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Photo/Video: Mindy Kaling at the “A Wrinkle In Time” World Premiere/DFree/Hollywood Insider YouTube Channel
You may know Mindy Kaling as her super sassy, super quotable, boy crazed character, Kelly Kapoor, in the 2005 (U.S version) hit television series ‘The Office’. In 2012, Mindy Kaling departed from her position as a writer for the series to pursue another project. She went on to write, produce, and star in the ‘The Mindy Project’ within the same year. The show follows the story of a young Ob/Gyn, Mindy Lahiri, who wishes to become a more well-rounded woman, by balancing her professional and personal life.
‘The Mindy Project’ became a huge success, and even went on to win five awards such as Critics Choice Television Award for Most Exciting New Series, Gracie Award for Outstanding Producer, Gracie Award for Outstanding Female Lead in a Comedy Series, People Magazine Award for TV Couple of The Year, and Satellite Award for Best Actress in a Series, Comedy or Musical. The series had been groundbreaking in terms of highlighting and celebrating women and Desi heritage.
However, Mindy speaks very candidly about not wanting to make her heritage the focal point of the show. She didn’t want audiences to view her as just a Desi woman, rather she wanted audiences to connect with her as a human being like the rest of society…who happens to be Desi.
Mindy Kaling had become the first female, South Asian lead for a series on network television. This didn’t seem to be enough for the rising star. She wanted to create opportunities for other actors of South Asian cultures to star in television, the same way she did. Here are a few names that rose to fame with the help of these Kaling productions.
Kaling’s Critically Acclaimed Netflix Coming-Of-Age Series, ‘Never Have I Ever ’
Mindy Kaling’s 2020 Netflix series, ‘Never Have I Ever ‘, is a coming-of-age comedy story about a first-generation teen, and the challenges she faces along the way. Maitreyi Ramakrishnan plays the lead role in the series, Devi, a South Asian high school sophomore who finds herself in many difficult situations. This series is partly autobiographical, so it reflects on Mindy Kaling’s life as well.
Kaling talks about how she felt pigeonholed into the romantic comedy genre and wanted to venture out into new themes. This project feels very dear to her. In an interview with New York Times, Kaling said, “For all of us in the writers’ room, particularly those of us who were the children of immigrants, which comprised most of my staff, it was about sharing those stories of feeling ‘other,’”.
Mindy wanted representation for darker-skinned South Asian women for this series. This led her to announce casting calls for this project via Instagram and other social media platforms, rather than finding established actors. She was so impressed with Ramakrishnan’s confidence, humor, and talent. Kaling was also thrilled to find out Ramakrishnan was ‘Tamil’ because she is also from that ethnic group. It was an instant connection between the two, which ultimately led to the kick start of Ramakrishnan’s career.
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Maitreyi isn’t the only South Asian actor who benefitted from the show, ‘Never Have I Ever ’. Sendhil Ramamurthy was already a pretty established actor in the industry. He had many notable roles under his belt such as CW’s, ‘The Flash’ villain, Dr. Ramsey Rosso. This is not Ramamurthy’s first time working with Kaling, as he also played the role of a character named Ravi in ‘The Office’ who had a brief on-screen romance with Kaling, as Kelly Kapoor.
Despite all of his previous accomplishments, Ramamurthy got an even bigger break in Hollywood when he took on the ‘Never Have I Ever’ role of Devi’s deceased father, Mohan Vishwakumar. He appears in the show in the form of flashbacks for Devi. Although his moments in the series are brief, he is such an integral part of the story. It is a wonderful depiction of loving and down-to-earth Brown families, despite negative stereotypes of coldness and strictness. Despite ‘Never Have I Ever’ being Kaling’s most recent project, the fight to break barriers for South Asian actors is nothing new to her.
Mindy Kaling Highlights A Diverse Cast In, ‘Four Weddings And A Funeral’
In 2019, Mindy Kaling released a series adaptation to the 1994 British film, ‘Four Weddings And A Funeral’. It’s important to note, the adaptation has little to no resemblance to its 1994 predecessor. This romantic comedy streams only on Hulu. The series follows a group of reuniting friends in London while exploring their sometimes messy romantic arrangements. ‘Four Weddings And A Funeral’ features a very diverse cast of actors and actresses. One of those diverse faces happens to be British-Indian actor, Nikesh Patel.
Nikesh Patel plays the role of Kash, an investment banker of Pakistani heritage. Clever, right? Although ‘Four Weddings And A Funeral’ is not Patel’s first acting gig, it is undoubtedly the job that put him on the map in Hollywood. Patel speaks openly about working with Kaling and how it has been the most fascinating work of his career.
He sat down with CBSN Los Angeles to discuss his role in the series. He goes on to say, “It struck me that there was really something quietly groundbreaking about centering the story on two brown people, who don’t normally get to be centered that way”. He speaks in reference to his British-Dominican co-star on the series, Nathalie Emmanuel.
We agree Nikesh, it is very groundbreaking. We believe Mindy is doing a wonderful job in creating spaces for talented actors and actresses, who may not have had the opportunities before. We look forward to her future creations, complete with, quality writing, a diverse cast, and a beautiful message.
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Danessa Naj’e Lopez has an intense passion for pop-culture and cinema. Writing and indulging in current events have always been Danessa‘s favorite pastimes since childhood. She takes her time analyzing media, then contextualizing her thoughts in a tasteful, factual, and respectful manner for all readers to enjoy. Danessa enjoys sparking interest and perspective in readers, challenging them to engage in a positive discourse surrounding a topic she may cover. She hopes to share her knowledge and spread her love for media to readers – like you!