In a scene from The Mindy Project, Mindy Kaling and Lee Pace lie in bed together.

Mindy Kaling Harassing Lee Pace Isn’t the Cute Anecdote She Thought It Was

The internet is forever, and Mindy Kaling is getting that lesson firsthand right now as a years-old interview on Conan is making the rounds on social media. In the clip, she’s casually telling an anecdote of sexually harassing her guest star Lee Pace as if it’s a cute, funny story as opposed to a blatant workplace harassment story. Yikes.

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Here’s the clip, if you want to watch it and cringe:

If you don’t want to watch a sexual harassment suit play out, and I don’t blame out, Buzzfeed wrote it out for you:

Conan O’Brien asked her: “Do you ever feel like having that much power on your show has led to you being unprofessional? Because power can corrupt.”

You’ll recall that Kaling had a show called The Mindy Project, which I liked! It was cute, and I thought it was pretty funny. What I loved most about it was that Kaling cast a lot of hot guys to be her love interests which is something I would do if I had my own show. Stars really are just like us! What I would not do is what is described next. The transcript continues:

“But we had this one actor on the show named Lee Pace…” she went on. “A real gentleman. He came on the show and we had to do this flashback sequence where we were in bed together in college and we’re just supposed to be having a conversation.

But he’s so tall and he’s so handsome that in the middle of that he was just supposed to be like, ‘What do you think, Mindy?’ and I was like—” At this point, Mindy imitated kissing him.

I’m glad society has come a long way because right now if this were any other time in America some jackass would make a “could you blame her?” joke for a cheap laugh and that would have been considered socially acceptable. But this is a post-#MeToo era, and thank god we have some social awareness around the concept of consent. Which she did not have!

The anecdote only gets worse:

“I improvised just kissing him in the scene, which was not in the script,” she said with a laugh. “He was looming above me and he asked me a question and I was not listening to him at all, because who cares what he was saying? I was like mhm, mhm, mwah.”

As the host and the audience laughed at the anecdote, Mindy admitted that Lee had a shocked reaction to the impromptu kiss, and she said: “I pretended it didn’t happen and then I walked backstage.”

Since the kiss was impromptu and not in the script, Kaling was told by her producers that she could get sued for it. (Because again, that is workplace sexual harassment!) Her solution? She says she told Pace: “Tell anyone and you’re fired.”

The whole thing is played for laughs.

As this TikTok (also embedded in the Buzzfeed article) points out: He’s at work. You’re at Work. What are you doing?!

The whole thing is Ick. It also makes that awful “Me Too” joke made in Velma even weirder because it certainly seems like Kaling is pro-sexual harassment in the workplace as long as she benefits from it.

Everyone deserves to have autonomy over their body and determine who gets to have access to it. Everyone. I genuinely hope that someone in Kaling’s orbit can help her understand that, and also, you can be funny without being an asshole who punches down. Me Too didn’t make life harder for anyone other than assholes who want to make life harder for everyone.

For those of you wondering, The Mindy Project was filmed at Universal Studios in Los Angeles, which means it is subject to California sexual harassment laws. There is a 3-year statute of limitations from the time an incident occurs for workplace sexual harassment if you’re wondering what recourse Pace still has. His episode aired in 2015. Pace, as far as I can tell, has never mentioned this incident publicly.

It’s a bummer this was played for laughs during a late-night segment. That was entirely Kaling’s choice; it’s not like O’Brien brought this anecdote up out of nowhere. Now that the clip is resurfacing on social media, it’s clear how drastically the discourse around consent and what’s acceptable has changed in less than 10 years and how important #MeToo has been. I hope the impact is lasting.

(featured image: Fox)

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Image of Kate Hudson
Kate Hudson
Kate Hudson (no, not that one) has been writing about pop culture and reality TV in particular for six years, and is a Contributing Writer at The Mary Sue. With a deep and unwavering love of Twilight and Con Air, she absolutely understands her taste in pop culture is both wonderful and terrible at the same time. She is the co-host of the popular Bravo trivia podcast Bravo Replay, and her favorite Bravolebrity is Kate Chastain, and not because they have the same first name, but it helps.