Mindy Kaling has been behind two hit sitcoms, bestselling books and helped created unforgettable scenes in Ocean’s 8 and Inside Out. Plus she decided to have her daughter, by herself, her own way, when she was ready.
Kaling sat down with Variety to discuss her unique ability to carve out the best life possible (for her), all while remaining a nicer, more real version of a Hollywood star than pretty much anyone else out there.
"I’ll never be this very glamorous person who people see from a distance … frosty and remote," says Kaling. "I’ve never been demure or mysterious. People always tell me they feel like I could be their friend."
Of course, all of the relatability has its downside. Just before her sit-down with Variety, she got in a car accident, and was accosted by selfie-seekers while she waited for the tow truck to arrive. "When you get in a car accident on Highland and Fourth and your car is totaled and looky-loos come up and ask to take a photo with you, then you wish that you weren’t everyone’s best friend," jokes Kaling.
Her latest comedy, Late Night, is about a diversity hire in the writers’ room of a late-night talk show. Kaling wrote, produced and starred in the film opposite Emma Thompson. Late Night will bow at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and Thompson says that while yes, it references current-day anxieties, it certainly isn’t polemical.
"It’s a political piece without banging you over the head with its message," notes Thompson.
Kaling also is bringing her own personal experience, as the only female writer of color on The Office to the film. She says times have changed.
"There used to be a sense of obligation — of being shamed into having a token person of color to prove that you weren’t racist," Kaling says. "Now people are realizing it’s actually valuable to have different perspectives. It’s actually a better way to make money and to reach more people."
The 39-year-old explains that she has realized that her perspective has changed too, admitting that she had to abandon her goal of getting married at 27 and having children, an Oscar and a TV show by age 30.
"So I just want to tell you guys: Don’t be scared if you don’t do things in the right order, or if you don’t do some things at all," Kaling told Dartmouth graduates recently. "I didn’t think I’d have a child before I got married, but hey, it turned out that way, and I wouldn’t change a thing. I didn’t think I’d have dessert before breakfast today, but hey, it turned out that way, and I wouldn’t change a thing."
Kaling welcomed Katherine last year, and has not revealed her father’s identity.