Beyond Kelly Kapoor: Mindy Kaling

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Courtesy of NBC

Just over seven years ago, Kelly Kapoor, our favorite Dunder Mifflin customer service rep, (questionably) ran off with Ryan Howard, which was B-A-N-A-N-A-S. Expertly portrayed by Mindy Kaling, Kelly brought a lot to the Scranton DM branch: how to talk smack, the latest celebrity gossip, a vast supply of quotable moments, and enthusiasm for her job and fellow coworkers. While we love Kaling as Kelly Kapoor, she has a number of noteworthy successes beyond The Office, and below are a few of our favorite Mindy Kaling projects.

The Mindy Project (2012-2017)

Courtesy of Hulu

After a successful run on The Office, Kaling went on to create The Mindy Project, where she plays Dr. Mindy Lahiri, an OB/GYN based in New York City. The series follows Dr. Lahiri as she balances her professional and personal life, while also surrounded by an eccentric group of co-workers.

I love this show for several reasons, but the main one is because it’s generally a relaxed, but engaging and amusing show with an endless supply of laugh-out-loud moments. The main cast works in perfect harmony with one another, creating unique characters who somehow manage to complement each other despite their differences. Along with the humor, there are also more emotional scenes and episodes that range from happy to occasionally heartbreaking. It’s one of my go-to comfort shows and a definite must watch when you need to take a break from the madness of real life.

All seasons of The Mindy Project are streaming on Hulu.

A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

Courtesy of Disney

One of my favorite movies Kaling has acted in is Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time. The film is based on the Madeleine L’Engle book of the same name. It follows Meg Murry, her brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin as they embark on a quest to find Meg and Charles Wallace’s father. To do so, three mysterious beings – Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit – send the children on a journey that spans the universe to find him.

Kaling plays Mrs. Who, and one of the character’s trademarks is the way she communicates with others, which is through famous quotations, usually from scholars, philosophers, etc. However, Kaling’s version offers a modernized take, as she quotes current pop culture icons. Between the updated communication style and Kaling’s performance, Mrs. Who is a character who relates more closely to Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin, and the film’s main audience. Kaling also has great chemistry with the rest of the cast and they bring these classic characters fully to life.

Ocean’s 8 (2018)

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Following her release from prison, Debbie Ocean (the younger sister of Danny Ocean) meets with her former partner, Lou, to convince her to take part of a new heist Debbie planned while she was in jail. Together the duo assembles a team whose goal is to steal a $150 million necklace from the Met Gala, using unsuspecting actress and Met co-host Daphne Kluger to do so.

Kaling plays Amita, a jewelry maker eager to move out of her mother’s house. Amita brings a valuable skill set to the team, allowing them to pull off a heist even bigger than the others realized. Though the role is more minor in nature, Kaling still brings humor to the screen in a memorable way. She also meshes well with the rest of the cast.

Inside Out (2015)

Courtesy of Pixar/Disney

After 11-year-old Riley is pulled out of her comfortable life in Minnesota and moved to San Francisco, she struggles to adapt to the change, and her emotions – Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger – do their best to help Riley navigate her new life.

Kaling lends her voice talents for this one, stepping into the role of Disgust. Like everything else she does, Kaling is able to bring the same wonderful and hilarious performance to the screen, even if it’s just her voice. She perfectly emulates Disgust’s, well … disgust with Riley’s (and therefore her) new life, bringing just the right amount of attitude needed for the character. She’s also able to convey Disgust’s worry and other emotions (emotions who have emotions? Where does it end?!) when Joy isn’t around to keep headquarters in check.

Late Night (2019)

Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Late Night primarily focuses on Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson), a comedy legend and late-night talk show host of Tonight with Katherine Newbury, who is in danger of losing her show for good. Enter Molly Patel (Kaling), a new writer who helps Katherine turn her show around, despite the many obstacles she encounters.

Produced and written by Kaling, Late Night is a captivating film that strikes the perfect balance between humor and heavier emotions. The cast offers great performances all around and works well together to bring a rounded set of characters to life, each with their own distinct brand of humor to keep things interesting. Kaling’s writing and Nisha Ganatra’s directing complement each other well, creating a feel-good movie you won’t want to miss.

Stream Late Night now on Amazon Prime Video. You can read our full review of Late Night here.

While many know Kaling for her acting, she’s also an accomplished writer and producer for television. She wrote several episodes of The Office, including the episode “The Injury” where Michael burns his foot on a George Foreman grill, both parts of “Niagara,” “Michael’s Last Dundies,” and many more hilarious episodes. She is a creator and producer for the Netflix original Never Have I Ever (which was renewed for a second season) alongside Lang Fisher, creator and producer for the Hulu original Four Weddings and a Funeral, and creator and executive producer for NBC’s Champions.

Beyond the screen, Kaling has written two memoirs: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (originally published in 2011) and Why Not Me, published in 2015. In both books, Kaling includes personal anecdotes from growing up, her college days, work, and other thoughts about life. Career wise, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? tracks her career through The Office. Why Not Me focuses more on The Mindy Project and the experience of creating her own show. She writes with a natural humor, bringing the laughs she’s well-known for through jokes and her general writing style. The books are must-reads and a relaxing way to spend the day.

Kaling currently has two confirmed upcoming projects. First, she recently announced that she will release an essay collection in partnership with Amazon Publishing and Amazon Original Stories. The collection will release on October 6. She will also co-write the screenplay for the upcoming Legally Blonde 3 with Dan Goor (creator of Brooklyn Nine-Nine), and the pair are sure to bring a great script to the table. Kaling also continues to advocate for South Asian representation in media, highlighting and uplifting South Asian activists on her social media accounts.

You can follow Kaling on Twitter and Instagram. Find her full filmography on her IMDb page.

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By Julia
Julia is a writer/editor/content assistant for Nerds who joined the team in 2019.
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