Tonight, The Mindy Project has its second-season finale, and the title alone – “Danny and Mindy” – promises a big development for Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) and her ex-boyfriend Danny Castellano (Chris Messina). Before that moment, though, BFTV sat down with Mindy Project executive producer and director Michael Spiller to talk about the finale and working on one of FOX’s veteran comedies.
“Fans of the show will not be disappointed,” he told us, “I’m really excited about the season finale. We’ve sort of been building for it for two whole seasons. A lot of the episodes I’ve done are big in scope, so it’s really fun and challenging as a director to pull that all off in a five-day shoot. For the finale, we built the set of the Empire State Building, there’s some great special effects in it, we went to New York for a day to shoot it. It’s a really cinematic episode. I’m really proud of it.”
Is there an episode he would’ve loved to have directed? “I thought ‘You’ve Got Sext’ was a really tight, simple episode on paper, but brilliantly executed by Alex Hardcastle,” said Michael, who actually gets to work a little on every installment. “I’m involved in all the episodes because I’m one of the executive producers as well,” he added, “I work mostly with the directors that we do hire who aren’t me.”
When he’s working with a cast that includes the likes of Mindy Kaling, Ike Barinholtz, and Adam Pally, and their job is to get laughs, how hard is it for Michael to maintain a straight face? “It’s definitely hard for me to keep it together when the cast is cutting loose. Especially when they start to improvise,” he admitted. “It’s worse for them because they’re on camera. We have miles and miles of footage of Chris cracking up, and Ike breaking, and Mindy does a lot. It’s a little easier for me to crack up because I’m not on camera.”
“The cast really gets the writing on the show, and our writers are so funny, and they understand these characters and they play to each actor’s individual strengths,” he continued. “The cast is really sharp and generally gets it right out of the gate. That’s not to say that we’re not open to trying new things on set.”
Having directed for other successful series including FOX’s own New Girl as well critically- acclaimed shows Modern Family and The Office, Michael talked with us about what he thinks makes a great TV comedy.
“There’s three main ingredients. There’s the writers – the creators of the show – the cast obviously and the crew. If any one of those elements is off, it can boil down to one person,” he explained. “For me, I believe comedy’s about taking risks, taking chances, working in a safe environment where you’re comfortable making a fool of yourself. It’s so critical, especially in comedy, to just have all those right pieces in place.”
“I care very deeply about this show,” he told us, “and it’s so satisfying when I happen to meet people and they ask what I do and I tell them about the show. I love meeting our fans. They tend to be extremely devoted to the show, real cheerleaders who know every in and out of the characters and the cast members. And that’s the sort of thing that makes all of our hard work worthwhile. I wish there were more of them.”
The second-season finale of The Mindy Project airs tonight at 9:30 PM ET/PT on FOX. The series has already been renewed for a third season.
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