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“Confidence is important and good — when it’s married to hard work. If you feel like you have done hard work, it behooves you to be confident. You need to own it. I want her to be unafraid of owning that,” Kaling told TODAY.com. “It’s a very unattractive quality to be entitled without doing the hard work.”
Kaling herself knows a thing, or seven, about hard work. She’s one of the headliners of the caper “Ocean’s 8,” opening Friday and featuring a blue-chip cast of women coming together to plan a jewelry heist. The atmosphere on set was one of congeniality, thanks in part to Sandra Bullock, who plays the criminal mastermind.
“That was really important to Sandy, that the women have these friendships and connections to each other. Chemistry can be in friendships, where people clearly like each other,” said Kaling. “She created an atmosphere on set where it was jokey and warm. There were no personality issues — unless I’m the problem and no one has told me.”
Her co-star Sarah Paulson told Jimmy Fallon she was, shall we say, a bit impressed when she met Rihanna, who plays a hacker. What about Kaling?
"I came from working with Oprah and Reese so my thing for being starstruck has been dulled a little bit,” said Kaling, referring to her costars in “A Wrinkle in Time,” which was released in March. “I can sing every word of every single one of her songs. She was really sweet and shy. There’s nothing diva about her at all, except that she has an entourage of eight people.”
Kaling also co-created and stars in the NBC comedy “Champions,” playing a single mom on the show, which just wrapped its first season.
“Priya is so funny,” said Kaling of her character. "The biggest difference between us is that she feels kind of lonely and is looking for some excitement. I have too much excitement in my life and I want to chill. I want to go home and sleep a little bit.”
Speaking of maternal anxiety, Kaling told TODAY Parents she is adjusting to its constant presence in her life.
“I knew how much I would love her and love the experience of being with her. I never understood how much I would worry and how much that worry is unceasing,” she said. “Happiness for me, now, is just a feeling of relief. I’m in a constant state of worry but I’m enjoying it too. I hope she’s developing correctly — I’m anxious constantly. I’m hoping that will change a little bit. I haven’t even thought about when she’s bigger.”
Motherhood, to Kaling, “is so rewarding in a way you can’t explain. I look back at myself — it’s very crazy to me. I feel brave having done it.”
As for her daughter’s name, there’s no hidden meaning. "I always loved the name. I have a lot of great Katherines and Katies in my life,” she said.
Since her birth back in December, Kaling has shared exactly zero photos of her baby.
“People say, ‘Did you even have a baby?’ Kaling joked. “I’m keeping her under wraps for now. I would kill someone who said anything about her.”
She fully respects other actresses who post photos of their offspring, but Kaling isn’t emotionally there yet. “I’m such a worrier — I can’t do that. I’m far too fragile. She’ll be big enough and people will see her. Am I even doing the right thing? Maybe she’ll be mad at me later on but I’ll deal with it then,” she said.
“I have help. I’m lucky enough that I can afford to have help. I don’t have a husband or a mother. How can I make this easier for myself?” she mused, referring to her mom, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2012.
That means Kaling is open to advice, and listening to other parents when they share their nuggets of child-rearing wisdom. Take comedian James Corden, a father of three.
“He has a baby who is my baby’s age. He told me the best thing you can do for a baby is constantly talk to them, even if you feel like you’re babbling to them,” said Kaling. “Since he told me that, I’ve been talking to her so much. In the couple of weeks since I upped my talking to her, she seems to be really reacting and listening. I do feel foolish doing it. I’m babbling like a lunatic. It’s hard to come up with more things to talk to her about: 'Last night I went to the premiere.' I’m just a personal Wikipedia page for her.”
And someday, Katherine may realize just how accomplished her mom is, both behind and in front of the camera.
“I work harder because of the kid. I want to do things she’ll be proud of and tell her friends about,” said Kaling. “Both of these projects are things I hope she’ll watch when she’s older.”
Editor's note: This story was first published on March 2, 2018, and has been updated.