Actor, writer and showrunner Mindy Kaling has hit out at the organisation in charge of the Emmy Awards for “humiliating” her, claiming that she was “singled out” as the only producer made to justify her production credit on the US Office, early on in its run.
Kaling, 40, discussed the incident in a profile in Elle magazine, which was published online overnight. She was the only woman and person of colour in the writers’ room when she was hired on the Office at the age of 24, and claimed that after the show was nominated for an Emmy, the Television Academy told her there were too many names on the producing team – and made her justify her spot on the list.
“They made me, not any of the other producers, fill out a whole form and write an essay about all my contributions as a writer and a producer,” she said. “I had to get letters from all the other male, white producers saying that I had contributed, when my actual record stood for itself.”
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In a statement to the LA Times, the Academy said that at the time “every performer producer and writer producer was asked to justify their producer credit,” claiming that “no one person was singled out.”
“There was an increasing concern years ago regarding the number of performers and writers seeking producer credits,” the spokesperson continued. “At the time the Producers Guild worked with the Television Academy to correctly vet producer eligibility.”
But on Twitter, Kaling has criticised their response, saying it “doesn’t make any sense”.
“I *was* singled out. There were other Office writer-performer-producers who were NOT cut from the list. Just me. The most junior person, and woman of colour. Easiest to dismiss. Just sayin’.”Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling)
Respectfully, the Academy’s statement doesn’t make any sense. I *was* singled out. There were other Office writer-performer-producers who were NOT cut from the list. Just me. The most junior person, and woman of color. Easiest to dismiss. Just sayin’. https://t.co/frT2pQUfLFOctober 9, 2019
Kaling, who has worked on the show throughout its nine-year run as an actor, writer, director and executive producer, did end up getting credited in the category. She said she “never wanted to bring up that incident because The Office was one of the greatest creative experiences of my life, and who would want to have an adversarial relationship with the academy?”
But, she said, the incident was “humiliating” after she had worked so hard writing and editing on the show, and “not mentioning it seemed like glossing over my story”.Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling)
I’ve never wanted to bring up that incident because The Office was one of the greatest creative experiences of my life, and who would want to have an adversarial relationship with the Academy, who has the ongoing power to enhance our careers with awards? (1)October 9, 2019Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling)
(2) But I worked so hard and it was humiliating. I had written so many episodes, put in so much time in the editing room, just to have the Academy discard it because they couldn’t fathom I was capable of doing it all. Thankfully I was rescued by my friends, the other producers.October 9, 2019
“We shouldn’t have [to] be bailed out because of the kindness of more powerful white male colleagues,” she said in a third tweet. “This was like ten years ago. Maybe it wouldn’t happen now. But it happened to me.”
In the interview with Elle, Kaling said she has been treated like she didn’t belong in the industry throughout her entire career. She was the first woman of colour to write, star in and create a primetime sitcom, The Mindy Project, but said she had been shouted off the set by a security guard – despite her face and name being on the billboard she pointed him to.
“It really doesn’t matter how much money I have,” she said. “I’m treated badly with enough regularity that it keeps me humble.”
While she has now embraced her role as a role model, Kaling said that as a woman of colour, she has always been held to a different standard than white producers.
“It used to frustrate me a lot that I felt way more scrutinised by women and women of colour than white show-runners were on shows with all-white casts,” she said. “I just wanted to be a writer. I didn’t necessarily look at it as being like, ‘Well, you also have to be a spokesperson.’ That’s not what I signed up for.”
Never Have I Ever, which Kaling co-created, wrote and co-executive produced, is due out on Netflix in 2020.