As of Wednesday, star-writer- executive producer Glenn Howerton has spent 100 episodes annoying, angering, grossing out — and just downright offending — viewers as Dennis Reynolds on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Wednesdays, 10/9c, FXX). So for his latest trick, Howerton is going very against type to woo Mindy on The Mindy Project. "It's more fun than I could possibly tell you to play somebody who's such an insane sociopath as Dennis. But I really wanted to do something different," Howerton tells TVGuide.com of his arc on the Fox comedy, which kicks off Tuesday (9:30/8:30c). Howerton spoke with TVGuide.com about his on-screen sparks with Mindy, hitting 100 episodes of Sunny and why Season 10 might still be the last.
How did the Mindy Project role come about?
Glenn Howerton: I got a call from my manager saying that they're fans of Sunny, and really liked me and wanted to write something for me and would I be interested in that. Interestingly enough, I don't really watch a lot of TV comedies just because it's what I do and it's not as much fun for me. It kind of feels like work, but The Mindy Project is one of the few shows that my wife and I do watch.
Did you have any input about the role?
Howerton: Not so much input as kind of finding out what they had in mind before committing to it. I really didn't want to do something that was too similar to what I do on Sunny. ... The cool thing is they really wanted to see something different from me too. So it's much more of a leading man, straight man-type role on The Mindy Project, which I was excited to do.
What else can you say about your character Cliff Gilbert?
Howerton: He's much more buttoned-up. He's got his sh-- together. Dennis thinks he's got everything together, but obviously he doesn't. This guy definitely does. He's a very successful guy. He's definitely cocky in the same way that Dennis is, but at the end of the day, he's actually a good guy.
How will Cliff meet Mindy?
Howerton: We work in the same office building. She's in a really bad place at this point and she ends up tripping over a bunch of boxes outside my place and comes storming into my office and threatens to sue me for having all these boxes outside. We kind of get into a little bit of an argument so our relationship starts out on a contentious note ... but there's clearly a little bit of a spark there even though we're pretty different. It goes on like that for a few episodes, and I actually end up dating one of her friends before anything ends up happening between she and I.
Do you get approached for roles like this often? If so, is there a reason we haven't seen appear on a TV show other than Sunny?
Howerton: I have the luxury of not having to work because I have a full-time job with Sunny still and I can financially afford to be a little bit pickier about what I choose. I think Mindy is a very, very different show from Sunny in many respects, but they're similar in the fact that they're both a little strange. And I actually mean that as a compliment, even though it may not sound like it. I like that there is something a little offbeat about it. ... There's this kind of mainstream component that's always been missing from Sunny and I think that's part of the reason why it's been more difficult for any of us to break out and do big things beyond Sunny. Although Charlie [Day] now, in the last couple of years, has been able to get some high-profile things which I think is long overdue.
The day after your Mindy Project debut marks the 100th episode of Sunny, which is quite an accomplishment.
Howerton: It's pretty amazing. I don't think any of us ever pictured going quite this long and it's also kind of extraordinary that it took us nine seasons to get there [laughs]. We try to keep quality over quantity over there. At this point, we're like, "F---, man. I'm too lazy to try to 13 episodes a season. I just don't want to do that anymore." It's really not a product of laziness. It's more a product of us really wanting to do other things outside of Sunny and the more episodes we do of Sunny, the less time we have to do other things. So it's our way of compromising because otherwise, we would have ended the show sooner because it was taking away from other things we wanted to do in our lives.
As you all try to do other projects, what do you think keeps everyone coming back to Sunny?
Howerton: I think it's a product of us always remembering to check ourselves and recognize what a rare gift something like this is. It's really tempting to walk away from it because no matter what it is, after all, there's a part of you that's like, "Man, I'm still doing this f---ing thing. I got to get out of here and some other things." For as often as I feel that, I also realize, when you look around at the business, I have so many friends who are either struggling or barely just getting by. Those friends come to me and say, "Dude you have such a good thing going on. You get to not only make your own show with your friends who you love, but it's also a really funny show and a really good show."... I also want to keep going as long as we're still having fun and as long as the quality of the show is staying high, and we are. We do still have stories to tell. We've got a lot of note cards that are sitting around. A lot of story ideas that have not quite developed into a full story that I'm still excited about and want to figure out how to make into a full episode.
Over the summer, you did an interview with Rolling Stone in which you said Sunny was ending after Season 10, but then later said that it wasn't. Were you surprised by the reaction to that story?
Howerton: There was a lot of confusion at a certain point between us and FX as to whether the 10th season was going to be our last season. At the time I did that interview, it seemed to me as if the 10th season was going to be the last so I must have made a mistake and said I knew it was going to be the last, but that was never official. ... It still might be, but we don't know for sure. It's a little bit open-ended at this point. But we'll know soon because we're going to start writing the 10th season in February and we have to know whether we're writing toward the end or not.
What was it like seeing people panic about Season 10 possibly being the end?
Howerton: I guess I didn't realize that there hadn't ever been talk about when Sunny was going to end until I said that and because it was Rolling Stone, it got a lot of attention. I was sort of overwhelmed with the giant response on Twitter and other outlets that picked it up. I was like, "Oh, wow, I should have shut my f---ing mouth." I didn't realize it was going to stir so much up. But it's kind of in moments like that when you realize, wow, this show really matters to people. People are very, very upset to hear that the 10th season is going to be the last. I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, I was like, "Why did I say that? What have I done?" ... But it was also, in a weird way, it was kind of nice to remember that people really care so much about the show.
The Mindy Project airs Tuesdays at 9:30/8:30c on Fox. The 100th episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia airs Wednesday at 10/9c on FXX.