‘Saturday Night Live’: Mindy Kaling Had to Turn Down a Dream Job on the Iconic Show and Said It Was ‘Heartbreaking’

Mindy Kaling had aspirations of being a cast member on Saturday Night Live and her dream almost came true. While she was a writer on The Office, she got the SNL offer of a lifetime — but things didn’t work out as she hoped.

Mindy Kaling attends the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party
Mindy Kaling | Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic

Mindy Kaling auditioned for ‘Saturday Night Live’

Kaling is in good company with other famous actors and comedians who auditioned for SNL but didn’t get the job. She did, however, get an offer to write on the show and she thought perhaps that would lead to being a cast member.

There was one small problem: she had a contract as a writer and performer on The Office.

Her boss, The Office showrunner Greg Daniels, was willing to let Kaling go if SNL offered her a job as a cast member, so when they gave her the opportunity to write for the show, she sadly had to turn it down.

In a 2019 interview with The Daily Beast’s The Last Laugh podcast, Kaling discussed how she had to give up her childhood SNL dream. It was her second season of The Office when she was invited to audition for the cast of Saturday Night Live and she really wanted to pursue the opportunity.

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Her boss would have let her out of her contract

Kaling had to have a heart-to-heart talk with Daniels, who initially didn’t understand why she would pursue the audition. Ultimately, he gave her an out from her contract, but only if she landed a spot in the cast.

“I sat down with Greg [Daniels] and I said to him, it would be my dream to be a cast member on Saturday Night Live. And he’s like, you have a job here, I don’t understand why you would want to leave,” she recalled. “And I said, I know, it’s just this is my childhood dream.

“And he said, OK, if you go there and get cast on Saturday Night Live, I will let you out of your contract. So I went there and I auditioned and afterwards I had heard that Lorne [Michaels] wanted to offer me a job as a writer there, but not as a performer,” Kaling continued. “But there was some hint at that point that if I stayed on long enough, like Jason Sudeikis, that I could maybe graduate to be a performer.”

“That was dangled to me, so I thought, well that’s pretty exciting. So I went back and talked to Greg about it and he said to me, no, that’s not the deal we made,” Kaling explained. “The deal we made is that if you get cast as a cast member you can go.”

“And it was really a life-changing thing,” she added. “I think the course of my career would have gone really differently had I left The Office and done that instead.”

In a 2007 interview with AV Club, Kaling shared the story of her SNL audition, which she thought “went pretty well,” and how she really wanted to take them up on the offer to write.

“Greg used to write for SNL, and he had known that being on SNL was my great dream,” she shared, explaining that he would have allowed her to break her Office contract. “I hated L.A. for a long time, and I wanted to leave it,” Kaling said. “I had these fantasies of going to SNL and falling in love with some writer on SNL, of getting married and living in New York.”

“That was really heartbreaking to have to turn down, but then I got to guest-write in the spring,” she added. “I really loved it. I only got in one character in one little bit the entire time I was there, but it was such a fun experience.”