Can you blame us for being super-excited for The Mindy Project? The new comedy is the brainchild of Mindy Kaling, the ultra-talented multi-hyphenate (comedienne, writer, and actress!) who honed her chops both behind and in front of the camera on seven seasons of NBC’s hit sitcom The Office and has also appeared in the films The 40-Year-Old Virgin, No Strings Attached and The Five–Year Engagement; last November, she released her comic memoir Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns).
At the Television Critics Association convention in Beverly Hills this week, Mindy reassured Office fans that she will appear in that show’s season premiere “and probably one other episode” to wrap up the storyline for her character, the man-mad Kelly Kapoor. After that, it’s all about her hilarious new show, in which the 33-year-old Massachusetts native plays an unmarried obstetrician/gynecologist (the profession of her real-life mom) whose neurotic obsession with romantic comedies causes her to make bad dating decisions. Wetpaint Entertainment threw out a few quick questions for Mindy at FOX's glam TCA party at LA’s Soho House, to get a closer look at her new show.
Wetpaint Entertainment: What has the transition been like, going from The Office to your own new show?
Mindy: It’s been pretty easy. One thing I loved about The Office was the great kind of writers it has, and so I tried to mimic and replicate that kind of writing staff in my room now. Matt Warburton is my showrunner, and BJ Novak is writing two episodes and directing two episodes. There’s just a lot of people who I’ve known for a long time.
Wetpaint Entertainment: What has been the biggest surprise you’ve found about carrying a whole show on your shoulders with The Mindy Project?
Mindy: What’s interesting is, at The Office, because it was Greg [Daniels] and Paul [Lieberstein] who were above me, I really was used to fighting a lot. I’d have to fight for what I want, and I had to defend it. And that was what was expected. You were never just going to get what you wanted story-wise. But here, I started with the same energy of fighting for stuff, and everyone was like, “Okay, ease off. You get to do whatever you want. It’s your show.” And I was like, “Oh! Okay!” So that was a surprise. My whole temperament had to change.
Wetpaint Entertainment: Is there one character, Kelly or your new character Dr. Mindy Lahiri, who is more like the real you?
Mindy: This character’s a little bit closer to me, in terms of our lifestyles. The fact that both of us love working, and work really long hours.
Wetpaint Entertainment: On the TCA stage, you mentioned on the stage that you wanted to work with Ike Barinholtz because you knew his work from Eastbound & Down. Were you familiar with Anna Camp’s role on True Blood?
Mindy: Yes, I loved her on True Blood! Anna’s energy is wonderful. She’s kind of ethereal, but she’s super funny. People haven’t really gotten a chance to see that, so I’m excited to have people see that side of her.
Wetpaint Entertainment: What funny TV ladies did you admire growing up?
Mindy: Gilda Radner, I loved! I was a little young, but I remember seeing her in reruns of SNL. I love Phylicia Rashad in The Cosby Show. She’s doing something very subtle in that. But she’s kind of the glue that keeps the show together. She was wonderful. I love Jan Hooks from SNL, for that kind of energy — she’s kind of a crazy bird. And Molly Shannon later, in terms of that kind of crazy energy, she’s just amazing.
Wetpaint Entertainment: Do you have a favorite TV show, past or present, that you’re obsessed with?
Mindy: I love Eastbound & Down and Breaking Bad. Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul are amazing. Aaron especially. This past week, with the stuff he’s doing on that show… I mean, [creator] Vince Gilligan is so smart, he gives them time. They have 42 minutes, and there are only 3 characters basically in the show. Aaron is doing such amazing stuff, and with Bryan it’s amazing because we all know he’s such a funny person, so to see him now as this character completely transform into this really dark and serious, sinister guy has been really interesting.
Wetpaint Entertainment: You’ve said that you made your character an ob/gyn after your mom — and because you found that you as a performer and she as a doctor kept similar odd hours. What other real-life sources did you draw from in creating The Mindy Project?
Mindy: My friends. I’m doing a show about a single woman who’s 32 years old, and I’m lucky because I have a lot of friends who are that age. It’s weird, too — all of our moms were already married and had at least one kid when they were our age. It’s s nice to be able to write what you know, because then you always have something to write about.