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Conversations: Mindy Kaling From NBC's 'The Office'

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mindy Kaling takes ditzy to a whole new level on NBC's comedy "The Office," on which she plays Kelly Kapoor, the bubbly customer-service rep who wears pink sweaters over pink shirts, throws "America's Got Talent" finale parties and can turn any situation into a bubble-gum pop song ("This day is bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S!"). But that's just one of Kaling's multiple roles: Hired three years out of Dartmouth College as a writer for the show, she also serves as a series co-executive producer and has penned memorable episodes such as Season 2's "The Injury," wherein boss Michael Scott (Steve Carell) burns his foot on a George Foreman grill. Kaling, 29, recently answered questions from readers on washingtonpost.com.

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-- Emily Yahr

Aside from Kelly, who is your favorite character on "The Office" to write for?

I love writing for Dwight because he has one of the richest back stories of any of the characters. He is a farmer who is part Amish, who has war criminal relatives and who was involved in a secret love triangle -- and has a nine-bedroom, possibly haunted hotel-farm. He has such a colorful past, and Rainn [Wilson] is such a gifted actor that it's like a great treasure map writing for his character.

Can we expect to see much more of Ryan and Kelly's awesome/horrible relationship this season?

You'll see more of Ryan and Kelly for the rest of the year as the Ryan character comes back from Thailand. B.J. [Novak] and I have a lot of fun doing those scenes since we're both writers and we're best friends.

Which comes first when you write: The "that's what she said" line or the line that elicits said response?

"That's what she said" in our writing room has become so commonplace that we've had to put a moratorium on it. What comes first is always the setup, and the "that's what she said" comes after.

Your portrayal of the Kelly character escapes the tired stereotypes of South Asians but doesn't run away from her ethnicity (for example, in the Diwali scene). The character is ditzy without being stupid, yet is also assertive and clever with a barb. Total lack of pretension.

I think the Kelly character is fun to play because she's not a role model for anybody. Although I do sometimes believe my parents wish I played a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins.

Read the full discussion transcript here.


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