Mindy Kaling is working with Priyanka Chopra on Covid-19 relief work in India, talks about honouring Indians in Never Have I Ever
Actor and writer Mindy Kaling is collaborating with actor Priyanka Chopra in the fight against the coronavirus in India. Mindy told Hindustan Times in an interview that she has been in touch with Priyanka during the pandemic, and that while work on their upcoming romantic comedy project is well underway, they are currently concentrating on charity efforts in India.
“I’ve been texting her a couple of times a week,” she said, adding that she was balancing work on the upcoming project with her commitments to her new Netflix series, Never Have I Ever. The series tells the coming-of-age story of a whip-smart Indian-American girl, who struggles to maintain a balance between being an American teenager and connecting to her Indian roots.
Coincidentally, Priyanka’s name comes up several times in Never Have I Ever, which she co-created with Lang Fisher, and is based in part on Mindy’s own experience of growing up in an Indian immigrant family. She said she was very particular about portraying the show’s central character, Devi, as someone who doesn’t fit the idea of a stereotypical teen heroine. She’s brash, confident and driven, which is perhaps why Mindy chose to hire tennis legend John McEnroe as the show’s narrator. “All the uncles used to watch Wimbledon and the Australian Open at odd hours,” Mindy recalled, which is why she asked McEnroe, who “didn’t quite understand what he was getting into,” as Devi’s spiritual guardian of sorts in the show.
Mindy also made sure that she cast ‘dark-skinned’ actors as Devi’s parents, because it’s something she feels very strongly about. “Poorna (Jagannathan, who plays Devi’s mother) is really funny,” Mindy said, adding that she’s the kind of actor who can sneak in casual violence yet remain relatable.
“I was really excited to show Indian Americans, I was excited to show Indians who had immigrated in their late 20s, and then people who had just come a couple of months ago, and to put all of them in the same family and under the same roof was fascinating to me,” she said.
Mindy said that to the average white American, “they’re all Indian people,” but that she hopes for the show, like previous work done by Aziz Ansari and Kumail Nanjiani, to change the perception of South Asians in the West. Starring Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as the teenage Devi, Poorna Jagannathan as Devi’s mother, and Sendhil Ramamurthy as Devi’s father, Never Have I Ever is slated for an April 27 release on Netflix.
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