Mindy Kaling Explains Why Jeremy Changed On 'The Mindy Project' & The Backstory Is Frustrating
As The Mindy Project heads into its final season on Hulu, the show's creators are ready to spill some secrets about the series' history. At the PaleyFest Fall TV Hulu preview on Friday, the cast revealed the surprising reason behind Jeremy's drastic change on the Mindy Project since Season 1, according to Entertainment Weekly. When you hear the reason, it's more than a little frustrating, but you'll love Mindy Kaling even more for what she decided to do about it.
It often takes a few episodes for a new sitcom to find its footing. Sometimes, it's more than a few — the first season of comedies such as Parks and Recreation, The Office, and 30 Rock are all unrecognizable next to later episodes. After its premiere in 2012, The Mindy Project saw various shifts in cast, tone, and approach. In the earliest episodes, the then-Fox sitcom often featured Dr. Mindy Lahiri's friends and coworkers, then different friends, then different coworkers, and then no friends, all before finally settling on a cast that clicked. Once the show found its rhythm, it was as sexy, funny, heartwarming, and ridiculous as Kaling fans would have hoped.
Along the way, Kaling has been open with fans and critics about nearly every aspect of the series, from casting decisions to her characters' romantic interests and beyond. Until this week, however, she'd never explained one crucial part of the show — the evolution of Dr. Jeremy Reed (played by Ed Weeks).
Jeremy is something of a mystery for longtime fans. In the pilot, the British OB/GYN is portrayed as an alluring womanizer — the uncaring bad-boy Mindy knows she shouldn't go for, but can't help hooking up with all the same. With Dr. Danny Castellano (Chris Messina) as the office's seemingly unromantic, Staten Island grump, Jeremy was the hot guy to root for. But as the series continued, Jeremy evolved like an undesirable Pokémon. (An entertaining one, but one even the biggest collectors would ask questions about nonetheless.)
So, why these drastic changes? How did the Jeremy character morph from smooth, confident, and alluring to "weird, bird-owning" dork (as Weeks said himself) in just a few seasons? Apparently, that's the way Kaling always wanted him to be. According to Vulture, the Mindy Project team said Fox wasn't into it. (Bustle reached out to Fox for comment, but did not receive an immediate response.)
"Being totally honest," Kaling explained on Friday, "on network [TV], there was a direct directive to not make [Jeremy] a dork or someone who was dorky around women." Writer Ike Barinholtz, who also plays Nurse Morgan Tookers on the show, put it more bluntly: "They were like be a man, he has to be a man." Since it was Kaling's first time running her own series, she went along with the network's expectations. Jeremy was hot, not kooky — end of story.
When Fox chose not to renew The Mindy Project after three seasons, Hulu picked it up in 2015. According to Kaling, shifting to Hulu platform gave her more freedom to creatively do what she pleased. She also explained on Friday that as the writers got to know Weeks better, they were able to reshape the Jeremy character — both in line with her original vision, and his abilities as a performer. According to Vulture, when asked about the obvious changes to Jeremy, Weeks described the newer version as "a joy" to play, adding that "more vulnerability" and "more nerdiness" are genuinely "more fun" for him to tackle onscreen.
Weeks also admires Kaling's abilities, describing her as "a fantastic and fearless leader," one who "works tirelessly to find what’s best" and "what's funniest for the characters." Kaling added that she's enjoyed making Jeremy character more likable, and has much more fun "getting him into situations." Having a non-stock character improves a show. How about that?
This isn't the first time something like this has happened, but it's rarer to hear about with male characters — and for a showrunner to address it so directly. Since 2003, it's been rumored that NBC reportedly insisted Scrubs revamp the character of Dr. Elliot Reid to make her more appealing. The show's early seasons depicted her as a frazzled and ruthlessly competitive mess; then the "My Own American Girl" episode opened Season 3, and the show's overqualified, under-confident weirdo transformed into the sultry, demanding Dr. Reid. For a medical sitcom every bit as weird and heartwarming as The Mindy Project, Scrubs' full-on makeover montage set to Tom Petty still feels strange 14 years later. Most second-year residents at large city hospitals probably don't have time for that.
For every "risk" network executives are willing to take, it seems they always come back to the same note: What if this character were "classically" hotter? At least Scrubs let Elliot's makeover be part of her emotional maturation, instead of implying that a more demonstrably sexual look somehow made her a better person. Kaling unapologetically transformed Jeremy from lothario into a well-rounded oddball.
And as more TV series find nontraditional paths to air, one can only hope that notes to make a character "more alluring" are fewer and farther between. Fans would take nervous, neglected Jeremy over Stock Footage Of Watch Model Jeremy any day.