In 2012, a show created, produced, written by, and starring a woman of color hit broadcast TV and immediately shifted media's landscape. Over the last five years, Mindy Kaling's The Mindy Project has made its mark on entertainment. The show may have been snubbed from many awards while it ran its course, but that's not to say it hasn't had serious impact. At LA's premiere of the sixth and final season, Kaling's co-stars reflect on the legacy they hope the quirky, heartfelt comedy will leave behind.
Kaling has been totally upfront about the challenges in being "underestimated" during her early days of making television, specifically being told she wasn't attractive enough. Kaling turned every no into a yes, not only by accomplishing getting her show on a major network, but by showcasing women in such a refreshing and positive light.
Fortune Feimster (Colette) says the quick, smart, funny series gave women fully-rounded characters and proved they don't have to be perfect to be a total boss. "She has a funny perspective on life, she’s not perfect, she’s got lots of quirks. We need people like that. A perfect person with no flaws, that’s not realistic," the actor says. And having a woman run the ship to make those calls only drives that point home. "Any time a woman runs the show, runs the writers’ room, is the lead actress, it’s huge," she says.
While Kaling has successfully pulled off being at the helm, both behind and in front of the camera, and the way she portrays her imperfect lead character shouldn't be taken lightly.
Rebecca Rittenhouse (Anna) explains the significance in showcasing a woman of leadership who doesn't have it all together. "It showed women leading romantic lives that are less conventional, [life] doesn’t have to be a certain way," she explains. "You can forge your own path and whatever makes you happy is the right choice." And fans have certainly been with Mindy Lahiri every step of the way on her unpredictable journey of love, motherhood, work, and life.
But of course, Kaling further carved out a space for women of color in mainstream media. Xosha Roquemore (Tamra) calls the show "groundbreaking" for paving the way for subsequent series showcasing minorities. "The show has opened many, many doors. When Mindy was embarking on having this show, it was just her," the actor explains. "Now there’s Insecure, Atlanta. The industry is weird and small-minded, they have to see it to believe it. Once they see it, they piggyback on it."
While there's no denying the strides the show has made for women of color (whether in the entertainment industry or not), Kaling's co-star and on-screen BFF Ike Barinholtz (Morgan) hopes the series provides hope to anyone who feels like an outsider.
"I hope that people — not just women of color — but anyone who feels different, can kind of find their voice and not be afraid to be who they are and tell weird stories," he says. Mindy Lahiri was unapologetically herself all six seasons, and hopefully she'll continue to be an inspiration to audiences who watch even after the series ends.
Veteran Mindy Project star Ed Weeks (Jeremy) hopes the series will continue to exist as an uplifting, romantic form of pure escapism. "A lot of the emails, tweets I get are people saying, ‘I had a really tough time, first year of college, getting over a relationship, exams,'" he recalls, "Your show is just a ray of sunlight.’" Because at the end of the day, The Mindy Project serves as good, old fashion comedy. "The fact that it just cheers people up — it’s comedy, that’s what it’s meant to do."
The Mindy Project may sadly be ending, but its clear the show will continue influencing media and audiences in some remarkable ways.