Mindy Kaling on “Never Have I Ever” Season 3, “The Sex Lives of College Girls” and Voicing “Velma”
If you are in the wrong business of comparing your production to that of others, can I suggest avoiding Mindy Kaling’s CV? In the years since Kelly Kapoor’s acclaimed turn in Office and the success of his self-proclaimed romantic comedy The Mindy project, her rise in Hollywood extended to enormous writer-producer-actress dominance – and she’s also published three books, most recently the Amazon Original Stories 2020 Essay Collection. Nothing like i imagined. Let’s see, what else? His comedy drama for teenagers I have never is one of Netflix’s biggest success stories; she has an HBO Max series set to debut this fall; and she’s getting ready to voice one of animation’s most beloved (and arguably misunderstood) icons: Scooby dooby Velma Dinkley.
But maybe what makes Kaling such a effervescent figure in a crowded TV landscape isn’t his work ethic, but his magnetic attraction to overlooked stories. Granted, many of these stories spring from her own life – she has a special knack for digging into her story and mining gold for essays (or, ideally, TV shows). But, says Kaling, she also developed a passion for connecting with other women, collecting their testimonials and feeding her stories with them. That’s part of the reason she recently teamed up with TJ Maxx to launch The Change Exchange, a charity campaign and letter-writing program involving women around the world as penpals. The idea is to give these women, who often undergo massive life changes – promotions, marriages, children, moves – a vessel to share their problems. “I have a correspondent [through The Change Exchange] named Jalisa, and we talk about our issues, it’s incredibly private and emotionally nourishing, ”Kaling told ELLE.com.
As she continues to attract more projects to her table, including the highly anticipated legally blonde 3“Kaling believes that these connections will be all the more necessary for his life and his work. As I have never gets the green light for a third season and Kaling gears up for another wave of attention, she sat down with ELLE.com to discuss everything on the schedule.
The first season of I have never was a success, but receiving the second cemented just how much fans love this show. Were
surprised you with the reaction, or is that what you expected seeing the talent behind this series?
I think I’m still thrilled and surprised that tens of millions of people around the world connect with this story because it seems so specific. It’s a story loosely based on my childhood. Obviously it’s happening now, but when you write a story about three Indian women from different generations and at different points in their immigration history, you think, “Well, this is really specific. I don’t know how universal this is going to be.
When a story like this resonates all over the world, in Bulgaria, Ukraine and Brazil, it is invigorating. We underestimate the public. They want to hear from other people outside of their own lives, as long as the stories are honest.
This young stranger, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, who we found through an open casting – she was a high school student in Toronto, and then less than two years later, she’s on the cover of Time. It’s amazing that you can be the person who is like, “Oh wow, we found her. ”
What made you want to do a teenage show in particular?
I actually didn’t even want to do a teenage show. Netflix wanted it – they had read my two books, and they said they really liked the part where I was talking about my childhood. They wanted to know if there would be a show in there, and they’re crafty. I remember thinking, Oh man, my teenage years. It feels intimate to me and makes me feel really vulnerable and cringe.
I didn’t want to do something that was a piece of nostalgia for the 90s. I wanted to do something that takes place today. By doing that, I felt like I was moving away from it a bit.
Now that you are there, have you enjoyed writing for teens?
Writing for teenagers is really fun and very terrifying, because at first it is very fleeting. They have a short attention span, so we write the show, and then it comes out a few months later, and you’re like, “Ah, I hope this is fresh. »The references, the things that fascinate them, the applications that obsess them? There are very few people who forgive less than a teenager who senses inauthenticity. So, they’re a terrifying bunch of people for who and about to write.
Now that the series is officially renewed for Season 3, I’m curious what you most want to explore next in the life of Devi and her family.
I lost a parent, and I think grief and mourning are such complicated things and can take many forms, and we loved the scenes between Devi and her father, played by Sendhil Ramamurthy, which is amazing. So I think what excites me the most is deepening their relationship and seeing how your relationship with your parents continues even after they have passed away. We are excited to explore this. Plus, he’s just a funny character who’s good at his heart but makes a lot of terrible decisions. I love seeing her do this as she nears college, trying to apply to college and what it brings out in her.
How many seasons would you ideally want the series to take place?
I haven’t thought about it yet. I think, because they’re teenagers and because they’re maturing a lot, there will be a time when it would be absurd for them to be still in high school. I think there is one place that will reveal itself when we see them on camera. Like, “Okay, now this is getting absurd”. But I still think there are stories to be told.
You’ll be voicing Velma in an upcoming adult animated comedy for HBO Max. What drew you to this particular role?
More than almost any other animated character – well, she and Harriet are spying on her – I really identify with Velma. I love that she is so well-liked in her group, but she’s not like a traditionally handsome animated character. She’s so smart and Scooby’s gang appreciates her. We don’t know much about his personality, so it was like a really rich character to give a lot of the backstory. It was a really fun project to work on.
What can you tell us about your other upcoming HBO Max show, The sex life of the students?
They are four young women who are randomly assigned to roommates at university, at a fictitious college on the east coast of Vermont called Essex College. It’s an amalgamation of a lot of different experiences that I and my co-creator, Justin Noble, have had. The girls are so different from each other, and we see them at the start of their first year, and they are all very ambitious. We see how they navigate courtship and romantic relationships.
How would you describe the show, in tone, in relation to I have never?
It’s definitely more adult, as you can guess from the name of the show and this topic, it deals with their sex life. But it also addresses the challenges of being a young woman in college. Life on the university campus is fascinating; we’ve done a lot of research on this. It’s a hotbed of activism, and it can be a really scary place too. We were able to explore a lot of different things, but we wanted to do it through the prism, as I always do, of comedy and diversity. We’ve tackled different issues, but with a sense of humor about it.
I can’t wait for people to see it. We have finished the production. We are in the process of modifying it and preparing it for release.
Speaking of female relationships: what attracted you to the Change Exchange program? Why were you drawn to letter writing rather than, I don’t know, Zoom calls?
I have always liked letter-writing relationships. I love a handwritten letter. I think it’s that kind of side that likes Jane Austin about me. What’s amazing about the Change Exchange is that it’s designed to help women connect with each other.
I’ve been through a lot of changes over the past year and a half, and I think it’s really hard to embrace the change. It’s something I struggle with all the time: my changing body after having my second child, the isolation I felt during the pandemic. I found this exchange very valuable.
Given how much you enjoy expressing yourself in writing, do you plan to publish another book soon, after your collection of essays last year?
Thanks for asking. I like to write my essays. I always get so much out of it therapeutically, and writing the essays refreshes the memories. I feel like sometimes if we’re busy – we have kids, or even if we don’t have kids – we go through life with no one to say, “Hey, you should think about what you are doing. have lived. Writing my essays and looking at my life through this humorous lens has been such a gift for my life. It allows me to rethink sometimes even painful memories, but to see them with a certain distance. Would love to do it again. Hope to have this opportunity again.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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