We talked to Mindy Kaling about all of her feels, her new book and the best friend tier
On her show, The Mindy Project, Mindy Kaling’s alter ego, Mindy Lahiri, is gloriously flawed. She’s amazing, there’s no question about that, but she’s also amazingly flawed. She sometimes tries too hard. She can be loud and reactionary. She can be whiny. She has a penchant for giving up prematurely and collapsing dramatically on the floor when things aren’t going her way. Watch just one episode of The Mindy Project and you’ll see why Pixar tapped Kaling to voice Disgust, the sassiest of all the emotions, in its newest movie, Inside Out.
In real life, however, Mindy radiates the kind of warmth and kindness that make you want to tell her all of your secrets while crafting friendship bracelets. Kaling isn’t Lahiri. She speaks a little softer and, even though she has the kind of presence that makes her the center of attention, she never acts as though she is. She is, in short, the kind of person you want in your best friend tier (more on what that means later). I sat down with her at the Inside Out press junket in Los Angeles to discuss all of her feels (it’s a movie about emotions, after all), her new books (including the one she’s co-writing her longtime friend, BJ Novak) and what it takes to be her best friend.
HG: I saw the movie and I loved it, so congratulations on that. It’s so good.
MK: Aw, thank you.
HG: The movie deals, obviously, with emotions. What is your dominant emotion?
MK: I think that I am ruled largely by the emotions of joy and fear.
HG: Another really big part of the movie are the Personality Islands. What are some of your Personality Islands?
MK: I think my Personality Islands are… I definitely have a Goofball Island. I have a Role Model Island. I have um, like 4 p.m. Snacks Island, Insomnia Island, and um, yeah Anxious Thoughts Island.
HG: In the movie, Personality Islands are created by Core Memories. Not to put you too much on the spot, but can you think of a core memory that might have created one of your Islands?
MK: Sure and I just was gonna say that even the idea of Core Memories to me before I saw the movie, I think we’ve all sort of had the notion of that and I thought what was so brilliant about the movie was that it really put a name on it, because I didn’t have a name for that idea and now I do forever, which is so nice.
But a Core Memory that I always remember is my mom, who was an OBGYN, like my character on my show, was super busy when I was a kid. And so, whenever I could see her I just loved that time and she was a very kind of dashing, glamorous figure in my life. And I remember when I was probably two or three years old, she came back from like two days of being out on call, and she came back and she sat down in the kitchen and I was there. No one else was there, and it was that age when you’re just obsessed with having your mom to yourself, and I sat on her lap and she shared a jelly doughnut with me that she had picked up from a Dunkin’ Donuts and I remember this memory so vividly. Like, I’d never had one before and she was just having a snack, her first meal after two days of delivering babies, and that’s such a happy Core Memory for me.
HG: That’s a really cool one. I haven’t been able to think of much else since I saw the movie. I’ve been like, “Okay, what are my Islands? What are my Core Memories?”
MK: Good! I’m glad it had that effect on you.
HG: Yeah, definitely. And since we’re talking about you and your memories, you have a new book coming out. And I loved your first book. Our HelloGiggles readers loved your first book, so I’d love to talk to you a little about Why Not Me? if you don’t mind.
MK: Thank you. Of course.
HG: So, in your books, you share such awesome, personal stories. How do you decide what goes into the books and what memories you keep for yourself?
MK: Well, thank you, first of all, for asking me about it. I’m so excited about it and I’m so impatient because it’s still a couple more months [until it’s released]. It’s hard because I want to share stories with people because I want to be open. In my first book, I think because I was in my twenties when I was writing it, I felt like it was so important for people to like me. And now, now that I’m in my thirties, I think that I just I’m not as worried about people liking me and I really just want people to see me for who I am. And I think that in the [new] book, I’m a lot more open about things. It’s not like a tell-all or like a kiss-and-tell or anything, but I’m much more open about times that I’ve felt hurt or embarrassed or felt foolish and in a way that I don’t think I was ready to talk about in the first book.
HG: I also think it’s neat that both of your book titles are questions. Was that a conscious choice to make them questions or did it just happen that way?
MK: It wasn’t a conscious choice. The second book was so easy to name and the first one was so hard and now that I’m on that, I’m like, “Okay great. I’ve set a pattern for the rest of my books if I write any other books.”
HG: Speaking of other books, you’re writing a book with BJ Novak.
HG: I know it was brought up at BookCon and it was so new you didn’t have anything to share. Have you guys worked on it any more since then?
MK: We’re meeting this week just to hang out. I haven’t seen him since New York. I think we’ll talk a little bit more about the book. I have inadvertently made the book sound very mysterious when the truth is we just haven’t come up with anything yet, but we will. And the truth is — and you probably know this as a writer — good ideas come really fast. So I think we have some really, really great ideas of what we’re gonna do and hopefully the format of it will come kind of quickly.
HG: Are you excited to be co-writing? I know some writers love writing with other people and others kind of dread it in a way. Which one are you?
MK: We’ll see. I haven’t done it before. It’s gonna be really challenging to write a book with somebody else. I think the challenges are known by a lot of people; that’s why not that many people do it. So, it’s good. The good news is that both of us have really big personalities and neither of us are at all shy about voicing our opinion. So, I think that will be one of the fun parts about it.
HG: Cool! So, how did you decide to write a book together? You’ve obviously known each other for a long time. Is this something you’ve been talking about for a while?
MK: Really you know, it was BJ’s idea. He had it a couple months ago. You know, I never get to see him because of the show and because he’s so busy with his acting and his writing his books and stuff like that. So, for me I liked the idea simply because it would mean we would have to see each other because of a project. And I don’t like when too many months have gone by when I haven’t seen him.
HG: It’s amazing that you two are squeezing in another project because you are both so very busy.
MK: Yeah, you know I say this in my book that the…it’s the great thing about writing something like that and getting to see him is there’s almost no difference between an acquaintance and a friend. There’s a huge gulf of difference between a best friend and a friend. And so when you feel like your best friend, you haven’t seen him and it might be drifting and becoming more into that [friend/acquaintance zone], you’re like no, I won’t allow that to happen. So, I’m very excited to see him more, which will be nice.
HG: That’s actually a perfect segue to another question I had. You have a quote that our CEO, Sophia Rossi, loves and I know the first time I heard it on The Mindy Project, it really stuck with me and that’s that best friend isn’t a person, it’s a tier. So that seems like, for me, it would be an epiphany moment if I thought it, on my own — I wish I had thought it on my own — but when did you realize that and how did it affect how you look at your friendships?
MK: I think when you’re younger, it exists less because all of your friends are in one place and all of your friends go to the same school. When you get older and you move, after you graduate from college — I moved to New York and then I moved to LA — and all of your friends don’t take the same path, and so it becomes a necessity to make it a tier. One of my very best friends from freshman year of college lives in New York City and then I have great close friends who I’ve made in LA and then my other close friends live in Montana and Honolulu and so it has to become a tier because there’s just, as you get older you just have too many different [best friends], there’s like work and my past and my family friends and my childhood friends. So, it becomes a necessity because you don’t want to rank one above the other. They all contribute to your happiness.
HG: I know at BookCon you actually mentioned that you’re looking for new female friends because it’s such a hard role to fill. What do you look for in a best friend?
MK: I think straight-forwardness and kindness are two things that I find are the only important things.
HG: And what do you feel like you bring to the table as a best friend?
MK: I’m not sure. I’m still trying to figure that out. I have one of the best best friends of all time, my friend Jocelyn, and I think that… I think I’m fun. I think I’m fun and I think I love adventure and I love to plan things. I have one of those very retro, 6th grade personalities where I’m very Type A and I’m like, “from this time to this time we’re doing this,” and I like to maximize my time spent with people. I think people like someone who plans things. So I think that’s what I bring to the table.
HG: That’s amazing. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me.
MK: Thank you, I love HelloGiggles and I’m so glad you guys wanted to interview me!
(Image via here.)