In the new comedy Late Night, Mindy Kaling plays Molly Patel, an upstart writer hired onto the all-male staff of a struggling late night talk show. Emma Thompson is the beleaguered host, joke slinger and interviewer of said show, Tonight With Katherine Newbury.
In the spirit of the film's subject material — and since it's a rite of passage for any entertainer — we asked Kaling and Thompson about their very first late night television appearances. The two gamely played along, even if it meant revisiting some embarrassing and nerve-racking moments — not to mention questionable fashion selections (watch above).
For Kaling, it was a 2007 appearance on Late Night With Conan O'Brien.
"I was so scared," Kaling recounted. "I was so nervous. I don't lift my arms up, but I completely sweated through the side of my dress."
It was a dress Kaling, 39, believed she borrowed from the costume department at The Office, the NBC sitcom that put her on the map in 2005. "I didn't know yet that you could hire a stylist and do all of that."
The appearance was a homecoming of sorts for Kaling. She was an intern at Conan in college while she was 19 — which the gregarious host brought up during the interview. But Kaling downplayed the "reunion" in retrospect. "When you're an intern on Conan, you're like the lowest of the low. No one looks at you, you're just bringing papers to people. But then later when I was on [as a guest], it was like this avuncular thing, like, 'Oh we're an old family! Reunion! I remember you when…' Which was nice but not true."
Thompson's first appearance on a late night interview couch dated a little further back. "It was 1875," she joked.
"I was doing the publicity for Howard's End, and I was going on around on basically buses, around America with a little suitcase," said the Brit of her 1992 stateside promotional tour.
"So I appeared on Johnny Carson dressed like a geography teacher. I was wearing some sort of flat pinny [dress] and slightly corrective [shoes].
"And I was scared. I was really scared."
Thompson likely gained confidence in a hurry. Howard's End, the acclaimed Merchant Ivory production that teamed her with Anthony Hopkins, won her a Best Actress Academy Award, her first of two wins and four nominations.
Watch Mindy Kaling talk about how being a diversity hire on The Office inspired the film:
Late Night is now in theaters. Visit Fandango for showtimes and ticket information.
Read more on Yahoo Entertainment:
Want daily pop culture news delivered to your inbox? Sign up here for Yahoo Entertainment & Lifestyle's newsletter.