Mindy Kaling Talks Gen Z And Being An 'Xennial'

The actor opened up about TikTok, "The Office" nostalgia and voicing "queer icon" and "huge nerd" Velma on the "Scooby-Doo" prequel.
Mindy Kaling at the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on Feb. 9, 2020, in Beverly Hills.
Gregg DeGuire via Getty Images
Mindy Kaling at the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on Feb. 9, 2020, in Beverly Hills.

Mindy Kaling doesn’t feel strongly attached to a side in the so-called “generation wars,” but she knows she wants the Gen Z characters she creates to feel authentic.

“I’m not a millennial, and I’m not Gen X. I just learned I’m a ‘Xennial,’ which is like a micro generation,” the 41-year-old actor and writer told HuffPost while promoting her partnership with Propel Immune Support water. “When I went into writing ‘Never Have I Ever,’ I was worried about doing one of these shows where you watched and are like ‘Ugh, how old is this showrunner? This music is from like 1997.’ I didn’t want it to be a nostalgia show.”

Kaling said she made sure to have “a ton of young writers” working on her coming-of-age show “Never Have I Ever,” which wrapped Season 2 filming at the end of March. And she’s learned a lot about Generation Z in the process.

“I’d heard the phrase ‘OK, boomer,’ and I thought kids that young were going to be so cruel to me and people my age,” she recalled. “But I think what’s cool about that generation is that activism is so important to them. I think they’re a generation of really fearless young people who want to stand up for what’s right. And they look up to people like Greta Thunberg and want to be like that.”

“That’s been true of the star of the show, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan,” Kaling continued. “She’s an actress and an activist in equal measure, and it’s super important to her. I didn’t feel so politically engaged when I was 15-16 years old, so I’m learning a lot from kids that age.”

Occasionally, Kaling “glances at TikTok,” but she is not as plugged into the platform as her younger counterparts.

“I went on there to find that feta cheese tomato pasta recipe, but no, I’m learning about TikTok the way any old person is: My young assistants will say, ‘Hey, did you see this new cool TikTok?’ So that’s unfortunately how I’ve been learning about it,” she joked.

Her enduring legacy with “The Office” also makes Kaling feel a bit old at times, especially when people recognize her for the character she started playing in her 20s.

“I can’t believe the power of ‘The Office’ with Netflix in recent years,” she said. “I’m 41, so I’m like, ‘Is this what ‘The Brady Bunch’ was like?’ Because we would watch that when we came home from school ― that was the syndicated show. It’s crazy, the memes and that Billie Eilish song about ‘The Office.’ The power of the show has been amazing.”

“It’s also crazy because I love the character of Kelly Kapoor, but I’m so much older than her now,” she added. “So it’s funny when people are like ‘Kelly!’ And I’m like a 41-year-old with two kids.”

While she’s full of love and gratitude for “The Office” and her time as Kelly, Kaling said she also hopes people know she was a writer and producer for the show as well ― having written on “like 24 episodes,” she noted.

Lately, the “Office” alum is also venturing more into the animated realm with a starring role as the voice of Velma Dinkley in the upcoming “Scooby-Doo” prequel series “Velma” from HBO Max.

“I’m so excited about that. I’ve been wanting to do an animated show forever,” she said, joking, “I think I sound like a 15-year-old girl when I talk, so it’s great to finally be able to use it in a show.”

“She is such an amazing character because she has this cult following,” Kaling added. “She’s a queer icon for so many people. She’s the brains behind the Scooby gang. I just love her. She’s not skinny. She’s a huge nerd. She’s smart and unabashedly so. So I’m excited. I feel honored to portray her in an animated show. And it’s fun to play.”

When she’s not working or chasing after her toddler, Kaling likes to unwind by watching more adult-oriented crime shows.

“I’m watching ‘Mare of Easttown’ right now ― the Kate Winslet murder show on HBO,” she told HuffPost. “Every like three months there’s a new awesome murder show. Before this, it was ’The Undoing,’ and before that was that Jason Bateman Stephen King show with Ben Mendelsohn, ‘The Outsider,’ so HBO is just killing it with their murder miniseries.”

No pun intended, Kaling made it clear she would love to work on a darker show or movie like those.

“I would die to be part of a whodunnit murder mystery,” she exclaimed. “With Scooby, it’s usually just, ‘Who stole the high school mascot?’”

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