Jinkies! Mindy Kaling isn’t here for any criticism that may pop up in the wake of her new role as Scooby-Doo detective Velma Dinkley, who is South Asian in the upcoming animated spinoff centered on the intellectual mystery-solver.
“Hopefully you noticed my Velma is South Asian,” the Never Have I Ever creator, 42, told the audience at the Warner Bros. Discovery Upfront presentation Wednesday, May 18, after the crowd saw a photo from the upcoming HBO Max series. “If people freak out about that, I don’t care.”
However, Kaling is hopeful that fans will accept the change with open arms: ”Nobody ever complained about a talking dog solving mysteries, so I don’t think they’ll be upset over a brown Velma.”
The Velma photo that was shown to the audience on Wednesday shows the Mystery Inc. characters like you’ve never seen them before. In addition to Velma’s (the character) update, a naked redhead — who appears to be Daphne — is covered only by soap bubbles as she and Velma stand over a dead body with the top of its head sliced cleanly off, making for a more NSFW Scooby-Doo than its other iterations throughout the generations.
Kaling, who is also executive-producing the series, has been outspoken about her desire to change the entertainment industry. She’s also candidly discussed how her own South Asian identity has been criticized and mocked in her career.
“I shortened my name because emcees for these comedy shows [when I was doing standup] would have trouble pronouncing it, and then they’d make a joke about my last name,” the Mindy Project star — whose real name is Vera Mindy Chokalingam — told NPR in 2020.
Four years earlier, she spoke passionately about the importance of real representation for South Asian women and other people of color on TV. “Women, especially young women — especially young women of color — want to see someone on TV who is not playing a terrorist or someone in IT,” she said at the Women in the World Summit.
Kaling has created that representation herself — in her role as Kelly on The Office, her star vehicle The Mindy Project (in which she played an OB-GYN) and by creating Never Have I Ever, which revolves around an Indian teenager as she navigates friendships, various love interests and her Indian family and community.
Though the Office alum knows that she’s faced her fair share of racism, she also recognizes that other people of color may have been through worse in the industry — which helps her toe the line when it comes to jokes about race within comedy.
“I’m not offended by very much,” she said on NPR. “But then again, I have also not been marginalized in a lot of ways that people are. So it’s tricky.”