In Los Angeles last week, a few hundred fans of "The Mindy Project" were treated to a sneak peek of a pre-Christmas episode, in which a visit from a teen looking for birth control causes the ob-gyn to evaluate her relationship and almost wind up in jail. Meanwhile, her partner Danny awkwardly deals with an office sexual-harassment complaint.
Jokes about disenfranchised youth, pointless trends, self-defense classes, shower caddies, and Christmas-tree transportation were well-received, but the real laughs came when creator/producer/star Mindy Kaling was joined by show regulars Chris Messina, Ed Weeks, Anna Camp, Amanda Setton, Zoe Jarman, and Ike Barinholtz (who is also one of the show's writers) for a Q&A.
[Related: More TV spoilers and sneak peeks]
Covering everything from casting and dealing with the pressure of early buzz to an upcoming Kaling/Camp Thanksgiving throwdown and Weeks's body issues, here's a sampling of the evening's best sound bites:
Kaling on casting: "I felt like Professor Xavier putting everyone from different worlds [together]. Everyone is normal. I thought, 'There will be one or two lunatics.' No one has revealed themselves as such so far. Maybe if you can't tell the lunatic, you're the lunatic."
Kaling on the being the "it" girl of pilot season: "You don't control the hype a show has. It got scary. It's just a comedy show. It's just a girl sliding around on a beanbag. I have this thing where I don't want to let anyone down. It is like a good Asian kid who doesn't want to let their parents down. I belong to so many minority groups and unions. I want to make sure they are all proud of me at all times."
Barinholtz on how he got involved: "We started talking on Twitter. My writing partner and I saw the pilot, loved it, and met with her. We wore blazers, which I think did well for us. She said, 'I want to write a part for you.' I thought she was lying, like everyone in Hollywood. But she wasn't."
Why Messina took the job: Messina explained, "I was always a fan of Mindy's and I loved the script. After I did bits on 'Damages' and 'The Newsroom,' I really fell in love with the idea of taking a character over a long period of time. It's fun." Barinholtz dug deeper: "Is it more fun than being tortured by John Goodman?" Messina replied positively but apparently not quickly enough for Barinholtz, who said, "You all saw he hesitated for a second there."
Bestie battle: "Gwen is turning out to be the voice of reason, a grounding force in Mindy's life," Camp said. "Everybody who has a crazy romantic life needs somebody to call to get advice from and occasionally have a big ol' blowup fight. It gets tense around the holidays." Kaling confirmed that things go beyond words. "If you want to see Anna Camp and me have a fistfight, [check out] our Thanksgiving episode. My character can be quite selfish sometimes. I wanted her to show those flashes of bad." She also confirmed that increasingly more of the show will occur outside the practice. "In the first six or seven, I wanted to establish the office world. Now it's time to see the world outside. Gwen's husband is so funny and that dynamic is very funny, and you'll see more of it. There's an episode coming up where Anna and Chris finally have some interaction. It's fun getting Anna to interact with the workplace people."
The perks of coming to America: Weeks said, "I did standup and sketch stuff in England for 10 years. I've had guest spots on TV but was never a regular. It's been an incredible learning experience. And the food is really good. F---, the craft services." Barinholtz scoffed, "This guy has two rice cakes and he's, like, 'Ugh, I'm stuffed.'" Weeks replied, "And that's when I'm bingeing. To be fair, I put some salt on the rice cakes. From the tears from being fat. Come on, it's not the time for my dysmorphia."
Jarmon's embarrassing set moment: "The NBA players were in the club episode. I was hanging around hoping to meet them. Amanda walked up and introduced herself and I was like, "I just have to do it." I started talking to them and then realized my mouth was coated with blue food coloring. I was in my set slippers and the little dress. They literally glanced at me and then glanced back at anyone else. Later, we were in the van and Baron Davis was, like, 'Wait a second, are you on the show?'"
Co-star love: Kaling revealed her perception of Messina going in. "I think of Chris Messina as the actor from the 1970s, a New York Brando thing. When I watch 'Argo,' that's how I think of him. But somehow trapped in the modern day. But you're like the silliest f---ing guy of all time. He breaks so much on-set." Barinholtz chimed in, "He's really dirty, too. He says really filthy things."
Messina repaid Kaling with compliments: "She's the best improvisational actress I've ever worked with. The stuff that comes out of her mouth cracks me up." Kaling begged him to go into more detail. "Am I funnier than Ben Affleck in 'Argo'? Amy Adams in 'Julie & Julia'? Am I funnier than Paul Dano in 'Ruby Sparks'? Rashida Jones in 'Celeste and Jesse Forever'? Are you impressed with how many movies of yours that I knew? That's nice of you to say. I don't think it's true, but it's nice of you to say."
Barinholtz on how his improv background helps: "I find it's pretty helpful when you're writing. I've learned different ways to not act hurt when they don't accept one of your jokes."
A supposedly funny thing happened on the way to Universal Studios:
Barinholtz: "We work at the Universal Lot and very quickly found out that you can easily walk into Universal Studios through Jurassic Park."
Weeks: "Don't f--- this up for us. Shh."
Barinholtz: "Nobody tweet this. [Mindy and I] took a break and went one day. Mindy is very recognizable, and people love her. They stop her, take pictures. The people who work at Universal Studios didn't give a s--- about her, but they were big 'Mad TV' fans. So I felt like Paul McCartney."
Mindy: "This is your answer to the question, 'What's a funny [behind-the-scenes] story?' All your stories are just about how great you are and how terrible I, your employer, am."
Weeks: "Yeah, that's so funny. I had sex the other day. It was so funny. Hilarious. Actually, it weirdly was funny. But darkly funny."
Barinholtz: "Man, you're killing this panel."
"The Mindy Project" airs Tuesdays at 9:30 PM on Fox.