Tonight The Mindy Project returns after a break, following up on the Big Moment that came before the show's big midseason break. In doing so it transforms Chris Messina from that guy into the guy.
At the end of the last episode that aired, Mindy and her co-worker Danny (Messina) shared an explosively romantic kiss on an airplane, just after Danny had helped her compose an email to get her old boyfriend back. The first episode that airs tonight picks up right where the last left off with Mindy and Danny mid-lip lock.
This was inevitable. The Mindy Project is a show that consciously plays with romantic comedy tropes, so it only made sense that Mindy and Danny, her sometime adversary, would end up together. Danny was always the Joe Fox to Mindy’s Kathleen Kelly. Mindy Kaling's favorite rom com is You've Got Mail.
For what it’s worth, Messina had a brief role in You’ve Got Mail as an inept book store clerk at the very beginning of his career. But long before joining a network television comedy, the prolific actor has a long history in romantic comedies—often of the indie variety—but not usually as the male half of the couple you are rooting for. He is the friend or relation or the other guy.
Pre-Mindy ,Messina was probably best known as a second banana. See, for instance, his turn as one of Patrick Dempsey's basketball-playing bros in the trailer for 2008's Made of Honor.
That same year he appeared in Woody Allen's Vicky Christina Barcelona as Doug, Vicky's boring fiancée, the dude who pales in comparison to Javier Bardem's smoking hot Juan Antonio. A year later, he played a friend of the central couple in Away We Go and Julie's husband in Julie & Julia, a role that involves him playing second fiddle to boeuf bourguignon. In both Greenberg and Ruby Sparks his character was a brother to the central male in the movie. Recently, he played a love interest in the Rashida Jones-Andy Samberg movie Celeste and Jesse Forever, without actually being part of the central relationship of the movie.
That's not to say Messina has never played a love interest. In the 2006 Jennifer Westfeldt movie Ira & Abby, he played the titular Ira, a schlubby guy who agrees to marry Westfedlt's Abby after having just met her.
But Mindy seems to have capitalized on something many (though, not all) have seemed to have missed about Messina: he's not just the sad, lonely guy or the best friend. His Danny Castellano is a Staten Island-born, Springsteen-loving, gym-going OBGYN. He's also broken, from a bad divorce, and something of an old man trapped in a 30-something year old's body. He's also incredibly sexy, with hints of Cheers's Sam Malone.
Without spoiling tonight's episodes, it's fair to say that The Mindy Project is firmly in the Mindy and Danny camp. We've had our problems with Mindy in the past, but Messina's been given a true chance to shine here. For that, we thank Mindy.