now she's getting ready to become a mom and in love with Danny. Was there ever a concern of, are we writing ourselves into too much of a corner? Or a concern about changing that direction?
The show becomes very different when you solve all of the characters' problems and I think what the audience is going to see, if not immediately, but through the first bunch of episodes, that having the baby, having this new thing for the two of them to share and the new challenges that brings to both of them is really going to make their relationship more dramatic. They're really going to come to, frankly, a crisis point about "what does this new baby say about our relationship and how are we going to make this work?" Because they really, genuinely have very different opinions about how to raise a child, and I think that’s really real. A couple that is a perfect couple without a kid finds that they have to kind of reinvent their relationship once a kid is involved. I'm excited for the audience to go there with us. I think we're going to take them, over the course of the season, down a path that will have a lot of surprises.
You had some behind-the-scenes changes as well with the move to Hulu. What were some of the other challenges you faced in the writers room going into season four?
We've thought of some interesting ways to keep changing the Mindy-Danny dynamic, keep throwing huge challenges and the baby is really only the beginning of this crisis that these two people are going to have to go through this year. One of the nice things about Hulu is that they told us in advance how many episodes we were going to do whereas at Fox, we always had to plan: Well, we have a 15[-episode] order, so we have to be prepared to make that a good story that ends in a nice place, or if we get more … It was such an advantage to know we have this very large number of episodes. We know exactly how many there are so we can really plan long-term and give this season some really cool shape. Aside from that, I would say the best thing about the Hulu relationship is they left it up to us what to change and what not to change. The audience is going to be relieved to see that it's the same show. We have a little more freedom to be a tiny bit edgier. The show has as much fun with sex as it's ever had in this first bunch of episodes, and the audience is going to love that. But we want the audience that loved what the show was to love what it is, so I think people will see that.