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Scooby-Doo Goes Desi: Mindy Kaling’s HBO Animation Series ‘Velma’ to Premiere in the New Year

Scooby-Doo Goes Desi: Mindy Kaling’s HBO Animation Series ‘Velma’ to Premiere in the New Year

  • The Indian American, who serves as executive producer of the series, also stars in it as the South Asian incarnation of the famous Scooby-Doo character.

HBO animation series “Velma,” starring Mindy Kaling as the South Asian incarnation of the famous Scooby-Doo character, is set to premiere of Jan. 12. She also serves as executive producer of the series which tells the lead character’s origin story, “prior to her globetrotting adventures with Fred, Daphne, Shaggy and Scooby,” according to an HBO synopsis. It calls Velma,” an “original and humorous spin that unmasks the complex and colorful past of one of America’s most beloved mystery solvers.”

The series poster was revealed in October, ahead of the official “Velma” panel at New York Comic Con 2022. Speaking on the panel, Kaling said she “identified with Velma” while growing up. “She was so cute but not traditionally hot .. with a questionable haircut. I feel so honored I get to do the voice … she’s a truth teller, cutting through the bullshit of life. When you are smart and under-appreciated. I hope people appreciate that.”

According to a report in Comic Book Resources (CBR), a website dedicated to the coverage of comic book–related news and discussion, “Kaling herself debuted the first official images from Velma at Warner Bros. Discovery’s upfronts event this past May.” At the time the Indian American actor, producer, and author told the audience that she was “beyond excited” to share images from her new animated adult comedy. She added that she doesn’t care “if people freak out” about Velma’s South Asian roots. She continued, as reported by CBR: “No one’s imaginations ever had a problem with a talking dog solving mysteries. So a brown Velma is fine. I think we can all handle it. In any case, you won’t want to miss this.”

However, two months later, she told late-night talk show host Seth Meyers that the criticism of a South Asian Velma shocked her. Responding to criticism she’s received, she wondered why people were unable to imagine “a smart, nerdy girl with terrible eyesight” as an Indian. “Like, there are Indian nerds,” she told Meyers during a July 22 episode. “It shouldn’t be a surprise to people.”

She told Meyers that when HBO announced in February that she was going to do the voice of Velma, “people were very supportive and happy on Twitter. And so I felt great.” But as soon as it was revealed that the Velma character “would be reimagined as South Asian.” Kaling said “people were not happy,” and expressed their displeasure for not portraying a classic Velma. “Those kinds of tweets. ‘Not the classic Velma that I’m always thinking about!’”

Many had taken to social media to say that movie and TV characters, even when fictional, should not have their appearances changed once established with a certain look. Although they were “just a small percentage of people,” who criticized her, she admitted she was surprised that Velma “elicited such strong reactions in either direction.”

“Velma” was ordered by HBO Max in February 2021, and is produced by Warner Bros. Animation. Along with Kaling, executive producers include her frequent collaborator Charlie Grandy Howard Klein and Sam Register, president of Warner Bros. Animation, Cartoon Network Studios and Hanna-Barbera Studios Europe. 

Joining Kaling in the series are Glenn Howerton, Sam Richardson and Constance Wu as Fred, Norville, aka Shaggy, and Daphne, respectively. The cast also includes Jane Lynch, Wanda Sykes, Russell Peters, Melissa Fumero, Stephen Root, Gary Cole, Ken Leung, Cherry Jones, Frank Welker, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Fortune Feimster, Yvonne Orji, Sarayu Blue, Nicole Byer, Ming-Na Wen, Shay Mitchell, Debby Ryan, Kulap Vilaysak and NBA All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns. “Welker has voiced Fred in almost every animated iteration of Scooby-Doo since its inception in 1969 and has also provided Scooby’s voice in a number of productions,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. 

Meanwhile, the HBO Max series, “The Sex Lives of College Girls,” co-created by Kaling and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” writer Justin Noble, has been renewed for a third season. The teen comedy chronicles the lives of four roommates – Bela Malhotra, Leighton Murray, Kimberly Finkle and Whitney Chase – as they embark on their freshman year at Essex College, a fictional institution set in a New England town.

In an Oct. 28, 2021 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Kaling said she pulled from her own college experience about not fitting in for the series. “That’s the reason I wanted to do the show. It’s called The Sex Lives of College Girls, but we wanted to tell a story of four passionate, bright girls in college. The romantic stuff just felt like a good hook.”

Bela Malhotra, played by Amrit Kaur, is a New Jersey native as eager to break into comedy as she is to shed the conservative constraints of her Desi upbringing; Leighton Murray (Regina Rapp), is a closeted uptown snob; Kimberly Finkle (Pauline Chalamet) is a scholarship student from a small town in Arizona; and Whitney Chase (Alyah Chanelle Scott), is a college athlete whose U.S. Senator mom overshadows her arrival on campus.

Season 2 picks up with the students returning after their fall break, tackling the challenges that were thrown their way at the end of Season 1, while also facing their next semester filled with new faces, parties and predicaments. 

It is shot at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York.“Since its premiere on Nov. 21, the second season has been the top performing HBO Max original on the platform,” Deadline reported, citing data from HBO Max. according to the streamer.

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