Why Mindy Kaling Says Her Four Weddings and a Funeral Reboot Will Star a "Really Unusual" Cast

Christopher Polk | Polk Imaging for Mastercard
Christopher Polk | Polk Imaging for Mastercard

Like most of us, Mindy Kaling loves going out to eat. And, like most of us, she acknowledges that babies — including her 9-month-old daughter, Katherine — aren't always the most sophisticated restaurant companions. "She loves to come out to eat, but she just gets distracted and makes a huge mess," Mindy admits when I meet her at the W Hotel in Hollywood. "So I'll take her with my friend [and former costar on The Mindy Project] Ike Barinholtz. We'll go out to breakfast with our daughters at, like, 7 a.m., before anyone's there, and then they can just make a big mess."

The fact that Mindy is such an early bird should surprise no one. Not only is the actor, author, and producer in the middle of editing Late Night — a movie she wrote and acts in alongside the Emma Thompson — but she is about to head to London to work on a Hulu reboot of the rom-com classic Four Weddings and a Funeral, too. Did I mention that it's only 9 a.m. and, while basic mortals like me are still on our first cup of coffee, she looks ready to dominate a Fortune 500 board meeting in a sharp-as-can-be Roland Mouret pencil dress?

Outside the demands of her Hollywood career and motherhood, Mindy is also at work on a very different kind of project. The Make It a Date effort encourages people to dine out with a friend or loved one on Oct. 10. When they do, Mastercard will donate up to $4 million to Stand Up To Cancer — $1 when you spend $10 or more. There's particular resonance to Mindy's involvement with the campaign. Mindy's own mother, Swati Roysircar, died of pancreatic cancer in 2012, an experience she says was "devastating."

I talked to Mindy about finding the joy in combating the disease and supporting the Stand Up to Cancer cause, why her multiracial spin on Four Weddings and a Funeral will be "unusual" on purpose, and, yes, her lifelong soft spot for the chain restaurant Chili's.

POPSUGAR: When you do go out, what's your ideal cuisine?
Mindy Kaling: When I was pregnant, I was not allowed to eat any sushi. I still feel deprived from that time, even though my daughter's 9 months old, so for me, I definitely go to sushi.

PS: Go-to Postmates order?
MK: My go-to Postmates is probably Shake Shack. [laughs] Why am I answering these questions so quickly? I'm like, "Definitely Shake Shack!" Most actresses are like, "Shake Shack? I make my own granola."

PS: Well, you do make your own baby food!
MK: I do make my own baby food, yes! Although now, she won't eat it. I used to puree all this baby food for her — and now she's just like, I don't want that, I just want to eat what you're eating. So I have to eat a little healthier at home.

PS: Do you have any particular memories of going out to eat with family or friends that really stick in your mind?
MK: When I was growing up, it wasn't like we went to fancy places for dinner. But every Friday night, we'd go to Chili's. My dad would always get the fajitas and they would come out on a sizzling platter and we would just always go to Chili's. So much so that, when I was on The Office, I would write in Chili's things for characters. People always thought they were like, paying the show, but no. I just had such a familial feeling about Chili's growing up.

PS: Almost everyone has been impacted by cancer in some way in their life. Can you share a little bit about why this cause is meaningful to you, personally?
MK: Well, I, like millions of American families, have had cancer in my immediate family, and it's devastating. I remember when my mom was diagnosed. You might think of organizations like Stand Up to Cancer as helping only the person with cancer, but it's actually a support system for the family. And so, for me, this partnership between Mastercard and Stand Up to Cancer is so amazing. For someone who's such a consumer like I am, who loves to go out to eat and hang out with friends, it's the most painless, fun way to make a difference and give back.

PS: You are busy on the writing front lately. Tell me about working with Emma Thompson on Late Night. Was that just an insane dream come true?
MK: Oh my god. The Emma Thompson thing was incredible, because she really epitomizes what I would want to be, because she won an Oscar for both acting and writing — which, I don't know if there's been another woman who's done that. And she is really well-known for doing period dramas like Sense and Sensibility but is also so funny — one of the funniest people I've ever met. I don't think there are a lot of roles like this [one]. She plays a late-night talk-show host who is a pretty difficult person, and I play a writer on her staff. We're actually editing that movie right now.

PS: And then you're heading to London fairly soon to work on Four Weddings and a Funeral. Is there any casting news you can divulge yet?
MK: Oh, god, we have some really exciting . . . well, I think we'll have some news, probably in the next week or so. Obviously, I'm obsessed with the original Richard Curtis movie, as is the rest of the world. I love all his movies — Love Actually, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones's Diary. So when I was approached about adapting it into a miniseries, I thought, "OK. Well, if you were going to watch that, and you knew I was doing it, what would I be bringing to it?" And for me, it's really that the cast looks really unusual for this type of thing. The lead is an African-American woman, and the romantic lead is a British-Pakistani man. So that is really exciting to me, and I can't wait for people to see it.

PS: Being in the driver's seat as a creator, you're able to really make an impact when it comes to inclusion. What have you seen change as this conversation has really been renewed in recent years, and what still needs to get better?
MK: So much about trying to affect change is — you hear so much about it, you see so much about it on social media, and people giving speeches, and things like that — it just feels like such a drag. Unfortunately, there's sometimes this feeling of, "Ugh, I'm getting preached at." So the actual way to change it, if you're an employer, is just to set standards. "Okay, 50 percent of people who are going to director are going to be women. My cast is going to look a certain way." Because we're really the people who can make the changes, right? If you're an employer, you can do it. It's very hard if you're trying to get a job.

I know that I'm privileged and have that position, so that's what I'm going to do. I learned a lot from working with Ava DuVernay, Reese Witherspoon, and Oprah. I aspire to be them. They're employers on a massive scale and they have just decided they want to tell female stories. Reese has always said, "I don't want to tell stories with my company that are about women being brutalized or anything like that. I want them to be really strong female leads and not secondary characters to men." It's been a really good past two years of just learning a lot.