When Mindy Kaling was pregnant with her first child, Katherine a.k.a “Kit,” in 2017, it was our very own Oprah who inadvertently broke the news. After Kaling casually mentioned to Oprah and Reese Witherspoon that she was expecting—while standing in the press line at Disney’s D23 expo for A Wrinkle in Time, which they had worked on together—Lady O happened to be the person to enthusiastically report the tidbit during an interview with People.
“I have to say, that was one of the most glamorous baby announcements," Mindy Kaling jokes to OprahMag.com. "Who else gets to say that Oprah Winfrey confirmed your existence? My daughter will always know that.”
Oprah made up for it in true O fashion by sending Katherine a "huge, gorgeous book shelf of books," according to Kaling.
However, when Kaling welcomed her second child—her son, Spencer—in September, she managed to keep the birth to herself.
When I chatted with the mother-of-two on Zoom, I ever so cooly began the conversation by saying that I go to bed with her every night. It's true...if off-putting. Fortunately, she took it in stride, responding, "I'm not exactly sure what that means, but I love it." I explained that re-watching The Mindy Project (which she co-wrote and starred in) has become a self-soothing pastime, and lately I've been falling asleep with the audio version of her latest book, Nothing Like I Imagined, in my AirPods.
It's something Kaling, who has been open about grappling with loneliness, could fully relate to. In fact, pop culture, has been one of her key coping mechanisms during quarantine, too.
"The pandemic has been so terrible for so many reasons, and one of the most overlooked reasons is mental health, and people who really thrive and survive on their interactions with their friends and families, and being robbed of them, particularly elderly people," she explains. Kaling, who lost her mom to cancer in 2012, says, "My dad is 75 and he luckily has my stepmom and they're together, but it’s really hard for him not to see his grandchildren, and for me, you know, I’m not married, I’m a single mom, and I’ve always been someone who loves pop culture, loves TV, loves film...but this year it really helped me survive."
She adds: "Watching Queen’s Gambit, catching up on old episodes of 30 Rock... I think those are the kind of things that make you feel connected with the world— when you can laugh and get pulled in with someone. Even Twitter. Everyone has their opinion about Twitter, but that makes me feel more connected too, even though I’m a single woman. I love my social media, I love my TV, even though I was raised to think TV was terrible and then, you know, I became a TV writer. So, with Never Have I Ever, and other shows I’m working on, if I can provide content for someone who feels lonely or upset, and that’s their outlet for it, that is to me, a great win."
The second season of her thoughtful, coming-of-age Netflix series Never Have I Ever, which is on hiatus from filming due to COVID-19 restrictions in California, is just one of the projects Kaling has brewing.
Along with her friend, Brookyln Nine-Nine creator, Dan Goor, she wrote a comedy that she'll also star in with Priyanka Chopra-Jonas. "It’s a great role for her. People might not know how funny Priyanka is," Kaling says of the yet-to-be-named wedding-themed flick that will ultimately be shot in India.
As for the hotly anticipated Legally Blonde 3? She and Goor just finished their first draft and soon "we'll let Reese read it, so hopefully she'll like it!" she says.
Kaling, who cut her teeth as a writer on The Office, starting in 2005, is also not opposed to being involved in a reboot of that, which showrunner Greg Daniels told Collider is "not impossible," provided he's involved. But the ongoing Pam and Jim level of will they won't they's regarding a revival comes as a bit of a surprise to Kaling, who also starred as the beloved Kelly Kapoor.
"That’s always news to me. I feel like I always hear about Office reboot news when I’m doing interviews. I loved working on that show. It was the way I got into the business, and I feel so loyal to Steve (Carrell) and to Greg Daniels, and if I knew Steve and Greg were going to be involved, I would 100 percent come back and help in any way I could."
The breezy Zoom concluded with some extra candor from the the 41-year-old multi-hyphenate—who partnered with Campbell's for their Well Yes! Soups campaign—about an ever-present topic we've all been bombarded with since resolution messaging is top of mind: the "quarantine 15."
Kaling, who is known for promoting positivity and empowerment of all kinds, went viral over the summer of 2019 when she posted a bikini pic with the caption, "IDK who needs to hear this but...WEAR A BIKINI IF YOU WANT TO WEAR A BIKINI. You don't have to be a size 0."
But, despite her pervasive optimism (mixed, of course, with her signature dry wit), she was open about the fact that she anxious to shoot her Vogue India December cover when she was less than two months postpartum.
"I had my baby during quarantine, so my 'quarantine 15' was like a quarantine 30. Whenever I hear someone just put on 15 pounds during the quarantine, I’m amazed and jealous of them. And, I love that cover, and I felt I looked really beautiful, but I was nervous about it because we shot it six weeks after I gave birth, and unlike my first pregnancy where I was in the public eye, I was shooting my show, I was promoting A Wrinkle in Time, this one I didn’t have any of those things, so I could comfortably put on weight," she says.
One of the silver linings, she says, is "Because I wasn’t on camera, I could kind of lose weight and get into my regular eating patterns at my own pace. One of the really nice things about partnering with Well Yes! is that it’s this incredibly nutritious and nourishing thing that I can eat that’s really easy, that helps me count my calories in a healthy way, and I’ve been able to phase in a healthier lifestyle myself with the help of the soup, so it’s been much better this time," she confides while sipping on a butternut squash bisque.
"I haven’t had that immediate pressure of, hey, you have to be in a movie and be back on your TV show in 6 weeks, so this has been a lot more casual and I feel like everyone is doing it. Everyone’s looking to shed their pandemic 15, 30...whatever so I feel like I’m in a broader group."
As a member of that broader group—mostly because I'll subscribe to anything Kaling espouses—I'll remember these words as she's cooing in my ears tonight.
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