Mindy Kaling is optimistic about life. Got a problem with that?
Kaling's sunny — yet clear-eyed — view is on display in her film "Late Night," in which she stars opposite Emma Thompson, and in the series she created "Four Weddings and a Funeral," based on the 1994 movie, streaming on Hulu. Both projects are trademark Kaling: witty and nuanced, and with an embrace of inclusivity.
She and fellow "Four Weddings" executive producer Tracey Wigfield talked about their work.
There are many dark, dystopian shows on TV and more to come. Are you swimming against the tide?
Kaling: At this point, "Four Weddings" is almost counterprogramming. The issue is that writers love to write really dark stuff because it's awards-y, and actors like to disappear into those roles because they're awards-y. If you look at the Oscars, it's never the finest comic performance of the year. There are sophisticated actors who know that comedy is harder than drama, and really want to do it. And we just loved this material and we want to discover new talent.
It's not like we don't get into serious issues in "Four Weddings," like there's a scene when the two British Pakistani men are being harassed at a club and they call them terrorists. So it's not like we don't touch on things that are actually affecting people, particularly minority people in London and the United States, except that our take on it is one of hope.
You feature characters whose ethnicity differs from the white Englishman played by Hugh Grant in the film. How do you change a property and keep its appeal for fans of the original?
Kaling: Inclusion in terms of casting is only good if people actually watch the show. So that was one of the things about doing this under the umbrella of [the film's screenwriter] Richard Curtis' world, as we thought it would invite people who might not necessarily watch a show about ...
Wigfield: A [British] Pakistani family and an African American girl.
Kaling: Yes. So that was one of the things we had going for it, that people love the original movie. But listen, it's always hard. We're both female comedy writers and there are things that anger us politically, but I don't want to watch a show that's polemical and angry. I want a show that is funny and great, and then I leave it maybe thinking, "Oh, I like to see people that look like that falling in love."
You two exemplify women's progress in the entertainment industry, with a mix of impressive writing and producing credits including "The Office" for Mindy, "The Mindy Project" and "Four Weddings" for both of you, and "30 Rock" and "Great News" for Tracey. What do you see as the next big hurdle?
Wigfield: Even in the last 15 years of my career, I now know so many more killer female comedy writers I would put on a [writing] staff in a second. But that jump we need to make is that it's still mostly guys creating shows. We have to make that jump where we're not just great writers, great supporting players, we're pitching things that are getting on the air, staying on the air, running them ourselves and being successful.
Kaling: We've had a lot of champions who were women. I can't speak for all ... but the experience I've had with the women I've worked with has been great.