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The Mindy Project Takes Off

Actor, writer, producer Mindy Kaling steps out of The Office and into the spotlight.

The Mindy Project continued...

A week before her mother's death last January, Kaling pulled out a notebook and pen and asked her mother for advice. "We had accepted by then that she was not going to survive, and so suddenly we had to have really accelerated conversations," she remembers. "I always thought she would be around when I had a child, but when I realized she wouldn't be, we talked about possible names for my kids. She told me things she wanted me to tell my children."

The day her mother died, Kaling checked her overflowing voicemail and learned that Fox had given her and The Mindy Project the go-ahead. "I was lucky to have that to think about instead," she says quietly.

Mindy Kaling on Diet and Exercise

Working 16-hour days might be good for distraction, but Kaling admits that being the boss of all she surveys is exhausting. "I have that kind of super-invincibility that people who have never had an illness do, but now I'm starting to do weird things like say, 'Should I do B12 shots? Should I be on an IV drip?' It would be so cool to be that one person who never mentioned how stressful work is, but to say having my own show is a lot of work is the understatement of the year."

The writing and producing take energy, but playing the kinetic, driven doctor who races from bad dates to patients' bedsides and office gossip sessions with nonstop acerbic commentary is also demanding. (Her character, on the subject of marriage: "Maybe I won't get married. Maybe I'll just do one of those Eat Pray Love things. Ugh, no, I don't want to pray. Forget it. I'll just die alone.")

To restore herself, Kaling tries to sleep at least six hours a night -- "I sleep so deeply it's like I die and then come back to life in the morning" -- and has recently changed her eating habits to give her a boost. "I am a notoriously unpicky eater, and a great joy of my parents when I was growing up was they embraced my love of eating everything," the actor says. "But I eat to whoever is around me, and I'm around a lot of big guys in the writers' room. I used to eat french fries and chips, but it started to make me lethargic so I try not to."

Kaling starts each morning with a smoothie. "[My assistant] makes a huge Vitamix blender of spinach and tomato and ginger that used to disgust me, but now she puts a pear in it and it tastes pretty good and keeps me alive." Her next meal is around 2 p.m. when she finishes her acting duties and heads to the writers' room. "When I'm on set, I don't do well on a full stomach," she explains, "but when I'm done I try to eat something like a turkey burger. I also know that when I get home, all I have in my fridge is fish oil, water, and birth control."

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