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    "Never Have I Ever" Fans Need To Hear Mindy Kaling Dish On The Show, Including How It Almost Didn't Happen

    "[Audiences] want to hear about other people outside of their own life, as long as the stories feel honest."

    Mindy Kaling is having her moment.

    Bravo / NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

    The 42-year-old multihyphenate — who is an actor, producer, and writer — is the genius behind Netflix's beloved Never Have I Ever, a semi-autobiographical exploration of Mindy's own adolescence.

    ©Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

    If you've been living under a rock, the series — in Mindy's words — follows "three Indian women in different generations and different points in their immigration story."

    In a new Q&A with Elle, The Office alumna opened up about the wild success of the show and what it was like to mine her own life for a modern retelling fit for teenagers today.

    Mindy said she's "always delighted and surprised" when millions of people resonate with the series, given that it "seems so specific." She continued, "When a story like that resonates all over the world, in Bulgaria and Ukraine and Brazil, it's life-affirming. We underestimate audiences. They want to hear about other people outside of their own life, as long as the stories feel honest."

    Mindy posing for photos on the red carpet in a bright one-shoulder gown and a diamond necklace
    Kevin Mazur / Getty Images

    Part of the show's magic is in its central character, Devi — portrayed by Maitreyi Ramakrishnan — who was quite literally plucked from obscurity through an open casting call by Mindy and her team. "She was a high schooler in Toronto, and then less than two years later she's on the cover of Time," she said. "It's been amazing to be able to be the person who's like, 'Oh wow, we found her.'"

    Maitreyi and Mindy onstage
    Christopher Polk / NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

    But — if you can believe it — NHIE almost never existed: Mindy didn't even want to lead a show about teenagers.

    Lara Solanki / ©Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

    "Netflix wanted it — they'd read both of my books, and they said they really loved the part where I talked about my childhood," she explained. "They wanted to know if there would be a show in there, and they're shrewd. I remember thinking, 'Oh man, my teenage years. That feels intimate and makes me feel really vulnerable and cringey.'"

    Monica Schipper / Getty Images for Netflix

    Mindy penned her first memoir, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), back in 2011. In 2015, she released a book of humorous essays entitled Why Not Me? Most recently, she wrote her 2020 Amazon Original Stories essay collection Nothing Like I Imagined.

    Mindy also shared that she didn't want to do a "nostalgia piece for the ’90s." She revealed that "writing for teenagers is really fun and very terrifying, because, first of all, it's very ephemeral. They have short attention spans, so we write the show and then it comes out a couple months later, and you're like, 'Ah, I hope that it feels fresh.'"

    Teens sitting on the floor of a bedroom and eating pizza
    Isabella B. Vosmikova / ©Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

    She continued, "The references, the things that they're into, the apps that they're obsessed with? There are very few people who are less forgiving than a teenager sniffing out inauthenticity. So they are a terrifying group of people to write for and about."

    As for Season 3 of NHIE, Mindy said she's looking forward to exploring the grief that comes with losing a parent — something she has intimately experienced: "Grieving is such a complicated thing and can take many forms...so I think the thing I'm most excited about is delving into their relationship, and how your relationship with your parents continues even when they pass away."

    Devi talking to her father
    ©Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

    The past two seasons of the series have provided glimpses into Devi's loving relationship with her late father, played by Sendhil Ramamurthy. Much of the show's conflict is spurred by Devi struggling to cope with her anger and loss.

    "She's just a funny character who is good in her heart but makes a lot of terrible decisions," Mindy explained. "I love seeing her do that as she approaches college, trying to apply for college, and what that brings out in her."

    Devi standing in front of a boy
    ©Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

    In terms of how long she'd want the show to keep going, Mindy revealed that she hasn't dwelled on that too much. "I think that, because they're teenagers and because they're maturing a lot, there'll be a time when it would be absurd that they're still in high school," she shared. For right now, though, "There's stories to tell."

    Devi wearing a mascot costume in the high school hallway
    Isabella B. Vosmikova / ©Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

    And while we impatiently wait for the third season to drop, you can catch Mindy helming two upcoming HBO Max series: first as the voice of Velma Dinkley in the adult animated series Velma and second as the creator of The Sex Lives of College Girls.

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