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Mindy Kaling: Out of Office

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Just listening to Mindy Kaling rattle off her typical day is exhausting: waking up at 5 a.m., cleaning her house, going for a long run-and spending upwards of 12 hours in front of and behind the camera as writer, producer and star of her new FOX sitcom The Mindy Project. “I sleep very little,” Kaling says, sipping a drink. She pauses. “I wish I had said something sexier.”

That self-deprecating wit, which first hooked audiences in her eight seasons as The Office‘s loudmouth Kelly Kapoor, is now front and center on The Mindy Project, which has made her one of fall’s breakout stars and the rare minority actor to star in a broadcast series. The Indian actress, 33, shrugs off that mantle (“It’s presumptuous to think I am ‘this’ to all these people”), worrying more about juggling her multiple jobs: “It’s hard to be a sweetheart and a boss at the same time.”

Kaling’s character-an OB/GYN balancing her career and dating-is a tribute to her late mother, Swati, a gynecologist who died of pancreatic cancer in January. When the Cambridge, Mass., native was writing and acting on The Office, “I was on an identical schedule to my mom,” she recalls wistfully. “I could call her at 11 at night on the west coast and she would be awake at the hospital in Boston.” Swati and architect father Avu helped foster Kaling’s early love of TV comedy writing, to a point. “I could watch TV, but it had to be TV my parents could enjoy too,” says Kaling, who began writing comedy sketches at 6. By 2004 the Dartmouth graduate had landed as a writer on The Office and began appearing onscreen the following year.

With her hectic Mindy schedule leaving no free time for dating, Kaling is content to live out her romantic fantasies onscreen. “That will be a big perk of my job,” she says, “finding great actor guys I would like to go on a fake date with.”

For now, Kaling is focusing on life’s little pleasures, like running. “You wouldn’t know this from my physique, but I run 15 to 20 miles a week,” she says. And yet: “I also eat like a guy who’s 6’5″!” she says, finishing up a sub sandwich. Not the sexiest confession, but possibly the smartest. “I think half of Hollywood’s problems come from the fact that people aren’t eating,” she says. “I’ll never have that issue!”