TV & FILM
04/09/2013 05:27 pm ET Updated Apr 09, 2013

Chris Messina Talks 'The Mindy Project,' 'The Newsroom,' Nora Ephron And More

Though he's most recently known for his role as the grumpy-but-kind doctor Danny Castellano on Mindy Kaling's "The Mindy Project," Chris Messina's face has popped up often in numerous movies and TV shows in recent years. So often, in fact, that it gets overwhelming for the actor.

"There were times when I was shooting 'The Newsroom' at six in the morning and then I would go home and start shooting 'The Mindy Project,'" Messina said of playing Danny and Reese of Aaron Sorkin's "The Newsroom" simultaneously. "Ultimately, I'm lucky as an actor to have that as a problem. But it was pretty tiring, and I felt like my work suffered on both shows because my focus was split. But it was definitely a fun and challenging exercise to go from such different characters and roles."

But Messina was able to take a few minutes out of his busy schedule to talk to HuffPost TV via phone about working with Kaling, "The Newsroom," Nora Ephron and more.

Do you want Danny and Mindy to get together?
I don't know. I kind of enjoy the will-they-won't-they thing. But the writers are so smart on our show, and Mindy has a real understanding of what she wants and expects from the show that I imagine if they got together, there would be a lot of fun stuff to play with. I certainly want to keep acting with Mindy because I love our scenes together and I love how our characters have grown. Danny and Mindy have become much better friends, so I wouldn't mind teasing that out for a while. But if they did get together, I would be interested in what the ramifications of that would be. Would they act worse to each other?

I know some people have compared the Danny-Mindy relationship to Jack Donaghy-Liz Lemon's relationship on "30 Rock." Could you see that happening?
I love when they compare it to that -- "30 Rock" is amazing! If Danny and Mindy were to hook up soon, I guess my fear would be that it couldn't go anywhere from there. The idea of stretching it out over a few seasons or so might give it more mileage. I do like that comparison, though. I always feel honored to be in the same sentence as [Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin].

You said no to "The Mindy Project" until Mindy wrote the character of Danny for you. Why was that?
I said no mostly because I was scared. Originally, Danny's character was named Clayton, and he had similarities to Danny. But I think when Mindy and I started talking and meeting and I was telling her what I was interested in doing, she got a sense of who I was. She's the one who came up with Danny Castellano and created him. As soon as she started talking about this other version of the character, I was immediately interested in the possibility of doing it. We kind of danced around it for a while, and eventually I leaped in.

Mindy's had her fair share of boyfriends on show now. Who's been your favorite?
They're all so good. We're really lucky because we have great guest stars. I've learned so much from all of them, and they're all so different. We've had Mark Duplass, Seth Rogen and Anders [Holm] from "Workaholics" -- they've all been incredible and brought so much to the show. It's fun for us, because of the fresh energy and blood that comes pumping through our set every few episodes. It keeps us on our toes. I've learned a lot because of all of those actors. Seth made me laugh so much when he was on our show, and I loved acting with him. Mark Duplass was a huge talent ... He has a lot of ideas, is extremely open and puts a lot of time and care into all of his work. I've always wanted to act with him, so it was really fun to have him on the show.

If a guest star -- or a cast member -- has an idea or a script change, will the writers respond to that? Or do you pretty much have to stick to what is written for you?
The writers are very open to changes. A lot of times, the scripts are so good and tight that you just want to say what's there. We do a lot of improvising, and most of the cast is incredible about improvising. I'm in awe of the stuff Mindy, Ike [Barinholtz], Zoe [Jarman] and Beth Grant say on the spot. It's funny and right on point with their characters. But if a guest came in or anyone on the show was struggling with a scene or line, it's definitely up for somewhat of a debate. If the majority feels that it's working and to trust them, that's usually what we do. Sometimes we try alt lines. Sometimes I can't make something work and they'll give me a couple different versions of other lines or jokes that we might use. It's fun to work that way.

I can't believe you were in "You've Got Mail," considering how much it's mentioned on the show. How does Mindy feel about that?
We've never discussed it. We've talked about "Julie & Julia," but we've never talked about "You've Got Mail." In "You've Got Mail," I was basically a glorified extra and had maybe three or four lines. But when I got the role, I thought I had made it and that it would change my life. I was obviously young and naive, but to work with Nora [Ephron] at such a young age and circle back around years later was awesome. But Mindy and I have never really talked about it.

Will you be returning to "The Newsroom" next season?
Yeah, I've filmed three episodes so far. It was hard to schedule, and both "The Newsroom" and "The Mindy Project" were so great about dealing with the schedule. It was amazing working with Aaron Sorkin. That show is so different from "The Mindy Project" in that if you don't say a "the" or an "uh," the script supervisor will come over and correct you. On "The Mindy Project," the lines are tight as well, and we want to say them, but there are takes where we can get really loose and improvise. They're two very different muscles.

The "Newsroom" set is very intimidating to me because most of my stuff is with Jane Fonda, Jeff Daniels and Sam Waterston. They're all pretty amazing, and being a guest -- and I'm sure even Jane Fonda felt this way -- being a guest on any show, when anyone's in a groove and they feel very comfortable is tough. It's the same scenario as when you go to a stranger's house and it's not your best friend's house. On "The Newsroom," even though they were so kind and cool, it's not your home. So you want to make sure you're on your best behavior. You wipe your feet at the door and take your shoes off to live up to their high standards, and they are high. They're a talented bunch over there. It's nerve-wracking because they're all so good, and I'm a guest.

What do you have coming up next?
I'm going to direct a movie in June here in California. We're at the final stages of getting the scripts in the best shape they can be. It's written by Jessica Goldberg and produced by Lynette Howell and Jamie Patricof who did "Beyond The Pines" and "Half Neslon" and "Blue Valentine." I'm super excited. I've always wanted to direct and I've been working with them for a while now. Hopefully, in the next week or so we'll be off and running.

"The Mindy Project" airs on Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET on Fox.

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