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This story first appeared in the June 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Somehwere between filming the pilot and wrapping the first season’s 24-episode order, The Mindy Project shifted from being a starring vehicle for writer-creator Mindy Kaling to an ensemble workplace comedy. Conveniently for those who were making that comedy with Kaling, the fictional medical practice set already served as a cast-and-crew hub at the Universal lot studio.
PHOTOS: On the Set of ‘The Mindy Project’
“I’ve been pretty controlling about every aspect of how everything would look,” says Kaling, pausing between scenes to eat lunch at her alter ego’s desk. “Working on the set design has been great because I feel like every six months I go to someone’s house and I wish that was my taste. Here, I get to do something completely different with each of the characters’ offices.”
Kaling, 33, has enough time to take maybe two bites of her chicken breast before she’s called back into the fray. After answering a few of the hundreds of questions she’ll get during the course of a day spent sharing boss duties with showrunner Matt Warburton, she’s soon leaning against the reception desk, holding co-stars Ike Barinholtz (who also works on the Fox show’s writing staff), Beth Grant and Zoe Jarman‘s rapt attention, ad-libbing passages from her character’s Fifty Shades of Grey-esque novel.
PHOTOS: The Hollywood Reporter Celebrates ‘The Mindy Project’
As the adjacent conference room is prepped with platters of food (and a bottle of wine) for an unorthodox intervention to aid Chris Messina‘s character — in this episode mistakenly accused of being a drug addict — Kaling has a word with director Beth McCarthy-Miller before another unsuccessful attempt at lunch.
“When you’re a writer and actor, you don’t think the job of manager will come easily,” Kaling says. “I’ve been surprised how easily I could pick that up … of course, that’s my opinion. Saddam Hussein thought he was a good manager, too.
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