Mindy Kaling on Never Have I Ever and uniting with Priyanka Chopra Jonas for upcoming Universal wedding comedy
Mindy Kaling addresses allegations of inappropriate representation in Never Have I Ever, and how she ensured the semi-autobiographical story seemed contemporary.
When I reviewed Never Have I Ever, Mindy Kaling's semi-autobiographical show on Netflix, I could not stop raving about how objective she was. And when I got an interview with the American writer-actress, she showed exactly how objective she can be. With a crisp response for every question asked, it seemed like these were the very questions she asked herself while writing the show.
Excerpts from a brief interaction below.
What was the lens through which you wanted to look at the story of Never Have I Ever?
My feeling is that I can never make a show without loving all the characters. Even when they behave badly or make the wrong decision, I need to love them and be able to relate to them.
How did you ensure the show was funny yet not racially condescending at any point?
We wanted to make the show funny and authentic to the Indian-American experience as I experienced it, and not try to speak for anyone else. I learned from working on The Office that what is real is usually funny.
The character of Devi's mother was delightfully aggressive. Can that be attributed to the fact that she was a single parent?
I would never deign to speak for all Indian American mothers. Nalini is a mom who is reflective of my own mother and Indian women I knew in our circle.
Considering the narrative borrows a lot from your life, how did you make it appear so contemporary?
It was very important to hire as many young south Asian female writers on the staff, who were just a few years older than the character Devi. They were indispensable to making sure the show felt current. I didn’t know what Tik Tok was before I hired them!
When you collaborate with a fellow desi voice in Priyanka Chopra Jonas for the wedding comedy you are developing for Universal, how do you plan to push the envelope in terms of representation?
What’s so fun about writing that movie is playing with the expectations that Indians and Indian Americans have of each other. I’ve learned so much from Priyanka and her love of India. It’s enhanced my own love and understanding of India.
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