Considering that she has starred in two of TV’s most popular sitcoms, it’s fitting that Mindy Kaling was named after a character in another: Mork & Mindy was the only American show airing when her mother was in Nigeria and pregnant with her. “Mindy” is actually Kaling’s middle name, and it suits her better than the one she was born with. Somehow, The Vera Chokalingam Project doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
Kaling, who played Paul Rudd’s ex-girlfriend in The 40-year-Old Virgin and came to fame as Kelly Kapoor on The Office, has served as creator, head writer and star of The Mindy Project since 2012, embodying the romance-obsessed Dr. Mindy Lahiri. The comedy launches its fifth season—and second on Hulu—today. (And yes, you can and should watch it, even though you’re a dude.) The first four seasons are also available for streaming, and Freeform began airing four episodes from the archive per night starting earlier this week.
In our candid chat with her, Kaling drops a few hints about what to expect this season, previews some new projects and reveals what’s on her binge-watching and reading list.
“I like being on the air all the time. You can’t escape me.”
What’s the biggest difference between Mindy Kaling and Mindy Lahiri? What do you love about the character?
I love her confidence. She just insists that she is high status even though the rest of the world is constantly telling her that she is not. In a character that has so many alarming traits, that’s the one that I find enviable and wish I had.
Has playing her rubbed off on you?
Oh no, not at all. I have some streaks of confidence, like when I’m on a women’s panel to inspire young women. But I’m still the same, a comedy writer in my blood.
What reaction have you gotten to Danny’s refusal to marry Mindy?
People are so attached to that relationship, which I love. I wanted to create two people that people felt so strongly about. People want them to stay together forever, which is not real, especially when they’re as combative as these two. We were trying to do the most realistic version of that, but we sometimes forget that people don’t want realism; they want wish fulfillment.
What can we expect this season?
This season begins with her romantic choice, who she’s going to end up with. It’s called “Decision 2016” because in Mindy’s mind, that’s the largest looming question going on in the world. We have Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the premiere, in an alternate-reality story. We do an episode where she wakes up in the morning as a white man. That’s really interesting and fun and also kind of a weird wish fulfillment to see how differently she’d be treated.