Mindy Kaling could be nominated as many as three times as writer, producer, and star of FOX’s “The Mindy Project,” but it certainly wouldn’t be her first encounter with Emmys. She’s already a six-time nominee for “The Office,” where she played Kelly Kapoor for eight seasons. Five of those nominations were for Best Comedy Series, and the last was a writing bid for the episode “Niagara.”
Kaling joins the ranks of a number of other multi-hyphenate comedians who have achieved success in recent years, including Tina Fey, Louis C.K., Lena Dunham, and Laura Dern. Of the benefits of writing and producing as well as acting, Kaling explains, “Parts for women largely suck, and if you have some creative control over it at least you know that it’s not going to suck as bad.”
But Kaling doesn’t especially identify with any particular role on her show – writer, producer, or actor – saying instead that “it all becomes one … I’m a writerly actor and I’m an actorly writer … The truth is I’m wearing all the hats at the same time.”
If “The Mindy Project” is as successful as its fellow auteurist comedies, the rewards for Kaling could be great. Dunham earned four nominations last year for “Girls.” Louis C.K. set a record with seven individual nominations for his series “Louie” and his “Beacon Theater” comedy special, winning two. And Fey, over the past six years, has earned 16 nominations and five wins for “30 Rock” alone. (She has two additional Emmys for writing and guest acting on “Saturday Night Live.”)
Kaling plays Dr. Mindy Lahiri, an OB/GYN in a private Manhattan practice whose co-workers are played by actors including Chris Messina, who also appeared this past season on “Damages” and “The Newsroom.” He competes for Comedy Supporting Actor for “The Mindy Project” alongside Ike Barinholtz and Ed Weeks. Competing for Comedy Supporting Actress are Zoe Jarman and veteran character actress Beth Grant.
Mindy Lahiri is also unlucky in love, which means Kaling has hosted a number of guest-starring love interests, several of whom are on the ballot as contenders for Comedy Guest Actor, including Emmy nominated “SNL” star Bill Hader, as well as fellow “Office” alums Ed Helms and B.J. Novak. Another “Office” co-star, Ellie Kemper, contends for Comedy Guest Actress as a romantic rival.
Playing a young woman in a workplace comedy, Kaling joins even more Emmy-winning company: in addition to Fey, actors including America Ferrera (“Ugly Betty”), Candice Bergen (“Murphy Brown”), and Mary Tyler Moore (“The Mary Tyler Moore Show”) have won for playing urban professionals.
Will Kaling join that auspicious company? It may be challenging to break through the crowded Best Comedy Actress field, but she currently ranks among our top ten contenders, and the category has favored new blood in recent years: of the last six winners, five have been for freshman programs. Watch our interviews with Kaling and Messina below, then make or update your predictions in our prediction center.