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Mindy Kaling is speaking out about the backlash over the reimagining of Scooby Doo's Velma in an upcoming spinoff series.
At New York Comic Con on Thursday, Kaling — who serves as an executive producer and voices the titular character on HBO Max's Velma — responded to the criticism of the iconic character now being of South Asian descent.
Hanna-Barbera/Courtesy Everett Collection
"I think of the characters in this as so iconic, but in no way is the gang defined by their whiteness, except for Fred," she explained. "So, I was a little bit surprised and I think most Indian-American girls when they see this skeptical, hardworking, kind of underappreciated character, can identify with her."
"I think the vast majority of people are excited and ready for it and the show is for them," she added.
The Office alum revealed the new animated series will also address Velma having "unresolved sexual tension with a lot of characters."
"This journey of self-discovery for her is something that really drew us to this project and this character," she said. "So we want to honor other interpretations and what we think feels really modern."
In July 2021, Kaling opened up about fans' initial reaction to finding out Velma would be reimagined for the show.
"When it was announced that I was going to do the voice of Velma, people were very supportive and happy on Twitter," Kaling said during an appearance on Late Night With Seth Meyers. "So I felt great because these are really intense fans — cartoon, comic book fans."
However, the Never Have I Ever creator added that when HBO Max revealed that the character would be of South Asian descent, the reception was not as positive.
"People were not happy," Kaling said. "There was a lot of, 'So, not Velma?' Those kinds of tweets. 'Not the classic Velma that I'm always thinking about?'"
"First of all, I didn't know that she elicited such strong reactions in either direction," she continued. "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,'" she added.
Though the actress noted that the negative reactions came from "a small percentage of people," she said the backlash took her by surprise.
"It made me think, 'Okay, 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," she said.
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Aside from Kaling's upcoming series on the brainiac detective, the iconic character initially made headlines this week after a clip from the new animated movie, Trick or Treat Scooby-Doo!, confirmed her LGBTQ identity.
Velma is set to premiere on HBO Max in 2023.