Mindy's meeting us. I know, right? LOVE her.
In recent months, most industry fervor about a young. female writer has been centered on Lena Dunham and her smash HBO hit "Girls." I'd have to agree with Lena lovers, as her character Hannah Horvath delivers some of the best observations about life as a twenty-something I've ever heard. Most memorably, in trying to persuade her parents that she could have a career as a writer, Hannah said, "I think that I may be the voice of my generation...or at least a voice...of a generation."
Here's what's up, though: Dunham isn't the only game in town. Mindy Kaling's been here all along, and if we're in the habit of naming preeminent voices of our generation, she is decidedly among them.
Promoting herself from Kelly Kapoor on "The Office" to Dr. Mindy Lahiri on her self-titled series "The Mindy Project," Mindy is a girl's girl (and coincidentally a "Girls" girl - see Twitter) if there ever was one. Lahiri is the star of her own Carrie Bradshaw-esque monologue, which is often said aloud, and often with charming disregard for the reality that surrounds her. In her romantic comedy of life, she's Meg Ryan...if Meg Ryan had a penchant for narrating her every thought and motivation. Well, you know, except for that time she ate at a diner. But I digress.
The 30th Annual PaleyFest aimed its spotlight on the recently renewed "The Mindy Project" and welcomed the cast and writers to dish on their new hit show, the cast's favorite rom-coms, and why Mindy, in all her forms, resonates so well with her audience.
On Dunder Mifflin:
*"Leaving 'The Office' was so hard," says Mindy and understandably so, after devoting eight years to the series.
*You WILL see Mindy reprise her role as Kelly on the series finale (airing Thurs. May 16), and she promises, "It's an amazing episode of television."
*Mindy says friend, former "Office" co-star, and current "Mindy Project" guest star BJ Novak is "a great friend to the show" and is Chris Messina's (Dr. Danny Castellano) favorite guest director.
*Mindy hilariously scolded Ed Weeks (Dr. Jeremy Reed) during the BJ Novak lovefest, asking, "Can we not refer to a group of episodes as 'The BJ Novak Episode?'" Ed countered, "The really good one, cause there was the guy from 'The Office' in it."
On Season 1 of "The Mindy Project":
*The series is set at an OBGYN practice because that was Mindy's mother's occupation. Also, Mindy noted, "It just seemed like a fun environment, and I get to interact a lot with women."
*Ike Barinholtz started out as a writer before taking the on-screen role of Morgan Tookers.
*The quirky (and catchy) theme song was composed by Jesse Novak, BJ's younger brother, and that's Mindy's voice you hear after some "hip-hop" embellishing!
*Wondering who says, "Go to bed!" during Mindy's production company credit? That'd be showrunner Matt Warburton!
*The show's aesthetic is noticeably bright and plucky, and character fashion, in particular, is a "really fun part of the job," says Mindy.
*Regarding Betsy (Zoe Jarman), Mindy says, "There's a naivete about her that is so funny and so appealing. I think that what's great about the character is that she just decided a long time ago that I was glamorous and great, and I think it's good for a lead to have someone who thinks that they're worth something." This analysis she compared to Dwight Schrute's affection for Michael Scott, despite Scott's multitude of character flaws and offenses.
*Ed Weeks' favorite line so far is Mindy clarifying to Dr. Castellano, "Best friend isn't a person, Danny. It's a tier." It's our favorite, too, Ed!
On Upcoming Episodes:
*Caution: Laughter Ahead! Three "30 Rock" writers have recently joined the staff!
*The episode "Sante Fe" is Mindy's favorite script of the season and will feature Morgan and Jeremy in a sweat lodge together. Naturally.
*More sexiness! Chris and Mark Duplass (that dude you've seen pop up in everything this year) will wrestle each other on the beach, wearing a "speedo and one-piece swimsuit" (this?), respectively.
"Stories that I could never push through [on 'The Office'], I can push through here. For a long time, I wanted to do an episode where Michael came in, threw his stuff at Pam like in The Devil Wears Prada. But now, I was like, 'Oh, I could just use it in my show.'" Stay tuned for a scene where Dr. Lahiri does just that - with Betsy as her target.
On Desired Guest Stars:
*Ike and Mindy divulged that they would've liked to had time this season to introduce Danny McBride as a guest star, playing Mindy's anti-stereotypical gay friend, not the "Sex and the City" sidekick type, who has a strong affection for Dr. Castellano.
*Chris (part of the Oscar-winning cast of Argo) wants Ben Affleck. Ike says, "I want to know that the cast of Argo watches our show!"
*Perhaps Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson) will one day appear as Jeremy's dad? Mindy thinks it'd be hilarious.
*Another suggestion per Mindy: "I always thought it would be a great coup to have Rainn Wilson on the show as like someone dapper and sexy. I want to be responsible for that...in my career."
(More) Panel Hilarity:
*In an adorable moment, Zoe said her comedic influences "have been friends in my life. Most of these funny friends that I had were girls, women. [They] made me want to be funny."
"No More Stealing Cars."
Mindy: "If your belly tattoo..if you can read it, you're in good shape."
Ike joked, "That's a real tattoo. That's how committed I am."
*Chris wants to see a Danny and Mindy kiss!
*Ike says the writers' room is evenly divided over the decision to add romance to the relationship.
The Cast Picks Their Favorite Rom-Com:
Beth: Roman Holiday
Zoe: Sense and Sensibility
Ed: Hannah and Her Sisters
Chris: Manhattan - "Another drama!" laments a disapproving Mindy on the men's Woody Allen selections.
Ike: Saw II - which earned him a forearm pinch from Mindy until he corrected to: Love, Actually. Girl was not having anyone disrespect such an important life question. (I feel the same way.)
Mindy: You've Got Mail, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and Much Ado About Nothing (the Kenneth Brannaugh version). She was quick to point out the coincidence that Chris acted in two of these favorite films. Aw!
*Author's note: I'm with Beth. It doesn't get better than Audrey Hepburn...or Gregory Peck, for that matter.
Ike: "She makes me laugh more than anyone. She's just like this little hurricane. I call her 'Hurri-Kaling.' The minute she starts talking to you, you're interested, you're in, you wanna hear what she's gonna say. There's literally never a dull moment."
Chris: "She's tireless, and our writers, they're tireless. They're the reason why we're coming back next season. It's been beautiful to watch."
"I don't get a lot of sleep. The thing is, when you're literally living your life's dream, you don't want to be sleeping. You want to be awake. I do feel tired, but every morning I wake up, and I'm like, 'Oh I'm like the star of my own show, and I'm still like...chubby and stuff.' Like how did this happen?"
*An audience member asked Mindy to relay her "worst date" story:
"I didn't date much. I was a nerd who dated nerds. I don't have those kind of sexy stories."
*Her advice for aspiring writers: "I never like partied or had boyfriends. I was just very focused. I've dated more people on this season of the show than I've even met men in real life. That was my lifestyle so that I could achieve...this. I was just really, really hardworking. I was very singular-minded." Now 33, the career-driven Mindy does want marriage and kids, too. She added, "Read and watch everything. I really have seen everything, and being really nerdy about that is helpful."
*Mindy is the first woman of Indian descent to star in her own television series. On this subject, she said, "I love it, and it's daunting, and it's frightening. That's when I get really jealous of the Danny McBrides and Steve Carell's...they just get to play Michael Scott." (As opposed to also shouldering the burden of representing "white males" as a demographic.) "So when I play this character, I sometimes think that I'm speaking for all Indian American women. I try not to rely on it or deny the fact that I'm Indian."
*The good news: she's writing a NEW BOOK! (Her first, "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)" came out in 2012.) The bad news: It won't be on the market for another 1.5 - 2 years. Mindy said (of course) what we were all thinking: "That's depressing."
For anyone hanging out without Mindy, add her to the email chain already. She's earned it, and I bet you she plays one kick ass game of "Celebrity."
See all of the hysterical panel photos in the Gallery, and watch the entire PaleyFest panel here, sponsored by Hulu Plus. "The Mindy Project" airs Tuesdays at 9:30pm on FOX.