“The Mindy Project” Builds Laughs From Real Life

Writer/star Mindy Kaling reveals the inspirations behind her new sitcom

After giving notice on her longtime gig as Dunder-MIfflin’s Kelly Kapoor on "The Office" to launch her own self-created, self-starring sitcom on Fox, actress Mindy Kaling opens up the files on “The Mindy Project” to reveal the inspirations behind the new sitcom.

On digging into the rocky romantic life of a busy career woman:

“I'm someone who loves romance. I always have loved it. Most people who grew up as nerds – as I was, surprisingly – have loved romance. So as a comedy writer, it's like on ‘The Office,’ so much of the show is kind of disguising your true feelings and your romantic feelings because it was a documentary, a mock documentary. And so in a lot of ways, it's like a reaction to that, because I just wanted to explore love and romance, but with people who are legitimately busy and have busy lives. Especially with women my age, too – I think if you have a career, you're thinking, like, ‘When is this other side of my life going to click into place?’”

On the meaning of Mindy’s project:

“The really fun thing about this character – which is not unlike Michael Scott in some ways – is that she wants to just be a better person, so much a part of her life. In some ways, she's a great doctor, kind of hyper‑educated, but wants to be a better catch, wants to be a better friend, wants to work out, wants to actually read books instead of magazines and things like that, which is something I also strive to be a little bit. The ‘Project’ is with this woman who's not 21 or 22, kind of getting her life together.”

On her place in the increasing profile of Indian actors on television:

“There's a saying 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. When it comes up organically in my writing, we can address it. And in 'The Office,' about five years ago we wrote this episode called ‘Diwali,’ which seemed like an organic way of using it. I mean, it's really exciting with Danny Pudi and Aziz Ansari in their shows and ‘The Good Wife’ and things like that. I don't think about it all the time, [but] it is a cool time for Indian actors.”

On where the choice of her character’s career came from:

“I picked a doctor because my mother was an OB/GYN, and it was just a job that I had done a lot of research on, kind of accidentally, throughout my life, and weirdly her hours are really similar to my hours as a writer/performer. I could call her in the middle of the night and she would be awake, and she lives in Boston, so yeah – it just seemed we have the same sleep‑deprived schedule.”

On why it wasn’t the real-life career path for her:

“My parents would have loved for me to have been a doctor, but I was bad at science. And actually, I wasn't like a theatrical kid. I wasn't really encouraged to be one of these – like, I didn't do plays or anything. I was largely silent until I was like about 15 or 16 years old, but I was always a comedy nerd: a silent comedy nerd – stay up late, sneak downstairs, watch ‘Saturday Night Live’ and ‘Kids in the Hall’ and things like that. So very early on, my parents realized that I wasn't going to be an engineer or a doctor. I just don't have those inclinations at all.”

On her major shift from writer and supporting player to full-on creative force:

“Every day I wake up and I'm like ‘Oh – I'm the star of my own show that has my name in it and I get to write it and hire people, actors that I've loved for such a long time.’ It's amazing. I'm going to turn into a monster. Like, I can't handle it.”

"The Mindy Project" airs 9.30 p.m. ET on the Fox network.

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