Mindy Kaling is planting the seeds to grow her own comedy dynasty.
At the moment, her Kaling International is but a small company of women, as she describes it, with former Hulu development executive Jessica Kumai Scott as president plus a couple of assistants and three shows in production. But the actor-writer-producer has visions of expansion.
“There’s so many great production companies out there that have all these shows in the air,” she says. “So they need a head of production, and they have lots of executives. That’s my dream, to get a lot of people eventually.”
For now, the endeavor requires her to be hands-on, because “I do think that my voice is so specific, and the things I like are so specific. So right at the beginning, I want to make sure that there’s something really common to all of them.”
It is Kaling’s unique and utterly charming comedic voice that launched her from staff writer on “The Office” to a creative force and trailblazer for women in comedy. She’s built her brand and her online persona as her star has climbed, making more than 10 million social media followers wish she were their best friend.
While many of us have spent the past year baking sourdough and juggling Zoom calls, Kaling has been busier than ever. She is executive producing HBO Max’s “The Sex Lives of College Girls” and Netflix’s “Never Have I Ever,” as well as co-writing the scripts for “Legally Blonde 3” and a Priyanka Chopra wedding comedy with “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” co-creator Dan Goor.
If that all sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. But this is Kaling’s speed: She doesn’t like vacationing, she has no hobbies and her daily schedule is intense.
“First I’ll wake up, drop my kid off at school, come back, work on one of two features,” she says. Kaling and Goor alternate days, penning “Legally Blonde 3” on Mondays, the wedding comedy on Tuesdays, and so on. “In the early afternoon, after Dan and I work on features, I turn over to looking at an episode that we’re about to shoot for ‘College Girls,’ giving notes on it, popping into the writers’ room on that. Then I’ll turn over to post and start editing on one of the two different shows.”
After that, it’s time for a studio notes call to talk outlines and casting, or to check in with the writers of the “Scooby-Doo” spinoff series she is exec producing and starring in. Before Kaling goes to bed, she reviews a cut or two of “College Girls” or “Never Have I Ever.”
“Sometimes if I’m up late anyway with my baby, I will spend two to three hours editing on my computer, just sending notes,” she says. (Because, yes, she also had a second child late last summer.) Saturdays, when she “only” works for five hours, are often spent at the Disney lot in Burbank to record voiceover for her character on the upcoming Pixar series “Monsters at Work.”
As she calibrates her workload, Kaling is also fine-tuning her philosophy on what it means to be a good leader and boss.
“I sign off on every writer on every single one of my shows, but I trust [Scott] to cull down the list of like, 200 writers to 20, which is something I never would have done three years ago. I would [have been] in there reading every single script. … I’m not able to do all of it anymore,” says Kaling. “A big part of my managerial style has been really emboldening and empowering the people who work for my company to make their own creative decisions.”
In between all that, she makes time a few days a week to, say, guest on a podcast hosted by two Indian American teenagers or speak to the film department at a women’s college.
“One of my big responsibilities is speaking to other people who have questions about how to get here, particularly young women and women of color,” says Kaling. “I think I’ve learned in the past six or seven years that this job is only as enjoyable as I’m able to impart wisdom on younger people. I don’t want to be that person that is keeping this knowledge to myself. And I’ve learned so much, I think, the hard way.”
Styling: Hayley Atkin/The Wall Group; Makeup: Janice Kinjo/The Wall Group; Hair: Marc Mena/EA Management; Nails: Thuy Nguyen/A-Frame Agency; Lead image, Dress: Vampire’s Wife; Earrings & Ring: Chopard; Cover, Dress: RHODE; Earrings: Hanut Singh; Ruby Rings: Kallati: Diamond Ring: Chopard