It seems like only yesterday we were talking about “The Office” in the context of Jim and Pam's wedding almost featuring a literal dead horse. Now it's time to talk about the sitcom in the context of the Television Academy almost shutting out Mindy Kaling—one of “The Office” writers who would've talked Greg Daniels down from his horse dreams, as the co-writer of that particular episode with him—as an Emmy-eligible producer for the show over a decade ago.
This revelation came out during a recent Elle Magazine interview with Kaling, as she alleged early sexism in her television writing and producing career. Upon “The Office” receiving an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Comedy Series, the Television Academy informed Kaling that her name would be cut from the producers list—making her ineligible to potentially win an Emmy with her colleagues—due to there being too many producers on the list.
At the time, Kaling was the only woman of color on a predominantly white male producing team, and as she recalls, “they made me, not any of the other producers, fill out a whole form and write an essay about all my contributions as a writer and a producer. I had to get letters from all the other male, white producers saying that I had contributed, when my actual record stood for itself.”
Kaling went on to talk about the racism and sexism she continues to feel in the industry, despite the success she has found as a writer, producer, and actress since her days on “The Office”, as the brains behind “The Mindy Project”, Hulu's adaptation of “Four Weddings and a Funeral”, and the recent feature film “Late Night”. “It really doesn't matter how much money I have,” Kaling said. “I'm treated badly with enough regularity that it keeps me humble.”
The Television Academy responded to Kaling's story with a statement to The L.A. Times. “No one person was singled out,” said an Academy spokesman in the statement. “There was an increasing concern years ago regarding the number of performers and writers seeking producer credits. At the time the Producers Guild worked with the Television Academy to correctly vet producer eligibility.”
The spokesman also added, “every performer producer and writer producer was asked to justify their producer credits,” a protocol which has since been retired.
But Kaling remains stalwart in her claims of the Television Academy's singling her out early in her career and responded to their statement on Twitter.
Respectfully, the Academy’s statement doesn’t make any sense. I *was* singled out. There were other Office writer-performer-producers who were NOT cut from the list. Just me. The most junior person, and woman of color. Easiest to dismiss. Just sayin’. https://t.co/frT2pQUfLF
I’ve never wanted to bring up that incident because The Office was one of the greatest creative experiences of my life, and who would want to have an adversarial relationship with the Academy, who has the ongoing power to enhance our careers with awards? 1
2 But I worked so hard and it was humiliating. I had written so many episodes, put in so much time in the editing room, just to have the Academy discard it because they couldn’t fathom I was capable of doing it all. Thankfully I was rescued by my friends, the other producers.
3 The point is, we shouldn’t have be bailed out because of the kindness our more powerful white male colleagues. Not mentioning it seemed like glossing over my story. This was like ten years ago. Maybe it wouldn’t happen now. But it happened to me.
On Monday, Lily Singh became the first woman to host a late-night talk show, A Little Late with Lilly Singh, since Later‘s Cynthia Garrett in 2000-2001. “My writers’ room looks like a mini-United Nations, more than 50 percent women and people of all races,” she said during the episode. “And that’s not because I had to, it’s because I could. This is the new standard, so take notes, Hollywood.” The first guest on A Little Late, which replaced Last Call with Carson Daly in the 1:35 a.m. time slot: Mindy Kaling, and she and Singh discussed everything from the makeup on Euphoria to “childhood eyebrow struggles.”
The Mindy Project creator was also asked to give an update on what Michael Scott would be doing now, five years after The Office ended. “The thing that I always think about is things that Michael Scott — who just loved trends and was far too old to do any of them — what would he be into? And to me, seeing Michael Scott dab would be one of my favorites, ‘cause I feel like he would do it all the time. Can’t you picture him doing that?” she replied, to which I answer: yes. Kaling, who wrote for and starred on the still-popular sitcom, added, “And also Michael Scott on Instagram and the thirsty comments he would leave on celebrities’ pages. Those to me are what like come to mind.”
Who is the first person Michael Scott would follow on Instagram? My guess: F*ckJerry. He seems like a guy who loves a good stolen meme.
[Editor's note: The following contains spoilers for the first seven episodes of Hulu's “Four Weddings and a Funeral.”]
Rom-coms are dead, so they say. And say. The time-honored genre now threatens to become a never-ending obituary, but Mindy Kaling saw it differently: By subverting the cliches, she could turn Richard Curtis’ classic “Four Weddings and a Funeral” into a fresh and unexpected Hulu series.
Some things are familiar: Kash Nikesh Patel walks from the altar and finds himself at a crossroads. His father playing the “can you not try, for your dying father, before he dies!” card encourages him to explore an arranged marriage through the family's mosque. So far, so prosaic: an arranged-marriage storyline, played for laughs.
However, these laughs don’t stem from a sense of “other-ing” the characters, a leering mean-spiritedness that can mar rom-coms. Looking at you, “Love Actually.” Kash’s burgeoning relationship is earnest, and organic — a key distinction for the trope-allergic young audiences whom streaming services attract.
Beyond the business motivations of adapting familiar IP, diversifying its cast and their storylines is a clever and strategic creative move. “At first, in talking to these guys about it, we didn't think there was that much more to say [than the film] because it's so perfect,” Kaling said at the TCA summer press tour last week. “And then when [film rights-holder] MGM approached me about it, I was thinking, well, what would make it worth it would be to show a love story through a lens that I would like to see: a love story, which is an African-American woman and a British-Pakistani man falling in love.”
According to a PwC study released earlier this year, intentional content targeting — owning a niche, and pushing specific content toward those interested — is essential when it comes to attracting viewers who are overwhelmed by choices in the era of Peak TV. For younger and more diverse cord-cutters that subscribe to Hulu, that could include classic retellings that emphasize traditionally marginalized casts and plotlines.
Kaling and fellow executive producers Matt Warburton and Tracey Wigfield made sure the writers’ room had wide-ranging experience: drama writers and comedy writers, as well as women and men from a number of ethnic and national backgrounds. That kind of authenticity attracted both Patel and Nathalie Emmanuel, who plays his would-be beloved.
“I basically heard the two words 'Mindy Kaling' and I was like, 'I'm listening!'” Emmanuel said in an interview with IndieWire. “The female characters are written so well. Generally in rom-coms, the women are very likable, not very troublesome, the dream girl in the male gaze. And these women are very complex. They make mistakes.”
“It's a celebration of inclusivity in a way that's quietly groundbreaking,” Patel added. “It's taken this long for [Emmanuel and I] to be the leads in a romantic comedy. A South Asian protagonist is generally shown as completely desexualized.”
Kaling's vision for the show can — and should — serve as an inspiration to other creators in these times of nostalgia-obsessed content production. Yes, there's the potential for a built-in bottom line on familiar intellectual property, but the storytelling can still match the modern times.
“The fact that these characters do not seem to have these racial boundaries — that I think we, as show creators, often see in other shows — was really refreshing,” Kaling said. “I want to keep doing that. I really love that.”
The first four episodes of “Four Weddings and a Funeral” are available on Hulu today; the subsequent six episodes will be released every Wednesday.
strong>EXCLUSIVE: Poorna Jagannathan The Night Of has landed a series regular role opposite Maitreyi Ramakrishnan in Mindy Kaling’s forthcoming Netflix comedy series.
Co-created, co-written and executive produced by Kaling and The Mindy Project co-exec producer Lang Fisher, who also serve as showrunners, the Kaling/Fisher Project is inspired by Kaling's own childhood. It follows the complicated life of Devi Ramakrishnan, a modern-day first generation Indian American teenage girl. She is an overachieving high school sophomore who has a short fuse that gets her into difficult situations.
Jagannathan will play Nalini, Devi’s mom.
Kaling and Fisher executive produce with 3 Arts' Howard Klein and David Miner and Tristram Shapeero Turn Up Charlie, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Universal TV is the studio.
Known for her role as Safar Khan in HBO’s Emmy-nominated The Night Of, Jagannathan currently heavily recurs as Katie Richmond Celeste/Nicole Kidman’s lawyer on the second season of HBO’s Big Little Lies. She’ll next be seen in A24’s Share on HBO, Pippa Bianco's feature film adaptation of her short, which won prizes at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and SXSW. HBO purchased the film at Sundance this year. She’s repped by Untitled Entertainment and Artists & Representatives.
indy Kaling’s semi-autobiographical comedy-of-age Netflix comedy series has found its lead. Newcomer Maitreyi Ramakrishnan has been cast in the lead role of Devi following a worldwide open casting call for the as-yet untitled series from Kaling, The Mindy Project co-exec producer Lang Fisher and Universal TV.
Your Complete Guide to Pilots and Straight-to-Series orders
Ramakrishnan. from Toronto, Canada, was selected out of 15,000 responses from around the world to Kaling’s online post about the open casting call. This will be Ramakrishnan’s on-screen debut.
Co-created, co-written and executive produced by Kaling and Fisher, who also serve as showrunners, the Kaling/Fisher Project is about the complicated life of Devi, a modern-day first generation Indian American teenage girl, played by Ramakrishnan, inspired by Kaling's own childhood. Devi is an overachieving high school sophomore who has a short fuse that gets her into difficult situations.
Kaling and Fisher executive produce with 3 Arts' Howard Klein and David Miner and Tristram Shapeero Turn Up Charlie, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
Ramakrishnan is repped by Sandra Gillis, Premier Artists’ Management Inc., in Toronto, Canada.
Mindy Kaling turned an internship at Late Night with Conan O’Brien into a production assistant job on Crossing Over With John Edward into a writing and starring role on The Office into creating her long-running sitcom into two New York Times best-selling memoirs into a successful film career, including A Wrinkle in Time, Ocean’s 8, and Late Night, which she also wrote. Not too shabby! Just about the only comedy milestone that Kaling hasn’t accomplished is becoming a cast member on SNL, and even that nearly happened.
While appearing on the Daily Beast’s The Last Laugh podcast, Kaling revealed that midway through season two of The Office, she was invited to audition for the sketch series. There was one problem, though: she was under contract. “I sat down with [showrunner] Greg [Daniels] and I said to him, it would be my dream to be a cast member on Saturday Night Live,” she said. “And he’s like, you have a job here, I don’t understand why you would want to leave. And I said, I know, it’s just this is my childhood dream. And he said, OK, if you go there and get cast on Saturday Night Live, I will let you out of your contract.”
Kaling auditioned, and creator Lorne Michaels offered her a gig as a writer, not a performer. “There was some hint at that point that if I stayed on long enough, like Jason Sudeikis, that I could maybe graduate to be a performer,” Kaling said. “That was dangled to me, so I thought, that’s pretty exciting.” But when she told Daniels what happened, “he said to me, no, that’s not the deal we made. The deal we made is that if you get cast as a cast member you can go.”
So, Kaling stayed on The Office good call!, which turned into a “life-changing thing. I think the course of my career would have gone really differently had I left The Office and done that instead.” SNL is impressive, but it’s not “one of the biggest shows on Netflix, even though it’s been off the air for six years.”
You can listen to the entire podcast interview below.
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