It’s impossible to separate “The Office” from the work of Mindy Kaling. But according to the small-screen renaissance woman, the Television Academy once tried to do just that.
Kaling, who was an actress, executive producer, director and writer during the NBC workplace comedy‘s nine-season run, told Elle magazine that the organization in charge of the Emmy Awards attempted early in her time on the show to drop her from the producers list. Such a move would have rendered her ineligible to accept a potential comedy series win for the nominated program.
According to the 40-year-old “Late Night” mastermind, the academy justified its decision at the time by saying there were too many creatives in the credits. Kaling, the only woman of color on the team, said she was forced to go to extreme lengths to prove her value.
“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,” Kaling told Elle. “I had to get letters from all the other male, white producers saying that I had contributed, when my actual record stood for itself.”
The Television Academy, however, said Wednesday that the move wasn’t personal.
“No one person was singled out,” an academy spokesman said in a statement to The Times. “There was an increasing concern years ago regarding the number of performers and writers seeking producer credits. At the time the Producers Guild worked with the Television Academy to correctly vet producer eligibility.”
“Every performer producer and writer producer was asked to justify their producer credits,” the spokesman added.
That justification is no longer required, he said, though the academy continues to vet consulting-producer credits with the PGA to make sure everyone is functioning in the role as a producer.
Shortly after the academy responded to her statements, Kaling took to Twitter to argue that the organization’s rebuttal “doesn’t make any sense” and further clarify her reasoning behind the decision to speak publicly on the subject.
“I *was* singled out,” Kaling wrote Wednesday. “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’.”
She then followed up with a three-part thread highlighting the immense effort she had dedicated to the show and noting her initial reluctance to challenge the academy for its actions. She also hailed “The Office” as “one of the greatest creative experiences of my life.”
“I worked so hard and it was humiliating,” she tweeted. “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.”
(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.— Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling) October 9, 2019
“The point is, we shouldn’t have be bailed out because of the kindness our more powerful white male colleagues,” she added. “Not mentioning it seemed like glossing over my story. This was like ten years ago. Maybe it wouldn’t happen now. But it happened to me.”
Kaling’s name did ultimately appear on the Television Academy’s Emmy-nominees list, though the sitcom didn’t win that year. Between 2007 and 2011, the “Four Weddings and a Funeral” creator shared five consecutive comedy-series nominations as a producer for “The Office.”
“‘In this country, American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate,’” Kaling told Elle, citing a quote by the late Toni Morrison. She continued: “It really doesn’t matter how much money I have ... I’m treated badly with enough regularity that it keeps me humble.”
Kaling’s assertions appeared in the magazine’s November issue honoring its 2019 Women in Hollywood. Other honorees are Zendaya, Nicole Kidman, Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Lena Waithe, Melina Matsoukas, Jodie Turner-Smith and Dolly Parton.