Mindy Kaling is a hugely accomplished actress, writer, director, producer and comedian with a string of critically and commercially successful film and television projects under her belt, but she’s been facing the wrath of the surprisingly large number of Scooby-Doo purists out there after it was revealed the title character in HBO Max’s upcoming adult animated series Velma would be of East Asian descent.
While you could make the argument that a Scooby-Doo spinoff without the titular canine is a fairly redundant exercise, Kaling’s back catalogue is more than enough to give Velma the benefit of the doubt. After all, she wrote many of The Office‘s most memorable episodes, created popular sitcom The Mindy Project, penned acclaimed dramedy Late Night, as well as co-creating and executive producing Netflix smash hit Never Have I Ever, which drew in more than 40 million streams after premiering last year.
In a new interview, Kaling admitted that she was flattered by the outpouring of support and positivity that came with the initial announcement she’d be voicing Velma, but it was soon followed by the inevitable backlash towards reinventing the mystery solving sleuth into an East Asian character.
When it was announced that I was going to do the voice of Velma, people were very supportive and happy on Twitter. So, I felt great, because these are really intense fans, you know? And especially for a legacy show like this. So it’s like, ‘Oh, this is great!’. Then, it was announced about a month ago that the Velma character would be reimagined as South Asian. And people were not happy. There was a lot of, like, ‘So not Velma!’. Those kinds of tweets. ‘Not the classic Velma that I’m always thinking about!’.
I just really didn’t know that she elicited such strong reactions, in either direction. She’s such a great character, she’s so smart, and I just couldn’t understand how people couldn’t imagine a really smart nerdy girl with terrible eyesight who loved to solve mysteries could not be Indian. Like, there are Indian nerds. It shouldn’t be a surprise to people, but people are like, ‘No, no, no’. By the way, this is a small percentage of people, but it really made me think, ‘Okay, we’ve got to be really careful with this character’. Which we will be, because we love her, and we’ll have great adventures.”
Unfortunately, this is just the way the world works these days, and those Scooby-Doo diehards furious at the prospect of a different kind of Velma gracing their screens will no doubt be looking to tear down the show at the earliest available opportunity, regardless of how it turns out. Kaling has more than proven herself when it comes to scripting smart comedy with broad appeal, so from a quality standpoint hopes are very high, especially with the weight of the HBO Max machine behind the project.