As a die-hard Happy Endings fan, I'm elated to see the actors moving on to such solid projects: Damon Wayans Jr. is returning to New Girl, Eliza Coupe is headed to House of Lies, there's nothing but greenlights for Casey Wilson's projects all over town and, perhaps in my most anticipated follow-up gig, Adam Pally was just made a series regular on The Mindy Project. A show that shares Happy's skewed sensibilities while luring in a more mainstream (read: larger) audience.
Pally makes his debut in tomorrow's all-new episode, titled Music Festival, as Dr. Peter Prentiss, the new ob-gyn who replaces James Franco's Dr. Leotard at the practice and as an antagonist for Mindy. I caught up with Pally to talk about his excitement over joining The Mindy Project, what lessons he's taking from the sad cancellation of Happy Endings and how Tom Hanks is his ticket to the big time.
ETonline: I read that Mindy Kaling was a Happy Endings fan and basically emailed you a job offer. True?
Adam Pally: That is true. I was kind of bumming around after Happy Endings, I had just gotten back from filming this big action comedy called Search Party, and I didn't know what I was going to do. It just kind of made sense when she reached out to me to go to work there.
ETonline: Were you looking to do another TV show?
Pally: I was open to doing anything. I don't think in this day and age that, aside from two or three people, there isn't an actor who can just do one thing. I also think you can go back and forth between film and television pretty seamlessly. I wasn't looking for a TV job, but when this came across my desk, it was pretty hard to say no.
ETonline: Given that Mindy was a fan of yours, is there some Adam Pally DNA in Peter Prentiss?
Pally: Yeah, he's definitely got some Adam Pally DNA. He's a frat guy, and I would be lying if I said I wasn't in a frat when I was in college. I'm not embarrassed about it, although people might say I should be. I think a lot of it is Mindy comes from the Northeast, which is where I also come from, and there's a lot of dudes like this there, so it wasn't a stretch. But Peter also shares a lot of DNA with Max because most frat guys are either too dumb or just don't care about public opinion. I think that's very similar to Max. There's a freedom in playing these characters because they're not interested in what other people think about them, they're just interested in what they're doing. That's a lot of fun to play.
ETonline: Would you say Peter is more of a romantic possibility or foil for Mindy?
Pally: I think any foil, especially on television, has to have some sexual tension, so down the line that's something we can explore, but as he comes in, he's the one person who doesn't have to deal with Mindy's Bridget Jones Diary bullsh*t. And Mindy doesn't necessarily love that.
ETonline: Last season, Mindy and Danny's possible romantic connection was a big storyline, and I think you and Chris Messina share a certain visual aesthetic. Would you say that Mindy has a type?
Pally: Yeah, but I think Mindy likes Jewish guys, so I'm probably more Mindy's type than Messina, but Chris Messina is a better looking dude, so I understand how that would play into it [laughs]. One of the real cool things about doing this show is that Chris is an old friend of mine from New York, so it's cool to see a pal who was bumming around with you in New York now every day on the set of a big TV show.
ETonline: As someone who was raised Jewish, like me, what do your parents think of you playing a doctor?
Pally: My dad has been saying that he's "plotzing," which is a very Jewish word, but I think it's some sort of medical crime to have someone like me as a doctor. But he's a doctor and he took a circuitous route to becoming a doctor -- he was an actor and in a rock band with my mom until he was 32, which is the age I am now. So I think there's a weird cosmic thing with the universe telling me to quit acting an open up my own private OB-GYN office. It's also telling me not to go to medical school; just to throw up a sign and rent out a building.
ETonline: I think I saw something like that on an episode of Dateline once ... it didn't end well.
Pally: Meh. We'll see.
ETonline: Like your last show, The Mindy Project has an excellent ensemble, but unlike Happy Endings, you were not present for the formation of this ensemble. What was it like coming into that?
Pally: That was one of the things I was going back and forth on in terms of doing the show. Eventually you want your own project, you want to be in the center of it, but I don't have much of an ego in that way so I know I still have a lot to learn. Happy Endings was only on the air for three years. Well, really two and a half, so I haven't done a lot of television even if it seems like it because every week people were talking about how Happy Endings was going to get canceled [laughs]. I think I still have a lot to learn, so it's cool to take a step back and watch Mindy and learn from her as the star, the creator, the writer and sometimes director. Being in this ensemble is really beneficial to me at this point because I need to see how it works on this end.
ETonline: Now that you have some distance, what will you take away from the experience of Happy Endings?
Pally: I am forever grateful to David Caspe and The Russo Brothers and Jonathan Groff and everyone who worked on the show for putting me in it, and then for letting me be such a controlling part of it. I don't know of another atmosphere where they would let an actor rule the roost like I did. Certainly not in my new job [laughs]. I will never forget my time on that show, and I'm super proud of Happy Endings and Max and what he did for the gay community. I don't think there was another role I could be producer of. That said, I think the thing I've learned about television is that it's ever-evolving and sometimes quality really doesn't matter because you're still going to have one foppy, British guy at the top of the heap thinking that a show about aliens is smarter than Happy Endings. What are ya gonna do?
ETonline: Well I'm glad Mindy snatched you up and made you a series regular.
Pally: It was so cool how it happened. They wanted me for one episode, then three and then five and then a year and a half. It's a really great place to work and, again, I am learning so much every day from Mindy, and Ike [Barinholtz, who plays Morgan and also writes for the show]. Watching him be hilarious while wearing a second hat is really educational. This show has such an impressive comedy pedigree and I'm learning a ton for when I step out and do my own show about skydivers.
ETonline: Is creating your own show the plan?
Pally: Yeah, I think that's the goal for any comedic actor, whether it is in film or television. I had the opportunity to star in my first movie over the summer, Search Party, which was written by Scot Armstrong, who is a legend. He wrote Old School and Road Trip. I got to do that a little bit in film but think I need to learn some more before I do it on TV. The show I'm going to do is great; it's about a weed dispensary that takes place in international waters. It's got Cambodian pirates; it's really great and totally grounded. It's like Captain Phillips meets Half Baked. What's weird though is we've been out to almost every network and gotten hard passes.
ETonline: Maybe you'll have better luck once Captain Phillips open to $100 million and Tom Hanks agrees to co-star on your show?
Pally: Yeah, you know, I offered Tom Hanks the character of Mookie, my fat best friend, and he turned that down. I was really shocked. Like, what's he got going on? I'm also out to Renee Zellweger to play one of the chairs. So, we'll see what happens.
ETonline: You don't think she's too stiff for the part?
Pally: I don't know man, if she opens her eyes, she can do anything!
The Mindy Project airs Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. on FOX.