And she’s starting with her reboot of Four Weddings and a Funeral.
Let’s get the statistics out of the way right at the top, shall we?
About one in 10 couples who live together in the UK are interracial, a figure up 35% since the last British census in 2001. There are almost one million mixed race children being raised by interracial parents across the country. There’s even an interracial married couple living in cosy domesticity in Kensington Palace as we speak. (That’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, for those of you in the cheap seats.)
The numbers are about the same over the pond in the US and are particularly high among newlyweds: one in every six new marriages were interracial in the States in 2015.
But this reality for so many people – including myself, the product of an interracial marriage – is not represented nearly enough on screen. There aren’t even interracial emojis, although a campaign spearheaded by Tinder in February sought to redress that.
Mindy Kaling wants to change all that. As part of her Hulu reboot of Four Weddings and a Funeral, Kaling is in the process of casting a diverse set of leads that include an African American woman and a British Pakistani man.
“There are many, many millions of people who would be very interested in seeing two good looking people who aren’t traditionally portrayed on TV as in falling in love,” she told Variety today. “And as someone who’s been in exclusively interracial romances, I think it’s fun to write for them.”
Kaling was quick to stress that her fresh perspective on the romantic comedy genre “isn’t a ‘charity’ project”, it’s about reflecting a diverse reality that hits close to home.
“It’s been very interesting to me that it’s considered radical now to do an international casting call for funny, good-looking people in their late 20s and people come up to me and saying ‘Thank you for writing this role for me’,” Kaling said.
“The thing is, this isn’t a ‘charity’ project. Everyone is smoking hot, and the stories are juicy.”
Kaling infused mixed race relationships into the DNA of her sitcom The Mindy Project from its inception, and has always acted in interracial partnerships onscreen – most notably on The Office with her on-again-off-again partner Ryan (BJ Novak, with whom Kaling had an on-again-off-again relationship in real life).
She’s been crusading for this for years. And we have to thank her, in part, for the recent iterations of onscreen interracial relationships like June and Luke (Elisabeth Moss and OT Fagbenle) in The Handmaid’s Tale. Or Jessica and Luke (Krysten Ritter and Mike Colter) in Jessica Jones. Or even Nicky and Jess (Will Smith and Margot Robbie) in the criminally underrated movie Focus.
These interracial romances are presented without commentary, as a simple fact of modern life.
Representation isn’t the only battle that Kaling is fighting at the moment. She’s also pushing for pay parity and greater diversity among crews behind the camera.
“I’ve seen an enormous amount of change,” she told Variety about closing the gender pay gap in Hollywood. “I’m noticing that even in hiring that before you used to have to convince people, ‘Hey the crew need to be like 50% diverse in some way’ or ‘This show needs to reflect diversity.’
“It used to be convincing people, and now you don’t have to convince people. They know. I don’t know whether it’s fear of being shamed publicly or litigation, but whatever it is, it’s working.”
The change has been a long time coming, she adds, but it’s happening much more quickly than she anticipated.
“Even just transparency of wages, it’s like, whoa, it won’t happen in my daughter’s lifetime. It’ll be in my lifetime,” she said. “I might have equal pay parity to other white male showrunners who’ve created as many shows as I have.”
If anyone has earned it, it’s Mindy.