Mindy Kaling Would've Married B.J. Novak If He'd Asked
#TBT: Check in every Thursday as we throw it back to some of our favorite celebrity couples of all time.
Who: Six-time Emmy-nominated actress and writer Mindy Kaling, 39, and 5-time Emmy-nominated actor and writer B.J. Novak, 39.
How They Met: Though they “grew up 10 minutes away from each other” in Massachusetts, Mindy and B.J. didn’t meet until they were both cast and recruited for the writers’ room at NBC’s The Office. During those early years on the show, a romantic relationship of sorts was struck.
“No one, including us, ever really knew, ‘Is this dating? Is this not dating?’ We were never really dating, we were never really not dating. We didn’t know. No one knew. All you’d know for sure as that you’d always find one of us next to the other, even if we weren’t getting along,” Novak told Vulture in 2012. Kaling saw things a little more concretely, explaining that they “kind of fell in love” in the writers’ room, “dated on and off for a couple of years, and now we are just, like, best friends.”
Why We Love Them: Mindy and B.J. navigated tricky terrain all the way around — a workplace relationship, workplace breakup, and then a legitimately healthy friendship with your ex? Tell us your secrets! In fact, the volatile relationship between their Office characters (Kelly and Ryan, respectively) may have been inspired by the real-life pals. Novak told Vulture the beloved subplot was possibly derived from “an observation from the writers’ room that Mindy and I were extremely close and constantly fighting.”
So add “inspired one of TV’s most iconic relationships” to the list of unlikely feats we have Mindy and B.J. to thank for.
When They Peaked: Honestly, they’re still ascending, but we love that Mindy would prank B.J. during their time on The Office. “She would lie to me. She would make up these – just out of nowhere – purposeless lies that I believed,” Novak told The Guardian, “Like saying that Allison Jones, the casting director of The Office, was also an actress who had been the third lead in Cold Mountain. And so I just thought that.”
Even so, they’re still each other’s go-to plus-ones — though in a few years we have a feeling B.J.’s going to have some competition from Mindy’s daughter, Katherine. (Granted, she probably won’t be quite as down to twin with mom as she is now.)
The Breakup: B.J. and Mindy split around 2007 after about two years together.
In 2014, Kaling admitted that Novak was her “great love,” blaming their split on their insurmountable differences. “People are so different — you can overlap in certain ways that are important but not the ways that are the most important,” she told Howard Stern. “He broke up with me,” she continued, “That was the hottest I’ve ever looked because I stopped eating. When I get depressed I stop eating. I was so miserable and I was so beautiful.”
Kaling also told Stern that had Novak asked her to marry him at the time, she would have said yes. “I was 24,” she clarified, “If anyone had asked me to marry me, I would’ve said yes.”
As for Novak, his reasons for keeping Kaling in the friendzone are simple: ”The main reason I’m reluctant to get married to Mindy is that every single person in our lives and Twitter feeds would say, ‘I knew it.’ I just couldn’t f—ing deal with that. But we know. We know what’s there,” he told Entertainment Weekly.
Of course, at the time of their split, B.J. and Mindy still had a hit show to produce. Speaking to the challenge of working with an ex, Kaling told Andy Cohen, "I think for me, it was challenging to be in your mid-twenties — and I'm such a sentimental person and I take things very hard — but that's the nice thing about long friendships. That was, like, 12 years ago when that happened, so you get over things like that — but yeah, totally, it was very challenging."
Where They Are Now: Years have passed, but Mindy and B.J. are still (in Rainn Wilson’s words) “connected with an umbilical cord.”
“My relationship with B.J. Novak is weird as hell,” Kaling told InStyle in 2015. “He is not my boyfriend, but he is not my best friend. I guess you could describe our relationship as a ‘romantically charged camaraderie with loud arguments,’ but I don’t think Facebook would accept this as a new status.”
Novak echoed that sentiment, telling People, “[Mindy’s] a really complicated person and [we have a] really complicated friendship, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”
With a creative partnership as compelling as theirs, the end of The Office was hardly the end of their working relationship. B.J. guest-starred as Mindy’s love-interest in her sitcom The Mindy Project, appearing as a character whose strangely close relationship with a female friend puts the show’s titular character off. “I don’t know that it’s a direct analogy, but it’s definitely inspired by our relationship,” he told EW of the character arc. “We are pretty inseparable best friends with a lot of chemistry ourselves, and we’re not dating. Whenever we date anyone else, I think there’s a period where the person is very skeptical of our friendship — 'Everyone seems to think you two might be a couple, and I don’t mean to get in the way. Are you sure you’re not dating? Are you sure you’re not going to end up dating?' It’s such a common thing to have that platonic best friend that becomes a little weird when you start dating someone.”
In 2015, it was announced that Novak and Kaling had inked a $7.5 million book deal, but there’s been no word on the status in the years since — Mindy’s babies (both literal and artistic) are likely behind the delay.
Kaling’s latest creative birth, Late Night, opens on Friday, and you can probably guess who she took as her date …
While the pair isn’t together, romantically, Novak plays an ever larger role in her life: he’s her daughter’s godfather. “The truth is that B.J. is so much more like family now than a platonic friend,” she told Good Housekeeping. That being said, she’s perfectly OK with the public’s insistence that they’re more than friends.
“I like when people think it’s more romantic or sparkly or interesting than it is,” she told CBS Sunday Morning. “He’s really part of my family now, which is great. Even though that’s less of a sexy characterization of our relationship, I think it’s a deeper and a closer one. We do spend a lot of time together and it’s a great blessing in my life.”