Before she was the star of and brains behind her own show, The Mindy Project, and before she had the opportunity to put women of color at the helm of projects like Late Night, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and Never Have I Ever, Mindy Kaling said she almost didn’t get credit for one of her biggest projects to date: The Office. Kaling produced, wrote, and starred in the sitcom, but she said the Emmys tried to invalidate her work on the show.
In an October 9th interview with ELLE Magazine, Kaling opened up about that experience, what it’s like to tackle race and gender inequality in her media projects, and how her ability to seamlessly do so has made her a role model for women and people of color.
Soon after Kaling hopped on The Office as a producer, after being hired at age 24 to write for the hit Steve Carrell-led sitcom, the show was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series. However, this great news was muddled by the Television Academy, which organizes the awards show. Kaling said the Academy told her she would have to be cut from the producer list because there were simply too many producers on the show.
In doing so, the Television Academy would have thwarted Kaling’s eligibility for receiving an Emmy for her work—the same work her white, male cohorts were being awarded for.
This extra-credit assignment did result in Kaling’s name being added back to the producer list. But The Office ultimately did not win the Emmy.
After her ELLE interview went live, the Television Academy responded via The Los Angeles Times, but Kaling wasn’t having it.
The spokesperson added that the justification process is no longer required, though the Academy continues to vet consulting-producer credits to make sure everyone on the list is actually a functioning producer.
However, this response did not sit right with Kaling.
“I *was* singled out,” Kaling tweeted on October 9th. “There were other Office writer-performer-producers who were NOT cut from the list. Just me. The most junior person, and woman of color. Easiest to dismiss.”
Respectfully, the Academy’s statement doesn’t make any sense. I *was* singled out. There were other Office writer-performer-producers who were NOT cut from the list. Just me. The most junior person, and woman of color. Easiest to dismiss. Just sayin’. https://t.co/frT2pQUfLF— Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling) October 9, 2019
She followed up by writing that she never wanted to bring up this incident. Not only was The Office a shining moment in Kaling’s life, but “who would want to have an adversarial relationship with the Academy, who has the ongoing power to enhance our careers with awards?” she wrote.
I’ve never wanted to bring up that incident because The Office was one of the greatest creative experiences of my life, and who would want to have an adversarial relationship with the Academy, who has the ongoing power to enhance our careers with awards? (1)— Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling) October 9, 2019
(2) But I worked so hard and it was humiliating. I had written so many episodes, put in so much time in the editing room, just to have the Academy discard it because they couldn’t fathom I was capable of doing it all. Thankfully I was rescued by my friends, the other producers.— Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling) October 9, 2019
(3) The point is, we shouldn’t have be bailed out because of the kindness our more powerful white male colleagues. Not mentioning it seemed like glossing over my story. This was like ten years ago. Maybe it wouldn’t happen now. But it happened to me.— Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling) October 9, 2019
As one last attempt to offer an opportunity for the Academy to right its wrongdoing, Kaling fired off a final tweet: “Why not say ‘years ago we prevented a deserving woman of color from getting credit for her accomplishments. We’re sorry and it would never happen now?'”
Hey, @TelevisionAcad! I have been a proud member for years. I was the 1st woman of color nominated for writing a comedy script. Why not say “years ago we prevented a deserving woman of color from getting credit for her accomplishments. We’re sorry and it would never happen now.”?— Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling) October 10, 2019
The Academy has yet to respond to Kaling’s call-out. But many others who stand with her have, including Jameela Jamil and Nina Garcia.
Yes! Double down on your truth. Good for you!— Jameela Jamil 🌈 (@jameelajamil) October 10, 2019
Regardless of how successful she is, Kaling feels she will always deal with some amount of racism and sexism. “It really doesn’t matter how much money I have,” she says. “I’m treated badly with enough regularity that it keeps me humble.” https://t.co/FXd7zTuGoO— Nina Garcia (@ninagarcia) October 9, 2019
It shows an amazing amount of strength and dedication that you followed through with the process and knew your worth. You are who you are because you kept going. Thank you for fighting to be seen and heard so that we can continue to hear your voice and laugh with your stories.— Mary (@stringoflightsx) October 9, 2019
“yeah, i have a lot of questions. number one: how dare you?”https://t.co/3ChNYK8XsR— Gabby Fernandez (@gabbfern) October 9, 2019
We’ll be waiting to see if and how the Television Academy chooses to respond to Kaling, and we will continue to stand by our role model every step of the way.