- Vera Mindy Chokalingam
June 24, 1979 (age 41)
- Comedian, Actor, Screenwriter, Television Producer, Television Director
- Swati Roysircar, Avu Kaling
Vera Mindy Chokalingam (born June 24, 1979), known professionally as Mindy Kaling, is an American actress, comedian and writer.
Kaling is known for creating, writing, producing and starring in the Fox/Hulu sitcom The Mindy Project (2012–17). She is also known for her work on the NBC sitcom The Office (2005–13), where she portrayed the character Kelly Kapoor. In addition to acting on the show, she was a writer, executive producer, and occasional director throughout most of the series' run. Awards for her work on The Office include a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series in 2010. In 2017, NBC ordered Champions, where Kaling is a co-creator, writer, and producer. She will have a reoccurring guest role on the show, which premiered Thursday, March 8, 2018 on NBC.
In addition to her work on film and television, Kaling has written two New York Times best-selling memoirs, titled Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) and Why Not Me?.
Vera Mindy Chokalingam was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to father Avu Chokalingam, an architect, and mother Swati Chokalingam, an obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN). Kaling's parents are from India, and met while working at the same hospital in Nigeria. Her father, of Tamil heritage, was overseeing the building of a wing of the hospital, and her mother, a Bengali, was working as an OB/GYN. The family immigrated to the United States in 1979, the same year Kaling was born. Kaling's mother died of pancreatic cancer in 2012. Kaling has one sibling, a brother, Vijay Jojo Chokalingam (an educational consultant).
Kaling has said she has never been called Vera, her first name, but has been referred to as Mindy since her mother was pregnant with her while her parents were living in Nigeria. They were already planning to move to the United States and wanted, Kaling said, a "cute American name" for their daughter, and liked the name Mindy from the TV show Mork & Mindy. The name Vera is, according to Kaling, the name of the "incarnation of a Hindu goddess."
Kaling graduated from Buckingham Browne & Nichols, a private school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1997. The following year, she entered Dartmouth College, where she was a member of the improvisational comedy troupe The Dog Day Players and the a cappella group The Rockapellas, was the creator of the comic strip Badly Drawn Girl in The Dartmouth (the college's daily newspaper), and was a writer for the Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern (the college's humor magazine).
Kaling graduated from Dartmouth in 2001 with a bachelor's degree in playwriting. She was a classics major for much of college and studied Latin, a subject she has been learning since the seventh grade.
While a 19-year-old sophomore at Dartmouth, Kaling was an intern on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Kaling said she was a terrible intern, "less of a 'make copies' intern and more of a 'stalk Conan' intern." Kaling has said that she never saw a family like hers on TV, which gave her a dual perspective she uses in her writing. She thinks the "everyone against me mentality" is what she learned as a child of immigrants. She named her Mindy Project character Mindy Lahiri after author Jhumpa Lahiri.
After college, Kaling moved to Brooklyn, New York. Kaling said one of her worst job experiences was as a production assistant for three months on the Crossing Over With John Edward psychic show. She described it as "depressing." During this same time, Kaling performed stand-up comedy.
Kaling devised her stage name after discovering while doing stand-up comedy that emcees would have trouble pronouncing her last name, Chokalingam, and sometimes made jokes about it. She toured solo as well as with Craig Robinson before he was on The Office.
In August 2002, Kaling portrayed Ben Affleck in an off-Broadway play called Matt & Ben, which she co-wrote with her best friend from college, Brenda Withers—who played Matt Damon. The play was named one of Time magazine's "Top Ten Theatrical Events of The Year" and was "a surprise hit" at the 2002 New York International Fringe Festival. Initially, Withers and Kaling had, "for their own entertainment, mockingly pretend to be the best friends Matt Damon and Ben Affleck; that pretending spawned Matt & Ben, the goofy play that reimagined how Damon and Affleck came to write the movie Good Will Hunting."
Kaling wrote a blog, Things I've Bought That I Love, which reemerged on her website on September 29, 2011. The blog was written under the name Mindy Ephron, "a name Kaling chose because she was amused by the idea of her 20-something Indian-American self as a long-lost Ephron sister."
In 2004, when The Office producer Greg Daniels was working to adapt The Office from the BBC TV series of the same name, he hired Kaling as a writer-performer after reading a spec script she wrote. He said, "She's very original ... If anything feels phony or lazy or passé, she’ll pounce on it."
When Kaling joined The Office, she was 24 years old and was the only woman on a staff of eight. She took on the role of character Kelly Kapoor, debuting in the series’s second episode, "Diversity Day."
In a 2007 interview with The A.V. Club, she stated that Kelly is "an exaggerated version of what I think the upper-level writers believe my personality is."
Kaling directed The Office webisodes The 3rd Floor. She directed the Season 6 episode titled "Body Language," which marked her television directorial debut. Her contract was set to expire at the end of Season 7. On September 15, 2011, she signed a new contract to stay with the show for Season 8 and was promoted to full executive producer. Her Universal Television contract included a development deal for a new show (eventually titled The Mindy Project), in which she appears as an actress and contributes as a writer.
Kaling and her fellow writers and producers of The Office were nominated five consecutive times for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series. In 2010, she received a nomination for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series with Daniels for the episode, "Niagara."
The Mindy Project
In 2012, Kaling pitched a single-camera comedy to Fox called The Mindy Project, which Kaling wrote and produced. Fox began airing the series in 2012.
Kaling notes that she is sometimes described as a pioneer, as there are not yet very many Indian-American women on television. Fox canceled the series in May 2015 but was later picked up by Hulu for a 26-episode fourth season and a 16-episode fifth season. In March 2017, Kaling announced that the show's sixth season, due to air starting September 2017, would be the last. The series concluded on 14 November 2017.
Upcoming comedy series
In November 2016, ABC Studios announced that Kaling and Ed Weeks, a co-star of The Mindy Project, would be executive producers of an ABC network comedy series written by Weeks and Hannah Mackay. The series centers on liberal lesbian couple Laurel and Marisa who move with their teenage son to Laurel's conservative hometown in Kansas.
Kaling has a close friendship with B.J. Novak, whom she met through writing for The Office. The two dated on and off while writing and acting on the show, sometimes mirroring the on-again, off-again nature of the relationship between their respective characters Ryan Howard and Kelly Kapoor. Novak served as a consulting producer for Season 1 of The Mindy Project, and has appeared on the show four times. His brother Jesse composes the music for The Mindy Project.
In 2012, Kaling was included in the Time 100 list of influential people. In 2014, she was named one of Glamour magazine's Women of the Year.
Kaling is a 1% owner of Swansea City A.F.C., a football team based in Swansea, Wales.
On December 15, 2017, Kaling gave birth to her first child, daughter Katherine. Kaling has not revealed the identity of the baby's father and at the time of her pregnancy was not romantically linked to anyone publicly.