Spotlight On: Mindy Kaling

Here at The College Juice, we were more than just a little excited when we found out we’d have the chance to ask the brilliant and hilarious Mindy Kaling a few questions.  The creator and star of “The Mindy Project” who – in her spare time, of course – also serves as a writer and executive producer for the show is flexing her writing muscles again with the release of her newest book, “Why Not Me?”. Her previous book, “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)” was an enormous hit and there is no doubt that Why Not Me? will experience similar success.

“Why Not Me?” features a collection of essays through which Kaling shares her observations and insights from recent experiences. She touches on everything from fame to making friends to her time as a student at Dartmouth. Her friendly tone and honest commentary make reading the book feel more like a conversation with her than anything else. Certain sections will make you literally L-O-L (i.e. ‘How to Look Spectacular: A Starlet’s Confessions’), while others will help you realize you’re not alone (i.e. ‘4 a.m. Worries’).

Keep reading to find out what Mindy had to say about diversity, “Why Not Me?”, and her advice for students in college today.

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BNC: Actress, writer, director, producer, series creator, role model; the list of roles you juggle goes on and on and beyond! What has the journey been like? Is this where you had always envisioned yourself?

MK: I always envisioned that I would be married to Prince Harry right now, so my current situation is a big disappointment.

BNC: We laughed, we cried, and we commiserated with you when we read Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me?  Was there a point while you were writing it that you knew you needed to write another book?

MK: You cried reading Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? I feel like that’s more about something you were going through at the time than the book. However, I will accept this compliment. The past five years have been so packed with life-changing events for me, it just felt natural to share more stories.

BNC: Let’s talk diversity. It’s a topic you cover throughout both books as well as in The Mindy Project. How do you feel the acting community has changed in the way it views and treats diversity—specifically women of color—since you entered the field? How do you think your characters have helped in moving things forward?

MK: What’s great is that it is not at all uncommon now to see a woman of color as a lead of a television show. That’s changed significantly even in the ten years I have been out here. What I would love to see change next is the insistence from some media that women of color must portray noble and moral characters. I think the idea comes from the fact that there are (relatively speaking) few female minority characters, and they want them to all be perfect. But perfect is boring.

BNC: The synopsis of Why Not Me? says your second coming-of-age and a major turning point in your life inspired you to write the essays.  Can you tell us about that turning point? Where were you and what led you to it?

MK: My mother passed away on the same day that my show was picked up to pilot. I’ve never had my life change so much, practically and emotionally, so quickly. I feel like before that moment I was another person completely.

Mindy Kaling Book CoverBNC: How much of an overlap is there between your essay writing and your writing for TV? Do you have a format preference? How are the two processes different?

MK: Writing for TV is hard work, but it is fun and inherently a social job. Writing a book is also fun, but you have to make sure you are 100 percent cool with being by yourself for long periods of time, which I am, luckily. My essays are so conversational that, in many ways, it’s not so different than writing dialogue for a character. The feeling of the book should hopefully be like having a great, funny conversation with me (albeit one where I am doing all the talking).

BNC: We love recommendations . . . what are you reading or watching right now?

MK: I love Silicon Valley and a BBC show for Netflix called Peaky Blinders. I just read Missoula by Jon Krakauer, which I loved. I’m dying to read Salman Rushdie’s book Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights.

BNC: As you might have guessed, we’re focused on college students here! Can you offer any advice for those students and recent grads looking to break into the field of acting or writing, maybe share a pearl of wisdom with them?

MK: Oh man, I feel like I’m always giving advice and there’s no statistical proof that any of it has helped anyone. That said, I think the best advice I could give anyone is to write his or her own material. I have almost exclusively played parts that I have had some hand in writing, and I would never be where I am if I waited for someone else to “cast” me in something in a traditional way.

Also, you need to live in New York or Los Angeles.

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*BONUS: WIN A COPY OF WHY NOT ME? 

If you loved our Q&A with Mindy as much as we do, tweet us using the hashtag #WhyNotMeInterview for the chance to win a copy of her new book! Head to Twitter for your chance to win!

Get the Official Rules here.

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