Mindy Kaling is no stranger to multitasking. For the past eight seasons, she's written for, produced and starred in NBC's The Office, where she played ditzy customer service rep Kelly Kapoor. Now, the 33-year-old from Cambridge, Massachusetts, is heading up her own Fox series, The Mindy Project, chronicling the rom-com-obsessed "Mindy" as she balances her career as a New York City OB-GYN with her messy dating life.
TV Guide Magazine: Was it tough leaving The Office?
Kaling: I had been there for eight years, so for me it was like going to college twice with the same group of people. I loved it and I'm going to go back and do an episode or two to wrap up my character, but it's exciting to do something new. This show is still a workplace comedy, but it's a Manhattan doctor's office, so it's a totally different kind of energy.
TV Guide Magazine: Describe this on-screen Mindy you're playing.
Kaling: She has to actively decide not to make bad decisions all the time. Her inclinations would be to hook up with guys that are not right for her, drink too much, eat too much, gossip, waste time, sleep late. Is she going to be able to mature, and will she mature enough to be a mom or a wife, whenever that happens? As a doctor, the character has seen so many women transition from girls like herself to mothers, and it's something she wants desperately, so it's great to rub her face in that a lot.
TV Guide Magazine: How are you similar to her?
Kaling: We're both extremely busy. The reason I chose the OB-GYN job is because the hours are so weirdly similar to mine as a writer/performer. Both love guys and see romance in every situation we're in. And we're both former nerds who now want to have a little fun.
TV Guide Magazine: Do you have a personal favorite romantic comedy?
Kaling: There are more universally loved romantic comedies, but I cannot watch a moment of You've Got Mail and not watch the entire thing. I saw that when I was 19 and an intern at Late Night With Conan O'Brien. I was in New York City and that life was nothing like what I was living day to day, but this was my idealized version of Manhattan.
TV Guide Magazine: There is some romantic tension between Mindy and fellow doc Danny [Chris Messina]. Did you get some inspiration from years of writing about Jim and Pam?
Kaling: Jim and Pam were such soul mates and didn't have a lot of conflict, but our characters are not even friends! Of course, he's very handsome, but the two of us talk about the Moonlighting dynamic. That was such a great show in terms of them fighting and still having crackling sexual chemistry. In the third episode, my character's gynecologist retires and the whole episode is like a game of chicken with Danny, seeing if he can handle being my doctor. It was the most fun table read of any episode of TV I've ever been on.
TV Guide Magazine: Do you feel more pressure now as showrunner, star and writer?
Kaling: Totally, but I'm a confident writer and a generally confident person. In the pilot, people tell my character that she is overweight and old, but she has this weird confidence — even though she's neurotic — that it doesn't really stick. She still thinks she can be Beyoncé's best friend. She thinks things are going to work out. I would say there's a little part of that I share, too.
TV Guide Magazine: And your character was put through the wringer in the pilot...
Kaling: Oh, my God! My makeup was terrible and I look like a sea wretch — there's no other way to describe it! Guess what, America? An Indian woman many of you don't know will be wearing tattered clothes and terrible makeup. Oh, and by the way, she's also not skinny. Luckily that's not going to be most of the show, nor do I enjoy looking like a mess. I love looking gorgeous.
The Mindy Project premieres Tuesday, Sept. 25 at 9:30/8:30c on Fox. Check out exclusive behind the scenes video from The Mindy Project's photo shoot below: