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Mindy Kaling: The 'boss' of 'The Mindy Project,' her cast and SXSW 2014

By Kristin Samuelson, @ksamredeye

2:31 PM CDT, March 9, 2014

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Mindy Kaling is the boss.

Sure, she's fun, easygoing and doesn't bat an eye at wearing neon pink, but that doesn't mean she's not serious about succeeding.

"It's sad to me that women feel that, unfortunately, if you show a certain kind of femininity, or if you like clothing or think guys are cute, that you're less good at something else or less serious," Kaling said during a panel at South by Southwest in Austin, Tx. Sunday. "And the only way to combat that is to just be really good and also be those other things ... and have a great work ethic."

At just 34 years old, she is the creator and star of "The Mindy Project" on Fox. But despite loving her job, she doesn't always love being the boss, Kaling admitted.

"I wanna be like, 'Fuck our boss,' but I'm the boss," Kaling said.

Ike Barinholtz, who plays Morgan, and Adam Pally, who plays Peter, joined Kaling on stage for the panel and chimed in about their leader.

"Much like Kim Jong-un, she rules with an iron fist," Barinholtz said, laughing.

But it was clear watching their banter and on-stage rapport that Kaling is pretty great to work for.

She shared a funny story about Pally recently "pushing boundaries" on set. He was loudly moving a box around and she told him to do it more quietly. He told her, "It's a choice." Pally responded to the story during the panel by saying, "As an actor I've learned that you can get away with messing up if you just tell people it's a choice. ... Like, I'm so hung over, I almost missed this panel. And that was a choice."

The audience cracked up, but Kaling shot Pally a serious look afterward, reinforcing that she means business. (Watch the video below.)

Kaling also gave audience members a glimpse of what it's like to work in "The Mindy Project" writer's room, which she calls "gentle and loving."

"All the guys on my staff would identify as feminists," Kaling said. "They're, like, dudes, but ... I always feel very lucky that I've just been exposed to smart, nice guys who love women."

When moderator Anne Fulenwider from Marie Claire asked if there are women on Kaling's staff, Kaling said yes, many, which was met with an uproar of applause. While flattered, she combatted it very matter-of-factly.

"Everyone should hire women," Kaling said. "I mean, I'm glad you're clapping for that, and I want to accept that, but I also say that ... that should be the way it is."

She said one thing she dislikes about being a female leader and role model is that it often takes away from her time to work.

"I have to leave my job to go talk about how important it is for women to have a job," Kaling said.

The mostly upbeat conversation with the cast took a slight turn when a female audience member asked if it was a conscious decision to have only one female, minority actress playing the role of a doctor on the show. Barinholtz and Pally tried to help Kaling answer, with Pally jokingly saying, "We're trying to help you, here," but Kaling confidently jumped in.

"I'm a fucking Indian woman who has my own fucking network television show. It's a little insulting ... I'm someone writing a show and I want to use funny people and it seems diminishing."

She later apologized to the woman asking the question, saying she was sweet and it wasn't directed at her.

Kaling leaked that Pally, who usually plays a womanizing "bro"-like character, will soon be going through a transition that makes him a little softer and more respectful. 

The actress also confirmed during the discussion that "The Mindy Project" has been renewed for a third season -- it comes back from its season-two hiatus on April 1 -- and that she is in the process of writing her second book, which she hopes to complete by the end of the year.   

Also, here's Barinholtz doing his President Obama impression, because ... why wouldn't you want to see that?