Many of us, perhaps, grew up imagining lives as rock stars, astronauts or sports heroes.
Not Mindy Kaling. She recalls a “single-minded desire to become a comedy writer. I’ve had that urge since I was 16.”
That explains a central character in “The Sex Lives of College Girls” (shown here) the new HBO Max series. Bela (Amrit Kaur, right), the daughter of Indian immigrants, has just arrived at an Ivy-League-type college, obsessed with getting on the campus humor magazine.
It reflects Kaling’s own past. She grew up in Cambridge, Mass., where her parents (India natives) were an architect and an obstetrician/gynecologist. She went to an Ivy League college, where she did it all – improv comedy, a capella music, a cartoon strip in the school paper and work in the humor magazine. It all led to a career that has included her long “The Office” stay, followed by creating “The Mindy Project,” “Never Have I Ever” and more.
Still, she points out: “This show is not autobiographical. It’s inspired from both Justin’s and my experiences in college.”
That’s Justin Noble, a Yale grad who also says this isn’t autobiographical. “If I wrote from my experience, the show would be called, ‘The Non-existent Sex Life of a College Closeted Gay Boy Whose Only Friends (are) Girls.” That, he said, would be “a little more niche.”
Instead, Noble said, this focuses on four roommates with little in common except a desire to expand their horizons. “They’re first out of their parents’ house and feeling like, ‘I can do anything that I want and I’m an adult.’ And then immediatiely realizing, ‘I don’t even know how to get to Walgreen’s.’”
The first season has unfolded quickly, while viewers were busy with Thanksgiving – two episodes Nov. 18, three more on Nov. 25. But they can catch up quickly on the streaming network, then wrap up the first season with three episodes on Thursday (Dec. 2) and the final two a week later.
They’ll meet roommates who are diverse in the usual way. One is Black (Whitney, played by Alya Chanelle Scott), one has Asian roots (Bela) and two are white – a blonde who’s privileged (Leighton, played by Renee Rapp) and a brunette who’s not (Kimberly, played by Pauline Chalamet).
The stars survived complex, pandemic-era casting, then met – sort of. “We all met on Zoom …. The first time we met in-person was at the Residence Inn in Burbank, on South Ikea Way,” Chalamet said.
They soon found that their own college experiences varied sharply:
– Chalamet – the older sister of Oscar-nominated actor Timothee Chalamet – grew up in New York City and had sedate years at Bard College. “A lot more introverts went there,” she said.
– Scott had the opposite experience. “I was like,: ‘I’m going to go to a college where I can party and go to football games and have a college experience.’” So she went from her Texas home to the University of Michigan, “partially to get away from family and home and also just to have a good time.”
– Kaur went to York University, in her home town of Ontario. “I had a pretty traditional, conservative, Indian family, which made me in turn very rebellious.”
– And Rapp? She’s just starting the whole college experience: “I’m at Essex University and I will be graduating in four years, I guess. Or three. Whatever.”
She grew up in North Carolina, went to a performing-arts high school (as Chalamet did in New York), then was whisked away. After winning a national high school acting championship, she took over a key role (as the blonde villain) in Broadway’s “Mean Girls.”
Now she’s finally in college – on TV and in real life. She’ll graduate some day, or not. Whatever.