Mindy Kaling, The Office
Mindy Kaling doesn't just play Ryan-crazy (and sometimes just plain crazy) Kelly on NBC's The Office. She's also a writer-producer, as seemingly are most of the hit comedy's main players. This week's episode (airing tonight at 8:30 pm/ET), penned by Kaling, introduces Michael Scott (Steve Carell), among others, to the holiday of Diwali, as well as diverts some ongoing stories in new directions. TVGuide.com spoke with Kaling about the decision to just Hindu it.

TVGuide.com: First off, I just want to say that "Diwali" is a great episode.
Mindy Kaling: Thank you!

TVGuide.com: When did you first come up with the idea of a Diwali-centered outing?
Kaling: This is something that [executive producer] Greg Daniels and I sort of came up with together. Last year, I threw a Diwali party for the writers and some of my friends, so when we went to do a Halloween episode [for 2006], and we didn't want to just [copy last year's], Greg was like, "When is Diwali?" This year it was around Halloween time, so Greg was like, "Do you want to write it?" And I did. It's bright, colorful, outside of the office, and fun.

TVGuide.com: Plus it's fish-out-of-water territory for Michael, which is always fun to play.
Kaling: Oh, yeah. It's such a fertile area for him in terms of that!

TVGuide.com: Now why cast your real parents as Kelly's parents?
Kaling: Well, there was a whole audition process....

TVGuide.com: Sure there was.
Kaling: [Laughs] Oh, our show is all favoritism and nepotism. I mean, every week it's Greg casting his writers and friends in parts. I think [the Oct. 18] episode had no less than six writer-performers on the show. But yeah, my parents were very good, and of course I felt affectionately towards them.

TVGuide.com: Your dad has one of the night's best lines, to Michael: "So how long have you been dating the cheerleader?" [Carol, thanks to her ignorant beau, shows up in costume.]
Kaling: [Laughs] Yeah, I'm not positive that, if you talked to my dad, he would understand why that was a funny line. But the way he says it with such deadpan delivery.... I was very proud.

TVGuide.com: "Diwali" reminded me of [Season 2 finale] "Casino Night," in that a lot happens.
Kaling: A lot does, doesn't it? When we were breaking the story I was like, wow, there's a lot of stuff that has to happen in the setting of this colorful Indian festival. I felt very lucky.

TVGuide.com: Without naming names, you seem to end one of The Office's relationships....
Kaling: Oh, it's not over, I think I can say. This is just a very roller-coastery episode for them. We have not seen the last of [this pairing].

TVGuide.com: Still, is striking such a blow for a couple something you have to get a green light on before you actually script it?
Kaling: Yes. Certain elements we have to decide on before I go out and write it, obviously. But it was always sort of built in that the peak of "Diwali" would be this incredibly romantic overture [and its uncomfortable aftermath].

TVGuide.com: You also give us the one scene that we hoped never to see on The Office....
Kaling: [Laughs]

TVGuide.com: Did you have any hesitation about going "there"?
Kaling: The thing about our show is whenever there's like a sweet moment, we have to counter it with a grotesque moment. Otherwise we become the sort of maudlin sitcom that we as writers hate. We don't ever want to be the show with the "very special moment," or where two characters understand each other finally. It has to be cut with something that's not right, so we can "reset the order of the universe." Greg has this whole thing about how he never wants us at the end of the seventh season to see that Dwight is Jim's best man at his wedding.

TVGuide.com: I like how you fashioned Kelly and Ryan as this Romeo-and-Juliet-type relationship, with her parents being steadfastly against her dating him.
Kaling: It was Romeo and Juliet and healthy parts Pride & Prejudice, as well. Kelly's family has, like, nine daughters, and if only they could marry them off it would be wonderful. But Kelly is the oldest and most idiotic of them all. The girls who played my little sisters were such funny little actresses, because when they were teasing Ryan about being Zach Braff, they added something nice to it that I didn't write: that to be compared to Zach Braff is kind of a pejorative. Why wouldn't Kelly be dating someone that looked like, I dunno, Brad Pitt? [Laughs]

TVGuide.com: What's your take: Are Kelly and Ryan sleeping together?
Kaling: The feeling among the writers is that Kelly is into the romance of it, and Ryan is in it for the physical.

TVGuide.com: What's your role in Office mate John Krasinski's July 2007 comedy, License to Wed?
Kaling: I play the wife of his best friend. We are the "married couple" that he knows, so he compares his new relationship [with Mandy Moore] to ours, which is kind of tumultuous.

TVGuide.com: Are you pro or con Mandy Moore?
Kaling: Oh, my god, I am like so in love with Mandy Moore. She has the most perfect skin I have ever seen. [My character] feels indifferent. She just thinks she's a fine white lady. [Laughs]

TVGuide.com: Will you be writing another episode of The Office this season?
Kaling: I am. I'm going to start writing during our production break. I don't know what it is about, though.

TVGuide.com: Are there any other fodder-worthy Hindu holidays to mine?
Kaling: If "Diwali" goes well, I'm going to try to make a deal with [NBC Entertainment president] Kevin Reilly that with every change of the moon phase, we're going to tackle a different Hindu holiday.

TVGuide.com: Just as long as the episode doesn't air during NBC's 8 o'clock hour.
Kaling: [Laughs] We don't even understand that [directive announced by NBC on Oct. 19]. We're just going to wait until someone explains it to us, and we have to "pack up" or something.

Pick up the new, Nov. 6 issue of TV Guide for an in-depth cover story on another NBC Thursday hit, ER.

Send your comments on this Q&A to online_insider@tvguide.com.