Mindy Kaling is booked and busy. During quarantine, the actress, writer, and producer released her Netflix comedy Never Have I Ever (and scored a season 2, which is shooting now); announced an adaptation of Jennifer Weiner’s novel Good in Bed, which she’ll produce and star in; and signed on to write the script for Legally Blonde 3. Oh, and in early September, she surprised the world by announcing the birth of her new baby boy, Spencer. Now, she’s adding her own cooking show to the mix: In a new partnership with meal kit delivery service HelloFresh, Kaling will host four web episodes chronicling her kitchen adventures as a “solid B-minus cook.”
Despite her many roles and projects, both at home and on set, nothing seems to faze Kaling. That is, until you ask her to cook in front of the Vice President-elect. I bring up a video from 2019, where she invited Senator and now VP-elect Kamala Harris into her home to cook the traditional Indian dish masala dosa.
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“[That was] nerve-wracking,” Kaling insists. “My innate abilities as a chef are not the best and we’re cooking a very regional, very famous dish that my grandmother made and her mother made. So I was super nervous, because one thing I’d heard about Kamala Harris is, in addition to being the senator from my great state, she’s also an accomplished chef. But she was polite enough in the video to pretend that the dish I made was good.”
Ahead, Kaling talks her favorite HelloFresh recipes, upcoming projects, and how she kept her second pregnancy a secret.
How did this partnership with HelloFresh come about?
I’d been using HelloFresh before they approached me. I have a full-time job, obviously, and I’m not married, but I want my daughter to be raised thinking, “Oh, I remember. Mom works so much, but always has time to cook.” That’s really important to me because that’s what I thought with my own mom, who was an OBGYN. I still remember her cooking things at the stove several nights a week.
What’s great about HelloFresh is I don’t have to go shopping and it’s delivered to my door. It cuts time down so much. There’s this one that’s called garden spinach ricotta ravioli and it’s basically ravioli with zucchini ribbons. It’s so healthy but my daughter actually loves it. I try to cook it as often as I can have ravioli in a week without everyone in my house getting mad at me.
I need to congratulate you on your newest addition, your son Spencer. Is it different having a boy this time around?
The difference between having a first child and a second child is so funny. The first time it was like every person in my life came out of the woodwork to send gifts and cards and notes and emails. And then once you have a second kid, everyone’s like, you’re fine. You’re okay. It’s definitely more of a muted excitement from everyone in my life. Which, by the way, makes total sense, particularly during a pandemic.
In terms of a boy, no, not yet. I mean, he’s still so little. I think he’s like seven weeks old so I haven’t really seen what his personality is going to be like, but I do know that my daughter really likes the fact that he’s a boy. I think she feels a little bit less competitive.
Was she excited for her new sibling?
She was. But when I told her she was going to have a little brother, she didn’t understand he was going to come out a baby. I think she thought he was going to come out two years old, like her. So the day before I went to the hospital, she was hiding all of her toys. That was her big thing. We’d be like, “Kit, where’s your Elmo?” And we found it stuffed under the bed because she was hiding it so her brother wouldn’t take it. She was delighted when she found out he was so little and would not be interested in playing with toys for a long, long time. Now she’s really on board with it.
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You’re the OOTD queen. How were you able to keep your pregnancy under wraps?
It was not too bad. I mean, clearly, I was not going anywhere, like everybody else, so nobody found me out. So that was kind of easy. And then just being at home and taking photos, I’d largely just kind of shot around my pregnancy. Shot myself from the waist up and then also wore baggy things. I never got super huge, so it was a little bit easier.
You have a bunch of big projects coming up that I’m very excited for, including Never Have I Ever, which was just renewed for season 2. What do you hope for Devi in the next season?
One of the things people were responding to in the first season was that [Devi] is a really flawed character, but she’s relatable because she’s been through a lot of stuff, like losing a parent at a young age. But also, she has a big personality: She wants to have sex and wants to have a boyfriend.
Seeing what people liked, Lang and I went into our second season [knowing] we’re still going to see flashbacks of her father. I think people really loved that relationship, and we’re going to see if they end up moving to India or not. [Devi’s] figuring out how not to rage out, because that’s her problem. She has this really bad temper. And seeing if she actually does end up having a boyfriend, or whether she can even be a good girlfriend to these guys. I’m so excited because we had to delay everything because of the pandemic, but now at Universal, they’ve made it really safe.
Another project is the film adaptation of Jennifer Weiner’s Good In Bed, which you’re set to star in and produce. What did you love about the book that you hope to bring to screen?
When I read that book, I think I was about 20 years old, and I remember being really amazed that this very romantic, but also kind of sad and moving story, starred a woman who looked like me. At that time, those kinds of books that are romantic, the main character is not someone who is not skinny. The character is written as white and Jewish, but [Jennifer Weiner] was really excited about updating it so I could play the character as an Indian woman. And I think that’s why I feel so lucky for the project and lucky that the author is so open-minded about that. I’m excited to act again! There’s been a lot of stuff I’m working on behind the scenes, which is a wonderful part of my job and really great to do when I have two kids, but it’ll be really fun to be onscreen again.
And lastly, we have Legally Blonde 3, which you’re writing the script for. How do you approach writing a character that’s already out in the world, versus one you’ve created?
It’s such a good question and it’s really challenging, because Elle Woods is such an iconic character and so loved. Ordinarily, I think I would actually not find that really fun to do because the expectations are set. But because we haven’t seen the character in 18 years, I was excited. We know what Elle was like when she was 21, 22 years old. But what about when she’s 42? That character, so innocent and girly, what is she like when she’s dealing with adult problems and is an adult woman? She’s not a little girl anymore. [From there], I know what the movie is about. Reese [Witherspoon] made it super easy so I could take my time writing it with Dan Goor, my writing partner who created Brooklyn Nine-Nine. We’ve loved working on it.
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