“Do you want to address some of the damage done by romantic comedies to real relationships?” a TV critic asked Mindy Kaling at Summer TV Press Tour 2012.
“The Office” writer/cast member Kaling developed a rom-com in which she would star, for NBC, but the network passed and instead it got sold to Fox, whose programming chief Kevin Reilly likes to remind people that he’s the one who cast her on NBC’s “The Office” during his short run as head of programming at that network.
In “The Mindy Project,” Kaling plays a doctor looking for love, ineptly, every week.
She dodged the question and said instead “that’s a big, funny part of the series — the characters’ expectations of how things should work out and how they actually work out in real life.”
Speaking of rom-coms, one critic noted the cold open of the show’s first episode is a Nora Ephron movie montage and wondered whether Mindy, the writer, intended for Mindy, the character to address Ephron’s death on the show.
Which is still a comedy.
“Nora’s passing was so devastating for us, and especially the writing staff, because she was such an amazing writer and obviously such an inspiration for the show,” Kaling began to tell TV critics/bloggers at the Beverly Hilton ballroom in Beverly Hills.
But, she continued, because the Mindy character is a doctor and not a comedy writer — no.
“It sort of struck me when I was watching the pilot [episode] that I had never seen a woman who looked quite like you doing the things you were doing on television,” one TV critic asked Kaling, who is of Indian heritage.
Yes, he really did. In his defense, he did add, “it was cool.” But, still, he wondered if she was going to “explore that more.”
To her credit, Kaling did not answer something like ,“Yes, I will continue to look like someone of Indian heritage throughout the run of the show,” like we would have. She let her exec producer Matt Warburton take that one, and he said “I imagine it will come up; it’s not driving our stories, though.”
And, to the credit of the TV critics and bloggers at the Q&A, not a single person said to her, “I’ve seen exotic Indian women on television before, but never one with your hips in a starring role.” So there’s that to be thankful for.
Kaling had already taken a question from a critic who told her “a couple of years ago we saw a lot of stories about the rise of South Asian actors and Indian American actors on television. Do you feel like this series and your starring role is maybe a culmination of that trend, and will you talk about ethnicity at all on the show?”
“There’s a saying, I think, that I really believe in, sort of in terms of my Indian-ness, which is that I try not to rely on it nor deny it,” she answered politely. “You know, when it comes up organically in my writing, we can address it. And ‘The Office,’ about five years ago we wrote this episode called ‘Diwali,’ which seemed like an organic way of using it.”
She acknowledged it was an “exciting” time for Indian actors, who have been cast in various It’s really exciting, you know, with Danny [Pudi, on NBC’s “Community,”and Aziz [Ansari, on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation”] in their shows and “The Good Wife” [co-star Archie Panjabi] and things like that. There’s lots of Indian actors. I don’t think about it all the time, you know. It is a cool time for Indian actors.”