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BJ Novak says ‘tumultuous’ and ‘toxic’ relationship with Mindy Kaling inspired their TV romance

BJ Novak reminisced about his “tumultuous” relationship with ex-girlfriend Mindy Kaling at Sunday’s (26 February) Producers Guild Awards.

Before presenting his former Office co-star with the Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television, Novak honoured Kaling for her incredible writing talents, which he said were guided by her “passionate” and “unstoppable” opinions.

“The first thing I first noticed about Mindy in [The Office] writer’s room is that she cared so much about everything,” Novak recalled. “Whether Jim and Pam should kiss, the philosophical limits of Dwight’s loyalty to Michael, exactly how many seconds Kevin would roll around in his spilt chilli.

“And it went beyond the show,” he continued. “She cared about all the issues of the day. About Beyoncé vs Rihanna, about BlackBerries vs iPhones, about whether You’ve Got Mail should be in the Criterion Collection.”

Novak remembered: “We were in love with each other, and we were reckless idiots, and the two of us would argue about all of these things forever, grinding the writers’ room to a halt until we got too upset and we’d go to our respective offices and slam the door where we would continue arguing over AOL and Instant Messenger.”

Waiting as Kaling and the audience’s laughter subsided, he added: “And when the producers realised that our relationship as co-writers had jumped every conceivable boundary and become a tumultuous, romantic, toxic, boundaryless mess, they pulled us aside and said, ‘Hey you should have scenes together too. You guys are pretty funny together.’

“Different times,” he joked. “There was no way out but through. We made it work, or didn’t make it work; we made it through. Nearly 200 episodes of The Office together, 24 of them written by Mindy, far more than any other writer on the staff, and our conversation never stopped.”

BJ Novak and Mindy Kaling (Getty Images)
BJ Novak and Mindy Kaling (Getty Images)

Novak and Kaling dated on and off between the early years of the American version of Ricky Gervais’s sitcom in 2004 and 2007. They have remained close friends ever since.

Their characters Kelly and Ryan had a complicated relationship on-screen, too. By the series finale, the two Dunder Mifflin employees had gotten back together.

At last year’s Emmy Awards, Kaling and Novak poked fun at their “insanely complicated relationship” while co-presenting the award for Writing for a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie.