Mindy Kaling says she ‘couldn’t understand’ backlash to ‘Scooby-Doo’ character Velma being reimagined as South Asian in spinoff

Mindy Kaling appeared on 'The Tonight Show With Seth Meyers.'
Mindy Kaling appeared on ‘The Tonight Show With Seth Meyers’ on Thursday to discuss her latest projects. NBC/Getty Images
  • Mindy Kaling, 42, appeared on “Late Night With Seth Meyers” on Thursday.
  • Kaling pushed back at criticism over a “Scooby-Doo” spinoff that will depict Velma as South Asian.
  • She questioned why some people couldn’t imagine the character Velma as an Indian woman.
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Mindy Kaling said she “couldn’t understand” criticism around the “Scooby-Doo” character Velma, who has often been depicted as white, being reimagined as South Asian for an animated spinoff series of the TV show.

Kaling discussed fans’ reactions to the upcoming HBO Max series during an appearance on the “Late Night With Seth Meyers” that aired Thursday. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the adult animated show will focus on the origin story of Velma Dinkley, and Kaling will voice the beloved Mystery Inc. sleuth.

Although the character has previously been portrayed as white, as Sakshi Venkatraman wrote for NBC News, Velma hasn’t always been played by white actors. Puerto Rican actress Gina Rodriguez voiced Velma in the 2020 animated movie “Scoob.” Also, Hayley Kiyoko, an actress and singer of Japanese descent, voiced the character from 2009 to 2019 in “Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins” and “Scooby-Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster.”

“When it was announced that I was going to do the voice of Velma, people were very supportive and happy on Twitter,” Kaling, 42, told Meyers. “So I felt great because these are really intense fans – cartoon, comic book fans.”

Wide preview of Mindy Kaling and 'Scooby-Doo' character Velma Dinkley.
Mindy Kaling will voice Velma Dinkley in ‘Velma,’ a spinoff of ‘Scooby-Doo.’ Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images; ABC Photo Archives/Getty Images

Kaling continued, telling Meyers that some people didn’t agree that the character Velma should be reimagined as South Asian.

“There was a lot of, ‘So, not Velma?’ Those kinds of tweets,” Kaling told Meyers. “‘Not the classic Velma that I’m always thinking about?'”

She continued: “First of all, I 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. There are Indian nerds.”

“It shouldn’t be a surprise to people, but people are like, ‘No, no, no,” Kaling added.

Kaling acknowledged that the criticism came from a “small percentage of people,” but told Meyers that the negative response made her consider the importance of the character.

“It made me think, ‘OK, we’ve got to be really careful with this character,’ which we will be, because we love her and she’s going to have great adventures,” Kaling said.

Kaling is not the first star to address criticism surrounding casting decisions that reimagine characters previously depicted as white as another race. Singer and “Grown-ish” actress Halle Bailey, who faced backlash after being cast as Ariel in an upcoming live-action remake of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” said in 2019 that she ignores the “negativity” from people who criticized the casting decision.

Freeform, which is owned by Disney, shared a statement at the time on Instagram and Twitter, defending Bailey’s role as Ariel.

“Yes, the original author of ‘The Little Mermaid’ was Danish. Ariel… is a mermaid,” Freeform wrote in a post shared in 2019. “Danish mermaids can be black because Danish people can be black.”