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Mindy Kaling is reflecting on a moment with a fellow TV writer that affected the kind of stories she writes and the characters she plays onscreen.
Speaking to Good Morning America, the Never Have I Ever co-creator and Mindy Project star said that her time working on The Office as a writer and actor changed her life and career completely, helping train her in comedy and influencing her work ethic. But when she was 25 and working on the hit NBC series, a co-worker from another writers room pitched an interaction suggesting her character could lose 15 pounds. Kaling, who said she was already waking up early to go to the gym before work, called the experience “really devastating.”
“This is my greatest insecurity and someone just called it out,” she said.
The writer and actress said that the incident forced her to look inward and think about the way other people were responding to her and her body. “I had a reckoning where I’m like, ‘People are scrutinizing [me], and not only are they scrutinizing [me], they’re verbalizing their displeasure with how I look because I don’t look a certain way.’
“That kind of dissonance has really affected so much of what I write about [and] the kind of characters I play,” she added. “Almost all of those kinds of things [in my work] come from something really real.”
That includes her latest project, Netflix’s teen rom-com Never Have I Ever. It’s a project, the New York Times best-selling author says, with a real and normal character that young viewers can “look to and feel seen.”
“I was obsessed with TV as a kid and it informed my worldview and it informed who I was attracted to. It informed so much, right? And it makes me so happy that this show can be on Netflix, 40 million people can watch it, it’s No. 1 around the world and it stars a girl who is a young, dark-skinned Indian girl,” she said.
That’s different from what the Wrinkle in Time star says she experienced when she was growing up and looking for representation of different body types onscreen.
“On TV, if you were really thin, then you could be the lead. Otherwise, you had to be like 250 pounds, and you had to be the slapstick comic relief. But what was crazy, what was left out, is just like this range of people which is a majority of American women over the age of 24,” she said. “What if you’re like a [size] 12 and you want to just live your life and look cute and date? At that time, when I wrote Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? [in 2011] it was like a no man’s land. That has really changed, I think.”
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