Mindy Kaling got to experience what many stand-up comics trying to make in New York City hopes for: she went from telling jokes on stage to joining the writers’ room for a hit TV show and having a supporting role in it at just 25 years old. Besides having plenty of iconic one-liners as Kelly Kapoor, Kaling is also responsible for writing some of The Office’s biggest episodes, including “The Dundies” and “Secret Santa.” But turns out that writing for The Office wasn’t always as pleasant as it may seem.
During a recent appearance on Good Morning America, Kaling recalled the hurtful experience of when a fellow writer—who also played a character on the show—suggested that their character should tell Kelly to lose 15 pounds. “I remember thinking ‘I’m already someone who is getting up before a call time at 6:30 a.m. to go to the gym to like, do the elliptical for 45 minutes. You know, like, this is my greatest insecurity and someone just called it out,” she said. “When that moment happened, it was so huge to me, and it was one of those things where you can’t express anger and hurt in a room like that. But I think what a lot of writers do—and, in fact, I do—is take the truth, put it in a new situation, and then have yourself react in the way that you wish you had.”
Kaling ended up using that moment in her own show, The Mindy Project. She has Chris Messina’s character Danny tell her character that she needs to lose 15 pounds and the she promptly challenges him. Kaling also points out that with The Mindy Project, she got to show viewers that average-sized women can be protagonists and be desired onscreen—something that shouldn’t feel revolutionary at this point but is still rare.
“If you were really thin, you could be the lead. Otherwise, you had to be like 250 pounds, and you had to be the slapstick comic relief,” Kaling points out. “But what was crazy, what was left out, is just like this range of people, which is like a majority of American women. People who aren’t thin fall in love and have children. You know, a lot of this country is that, and we never get to see it because we sort of underestimate our audiences, that they’re like ‘No, no, no, we must only see like the thinnest of the thin fall in love’ and that’s been the culture.”