Mindy Kaling Does SXSW
Mindy Kaling brought a lighter touch to SXSW Interactive when she appeared alongside her Mindy Project co-stars Ike Barinholtz and Adam Pally on Sunday, March 9.
The comedian touched down in Austin for a discussion with Marie Claire editor-in-chief Anne Fulenwider, where she was grilled about running her own network television show and revealed that The Mindy Project has been picked up for a third season.
“It’s like having really creative conversations with your funniest friends,” Kaling says about working in the writer’s room.
Barinholtz, who is also a writer for the show, had a different take on Kaling’s role in the writer’s room.
“Much like Kim Jong Un. She rules with an iron fist, sometimes in that fist is a rose,” he joked. “She’s the best boss I’ve ever had,” he added.
Kaling, an Indian-American, has been heralded as a game changer in the industry and touched upon how she was able to defy expectations. A sitcom starring a woman of color is rare, but a woman of color starring in a sitcom she also created and writes is almost unheard of.
“It’s challenging to get your own show no matter what. One of the things that’s been helpful to me is that I try not to think that much about the fact that I’m Indian-American. I’ve felt that constantly people assume I’m not funny. People will think that you’re not funny because of the way that you look,” Kalling stated.
Kaling may be breaking ground with her sitcom, but the comedian is fed up with being a lightning rod for the ‘diversity question.’ When a journalist attending the talk asked Kaling if it was intentional that her character be the only female doctor and the only doctor of color on the show – Chris Missina, Jeremy Reed and Adam Pally play the other three – Kaling did not mince words in expressing her disdain for the question.
“I look at shows on TV, and this is going to just seem defensive, but I’m just gonna say it: I’m a f—king Indian woman who was her own f—king network television show, okay,” she said.
“I have four series regulars that are women on my show, and no one asks any of the shows I adore – and I won’t name them because they’re my friends – why no leads on their shows are women or of color, and I’m the one that gets lobbied about these things. I’m someone who’s writing a show and I want to use funny people. And it feels like it diminishes the incredibly funny women who do come on my show. … It’s a little frustrating,” Kaling said.
Her response at SXSW was not the first time Kaling has had to defend her show against diversity critics. In 2013, she mentioned that she had been criticized because white men always played her character’s love interests.
“Do people really wonder on other shows if female leads are dating multicultural people? Like I owe it to every race and minority and beleaguered person. I have to become the United Nations of shows?” she said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.
That said, Kaling had no problem talking about being a feminist in the industry and the added difficulty for women in the entertainment business. Part of the reason her writers’ room functions so well, she said, is that all the men consider themselves feminists.
“And all the guys on my staff would identify as feminists. They’re like, dudes, and I know the experience for an average comedy writer is not that, especially for a woman, so I felt very lucky I was exposed to smart, nice guys,” she admitted.
Lighter moments during her talk included Fulenwider challenging Kaling to send a tweet in 45 seconds or less – Kaling finished in 17.
The Mindy Project returns with all new episodes Tuesday, April 1, at 9 p.m.
– Olivia Truffaut-Wong
More on SXSW: