It’s a question that I asked myself fairly early on, back when I first started Mindy Kaling’s sitcom [eleven days ago, I’m currently close to wrapping up the third season]. As a little bit of background for those of you unfamiliar with the show, The Mindy Project primarily takes place at [the originally named] Shulman & Associates, a medical practice where the titular character works as an OB/GYN. Here’s a promo picture of the cast Season 1:
The character in question is second from the left. Shauna Dicanio, played by Amanda Setton, was a receptionist with an extremely thick New York accent. I say “was”, of course, because here in the third season, with the fourth beginning in a few weeks, she’s nowhere to be seen. In fact, she didn’t even make it past the halfway mark of Season 1.
Which, I should mention before I really get into things, is a darn shame. Setton’s character had a great deal of potential as the young, hip woman around the office, in particular due to Mindy’s frequent assertions that she is the young, hip woman around the office.
While her character was never as fully fleshed out as others, with a lot of secondary cast moments and characterization going to former carjacker and new nurse Morgan Tookers [Ike Barinholtz], she was still a lot of fun to have around. And to look at. That latter point is one I’ll be returning to shortly.
Now, actually answering the question of “What happened to Shauna on The Mindy Project” is fairly straightforward. A quarter of the way through that first season Deadline announced that cast shakeups would be inbound for the fledgling comedy. Simply put, they would “include the elimination of a character, played by regular Amanda Setton.” The given explanation is stated as being “creative” in nature, with various other outlets backing that up.
Really, that’s the best and only answer available. Vulture goes just the tiniest bit further by reporting that at the Television Critics Association press tour in 2013 Kaling “didn’t talk about why Setton was let go.” So that’s that, I guess. Or it would be, if I hadn’t scrolled down through the comments sections of the various article I was using to research this particular topic. I found myself wishing that I could say-
-but alas, English is my first language and I have very high reading comprehension, and so I was exposed to those which I can only dub “haters”. There’s an entire future blog post dedicated to that phenomenon, both those who are identified as such and those who choose to ignore them. Anyway, the point is that I ran into such tidbits as these:
Oof, man. I mean . . . oof. Now I’ve edited the comments above together for easier readability, but a shared sentiment that Kaling’s apparent jealousy and insecurity are what ultimately ousted Setton is clear. While these are from the Deadline article you can find similar positions wherever the change was covered. If I was going to cherry-pick just one to focus on it would be this one:
“Is it not obvious that Mindy felt threatened by Setton and Camp because they are better looking than she is?”
That was left by one “Ryan James”, but what struck me as particularly interesting was that a number of other voices chiming in were ostensibly from women. Which is all to say that it’s not even primarily men who are or were lambasting Kaling for her small, petty, and entirely unproven motivations for Setton’s exit. “Whither art thou, feminism?” I found myself wondering aloud. Why is this happening?
I feel like it should go without saying that women are not one strong, undivided front. It’s hard to find a dozen people who agree on something, let alone asking 50% of the world’s population to come to a such a specific consensus as this one. In this case, however, people were given the option of choosing jealousy or, to use a more gendered term, “cattiness” as the real answer.
No one besides Mindy Kaling herself and those in charge at Fox can really answer exactly why Shauna was dubbed unimportant enough to be cut out as early as she was. What looking into this entire situation does uncover, however, is the ability of people to think so little of an individual as to cast aspersions on her. “According to a source close to the show” is the closest we ever get to this assumption holding any water, which is far from great.
If I have any real complaints about how it took place it’s that Shauna isn’t given a proper sendoff, or really one of any kind, she merely just disappears all of a sudden. Zoe Jarman, who plays the naive, reserved receptionist [to the left of Mindy in the cast photo above] was treated likewise as she left the show between the second and third seasons. While they weren’t so important that audiences were upset over them, both exits also could have been addressed in passing, treating the characters like real people who were moving on in life.
So what have we learned today? Well, for one that Shauna was nixed from The Mindy Project for creative reasons. Another is that Mindy Kaling, just like any other woman in the entertainment industry, is subject to an intense amount of scrutiny, so much so that casting decisions are boiled down to issues with her own self-esteem and body image. The third, since I feel at least one more point needs to be added, is that I miss Amanda Setton’s face and ridiculously heavy accent and am glad she’s still getting work-
-which is a stretch, fine, I agree.