Mindy Kaling on First Film as Writer, Producer, Star: "It Was a Story Only I Could Tell"

Rich Fury/Getty Images
The cast of 'Late Night' at the Orpheum Theatre

At a time when women on late-night TV are scarce and writers rooms are increasingly pressured to be more inclusive, the narrative feels more timely than ever, the cast says.

Late Night, Mindy Kaling's first feature film as writer, producer and star, is a very personal piece, the actress revealed at the Los Angeles premiere Thursday night. 

"I wanted to tell this story because I felt like it was a story that only I could tell," Kaling told The Hollywood Reporter on the red carpet. "I felt like if you're lucky enough to find a story that really resonates for you and excites you and [you] might be one of the only people who can do it, you should do it. So I was like, 'Oh this is great,' and the writing of it was so fun and easy."

The film stars Emma Thompson as out-of-touch talk show host Katherine Newbury, who, when her show is in danger of getting canceled, brings in Kaling's Molly to join her entirely white male writing staff. At a time when women on late night TV are scarce and writers rooms are increasingly pressured to be more inclusive, the narrative feels more timely than ever, the cast says. 

Ike Barinholtz, who reteams with his Mindy Project screen partner Kaling for the film, says even just a few years ago, Late Night couldn't have been done as it is in 2019. 

"Five years ago this movie is made, the Emma character is played by Robert De Niro or something," he said. "For Mindy to be able to write it with this vision of this young woman trying to break into this older woman is a story that I don't know, it wouldn't have caught on as easily 10 years ago."

Barinholtz, who plays Thompson's rival for the talk show spot, also mocked Hollywood's slow acceptance of female-led comedies. 

"I think that sometime around 2007, scientists found out that women were funny," the Blockers star teased. "They were like, 'Oh my god, women are so funny and we should hear their stories and make movies about their stories, people want to see these movies and we should do them.' And it was a big scientific breakthrough because before then there was nothing."

Reid Scott, who co-stars as one of the writers on Thompson's show, also spoke about the film's timeliness when dealing with issues of inclusion and equal representation, especially in Hollywood. 

"It plays with gender equality in the workplace, ethnic equality in the workplace, the moving over of the Old Boys' Club, which exists everywhere and is apt — as someone who's worked in the entertainment business, I'm well aware that it's still very much there," Scott told THR. "And who better to play the privileged white prick than me? I've made a career out of it," joking about his similar role as Dan Egan on Veep.

Scott added, "Every generation takes up their fight and this is clearly one of the fights of today, as if we need more fights today. This is really important one and anytime that a project comes along that addresses something important and does it in a genuine way, it makes you feel good about being a part of that." 

The premiere, held at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown L.A., also welcomed stars Denis O'Hare, John Early, Paul Hauser and director Nisha Ganatra, as well as guests Tracee Ellis Ross, B.J. Novak, Anders Holm and Ben Feldman. 

Ahead of the screening, Kaling told the audience that, "There were times when I was trying to make this movie that it seemed like it was all going to go away, and there is a great quotation by Guillermo Del Toro. He said, 'The saddest journey you can make is one that takes the perfect path, because then you're not a traveler, you're a tourist.' And that is really the experience of making this kind of movie. And for me, that kind of journey I could not have gone on without the support of my father," thanking him for standing by her through the ups and downs of the process.

Ganatra also announced that what she loved most about the movie was its equality both in front of and behind the screen, as the production had a crew with an equal number of men and women, she said. 

Late Night opens wide June 14.