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Mindy Kaling dishes on diversity, discipline and motherhood

Mindy Kaling’s childhood did not come with a laugh track.

In fact, a good portion of it was set in the back rooms of her mother’s OB-GYN office where she was bored out of her mind.

“There I was, this chubby Indian girl who had already finished her homework and now was just sitting there,” said actress-writer-producer Kaling, 39. “Rooms of ladies getting exams, and Mom would fly by, throw me a few sheets of paper and say, ‘If you’re bored, write something!’ ”

She has never stopped writing, including her own series, “The Mindy Project,” and her new, critically acclaimed film “Late Night,” which she wrote and produced.

The film stars Emma Thompson as fading, late-night TV host Katherine Newbury, who must deal with Molly Patel (Kaling), a go-get-’em chemical-plant worker who dreams of working in TV. She lands a job writing cutting-edge jokes and skits, and infuses a failing late-night show with a jolt of necessary creativity.

Kaling isn’t content with just one summer project. She is also one of the creators of the remake of “Four Weddings and a Funeral” for Hulu, a 10-episode series based on the 1994 film.

By far, her biggest project is as Mom to daughter Katherine, who turns 2 in December.

Review-Journal: What is a great Sunday for you as a new mom?

Mindy Kaling: I’m just home, which is wonderful. I just love being a mom — and my daughter is the love of my life. She’s so much fun. I never thought of myself as maternal, but I am. Your heart expands. Just listening to her laugh is everything I want every single day. By the way, my daughter is such an easy laugh. It’s so much harder to get a movie audience to laugh than it is for me to get my daughter to laugh.

Did you dream of a career in film and on TV?

When I was younger, I never saw myself in movies. I was this nerdy, chubby Indian girl who didn’t see herself on the big screen kissing the guy at the end. I’m so thankful that in 2019, you don’t have to look like one type to find love on TV.

Are you disciplined as a writer?

I have absolutely no discipline. I’m a writer who hates writing, as many writers do. But I have a child, so there is that worry called: Can I provide for her? That makes me want to write. A thing called deadlines also makes you want to finish. There is nothing romantic for me like the joy of writing. But in the case of this movie, it was a very fun thing to write because I loved all the characters. It felt too juicy and delicious not to see it through.

Is the main character in “Late Night” based on any real-life late-night host?

It’s a real jumble because when it comes to the hosts of talk shows, I admire them all. I grew up loving Conan. I love Seth Meyers now because of his political commentary. James Corden has revitalized late night with “Carpool Karaoke.”

Is it true that you wrote the “Late Night” role for Emma Thompson?

I did. I was writing this funny, workplace comedy like “Working Girl,” and she was the only one for me. Any person will tell you that the single stupidest thing you can do as a writer is write a movie for only one person. That’s what I did, and luckily, she said yes. And she just killed it.

You’ve said the film reflects how you felt like an outsider in Hollywood.

I grew up this shy girl with absolutely no connections in Hollywood. To me, this movie is really about being a fan. It’s about being an outsider looking in and wanting something so badly, but at the same time feeling so far away from it. The funny thing is no matter how successful I might be, I still wake up feeling like that person on the outside looking in.

Was it tough to break in?

Tough, but not impossible. It was amazing to eventually see someone who looked like me on the small screen in her own show because you didn’t see that before.

What was your favorite part of doing “The Mindy Project?”

I loved that series because I played a woman with flaws, but she was real and she kept trying and trying. That’s every single woman I know.

Are you encouraged by recent strides when it comes to diversity in Hollywood?

When I first started at “The Office,” I was the only female writer and the only writer of color. Now, that would be unheard of on a show, partly because … you could get sued for that. Fear of shame is the thing that leads the way a lot of times in Hollywood. It has worked. I rarely see a writers’ room now that’s not at least 40 percent women, and a lot of diverse faces are in there, too, which is a real win.

Is it safe to say you’re a role model for young women now?

I’m often asked by young women for advice and say, “Buy a toilet plunger. Don’t wait until you need a plunger to buy a plunger.” Other than that, just have insane confidence in yourself, even if it’s not real. It will feel real one day if you root for yourself long enough.

Any advice for recent grads?

I’ve had to prove myself through my work. Your opinions might be valid, but often no one wants to hear them from you when you’re first starting out. You have to earn that right by showing you can do the work. It’s not easy advice, but it’s advice that has worked for me. Otherwise, if you want good life advice, someone once told me to only order one pancake. You rarely want to eat more than one pancake, which is very true.

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