Already renewed for a second season, FOX's freshman comedy "The Mindy Project" has the rare pleasure to close out its season on Tuesday, May 14, with the assurance that it'll return next year.
But that doesn't mean that star, executive producer and writer Mindy Kaling -- who plays love-hungry 30-something OB/GYN Dr. Mindy Lahiri -- is ending at a different place than she planned.
Out on the Universal Studios back lot, around the corner from what looks like a giant courthouse and a huge, flat painted row of urban buildings, Kaling is taking a break inside a jumbled restaurant set. From the giant Buddha and pagoda lamps, it might have been a Chinese eatery.
The penultimate episode is in production, involving a frat party and two of Mindy's ex-boyfriends: cool Lutheran pastor Casey ( Anders Holm, "Workaholics") and dentist Tom ( Bill Hader, "Saturday Night Live"). There's even some violence, but first, it's time for a snack.
"I'm going to add more Craisins," Kaling says, referring both to her bowl of yogurt and to her love of dried cranberries. "It's all about the Craisins."
And, apparently, it's also about having a road map.
"Pickup or no pickup," she tells Zap2it, "we had the same ending plan, but also there would have been a little bit of finality if we hadn't gotten picked up. I've been thinking about the second season since the pilot, because I thought about the world and how big it was and how ambitious we were."
"The Mindy Project," inspired by Kaling's OB/GYN mother, also stars Chris Messina and Ed Weeks as Drs. Danny Castellano and Jeremy Reed, respectively, Mindy's co-workers in a medical practice. Ike Barinholtz plays nurse Morgan Tookers while, like Kaling, doing double duty as a writer and story editor.
"She had her ending in July or August," says Barinholtz. "Even though it might be some kind of cliffhanger-y end, there's some kind of emotional resolution of where those characters go to over the year -- so if we didn't come back, there would be a sense of completion."
As for the little altercation between Casey and Tom, Kaling says, "I thought it would be fun to see a minister and an orthodontist fight. It's one of the nice things, you just dream it up and say, 'Let's do it this week on the New York street on the Universal lot."
While Casey's headed off on a noble mission trip for a year, there are no plans to have him fall prey to an unfortunate overseas accident.
"I hope so," says Kaling of whether Holm's character might return next season. "I don't want to give too much away about the ending, but we talk a little bit about that at the end of the episode.
"And we are not at the point in the series where we're murdering characters yet."
Not currently on Mindy's romantic radar are her cohorts: slick, British Jeremy and divorced, tough-talking Danny.
When he's out and about, though, Weeks winds up fielding a lot of romance-oriented questions, including some from fans during a screening and panel discussion in Los Angeles.
"A lot of the questions involved Mindy and Danny," he says, "and if that's ever going to happen between them. Mindy was saying there was division in the writers room, with writers who wanted them to hook up before the end of the season and writers who don't.
"But we just read the finale, which is very exciting, and you'll have to keep your eyes peeled to see what happens. But it was great."
Prior to Messina's arrival on set, Barinholtz has a confession about him.
"I just gaze into his eyes," Barinholtz says. "They're so smoldering. I want everyone to know, especially my wife, I have not just a man-crush, but a straight-up crush. I love him."
To which Messina -- who also has a recurring role on HBO's "The Newsroom" -- later says, "Oh, that's nice. He's amazing. He's so talented."
Switching to Danny and Mindy, he says, "There are some people who want us to get together and some people who never want us to get together. I don't know. But in real life ... they're so different. They have very strong feelings, philosophies, and they have the bond of their jobs. Maybe it would actually work."
Kaling strolls up to Messina, who's standing in the middle of the street set, and gives him a hug.
"My buddy," she says. "He's often naked on the show, by design. It makes me seem like a pervert. He's so funny. Other people have discovered it, too."
"When we started doing this together," says Messina, "everybody from FOX, and rightly so, and maybe the studio, were definitely questioning my comedy ability, but Mindy saw something."
When Kaling mentions FOX originally sought Messina for a high-profile legal drama, he praises its writing.
"If you like that show so much," Kaling quips, "go back and do that pilot!"
Photo/Video credit: FOX