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Out of ‘The Office’: Mindy Kaling has her own ‘Project’

LUAINE LEE, McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Publication: The Day

Published 10/03/2012 12:00 AM
Updated 10/02/2012 04:11 PM

Actress Mindy Kaling is not good at a lot of things. And that's on purpose.

Most people know her as the triple threat talent that graced "The Office" for eight years as performer, writer and producer. Now she's starring in her own series, "The Mindy Project" on Fox.

It doesn't seem like she's lacking anything. But she remembers a life lesson her mother taught her when she was 8 years old.

"My friends were all helping their mothers bake brownies for bake sales and things like that, and I said to my mom, 'Why don't you bake things for bake sales?' And she said to me, 'Don't get too good at baking because then people will ask you to do it and expect you to.'

"And I remember thinking, 'Oh, you don't have to do everything that's traditionally feminine - unless you love doing it.' It was a really interesting warning from my mom, who at that time was a 40-year-old Indian immigrant doctor."

Kaling never veered from that advice. Though they were from India, her parents met in Nigeria.

"Because my dad was an architect building a wing of a hospital and my mom was on the other side of the hospital, she was a doctor there. They were both hired by the government. There is a big brain-drain that happens in India where you get a lot of professionals who leave for Africa because the money is so good," she says.

Kaling's parents didn't object when she expressed an interest in show business. After college Kaling, 33, didn't waste much time realizing her dream of becoming a comic writer - which she says occurred to her when she was 5. She and her former college roommate wrote a two-person play that won at the Fringe Festival in New York.

"And the producers took it out to L.A. and that's when Greg Daniels (executive producer) saw me for 'The Office.' He knew that I had written it. My friend was more of an actress than a writer so at that time I had a spec for 'Arrested Development.' So (Daniels) saw the play, he read my 'Arrested Development' spec and he hired me to be a writer and perform on 'The Office.'"

In "The Mindy Project," Kaling plays a woman deft at her job but dreadful at relationships. That's only slightly autobiographical, she says.

"I am at a time right now where men really want to find someone who wants to settle down," Kaling explains. "And for men, settling down means there's no change in their lifestyle. They continue to have their lives, but the women settle down, that's what 'settling down' means. But because I don't have that in me yet, I'm not a great prospect right now for somebody."

Like Kelly Kapoor on "The Office," she admits she's a romantic.

"I love romance and so much of this show is about romance," she notes. "I think about it all the time and almost every day I develop a big crush on somebody. But in terms of boyfriends, that I just cannot imagine."

Kaling lost her mother last January. Sighing, she says, "Mom was my best friend. I've had to learn to become my own best friend - which is advice she used to give me all the time: You have to be your own best friend."

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