Strange things about Mindy Kaling and BJ Novak's relationship

Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak's longtime friendship is the epitome of Facebook's "it's complicated" status. Having dated over a decade ago while working on The Office, starring as Kelly Kapoor and Ryan Howard, these amicable exes have since become Hollywood's favorite "will they/won't they" couple.

Since leaving the hit NBC series, Kaling has gone on to create two comedy shows of her own, The Mindy Project and Champions. She's also penned two New York Times best-selling memoirs, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) and Why Not Me? Meanwhile, Novak has also written a number of bestsellers, including One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories and The Book With No Pictures, served as a consulting producer on The Mindy Project, and co-created the The List App.

Basically, these multi-hyphenates are at the top of their careers, but their super close friendship has always left us wondering: Is there something more going on here? Because even Kaling once admitted to InStyle magazine, "My relationship with B.J. Novak is weird as hell." So, how much do you really know about these BFFs? Here are some of the stranger things about their relationship.

Their Office beginnings

Kaling and Novak met in 2004 when they started out as young writers and actors on The Office — and they were instantly inseparable. "[We] kind of fell in love through doing that, and then dated on and off for a couple of years," Kaling told Vulture in 2012.

Even in those early days, their relationship was difficult to define. "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," Novak added. "All you'd know for sure is that you'd always find one of us next to the other, even if we weren't getting along." 

Of their on-and-off-screen romance, he told Andy Cohen on Watch What Happens Live, "I would say it was a great and terrible chemistry, and it reflected what we were like in real life." Due to their turbulent relationship, the two eventually decided it'd be best to just call it quits.

Besties after their breakup

After Novak initiated their breakup, these two remained best friends. But that's not to say that Kaling didn't take the split hard.

"He broke up with me," she told Howard Stern in 2014, while referring to her famous ex as the "great love" of her life. "It was years and years ago that that breakup happened. ... I was so sad, not angry, sad. That was the hottest I ever looked 'cause I stopped eating. When I get depressed, I stop eating. I was so miserable and so beautiful."

However, Novak remembers that time a bit differently, telling Vulture, "In real life, I think we just essentially grew up and it became more of a transition." 

Luckily, it all worked out in the end. "Now we are just, like, best friends," Kaling said. "Like, real best friends. It's the kind of friendship you have when you are embedded with someone, that you can only get by putting in that insane amount of time with people."

Serving as on-screen inspiration since 2004

From The Office to The Mindy Project, Kaling and Novak's complicated real-life relationship has been known to inspire that of their on-screen counterparts. As Novak told Vulture, the fan-favorite Kelly and Ryan pairing on the former was informed by "an observation from the writers' room" that he and Kaling "were extremely close and constantly fighting."

In 2013, the duo reunited on The Mindy Project, with Novak guest-starring as Kaling's love interest. As the actor told Entertainment Weekly, he played a Latin professor who was essentially "the man version" of Ryan Howard. The twist? His character was secretly in love with his weirdly close best friend Lucy (played by Eva Amurri Martino), which made Kaling's character, Mindy Lahiri, feel like "the side character in their romantic comedy."

"I don't know that it's a direct analogy, but it's definitely inspired by our relationship," he continued, explaining, "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."

Their perfect rom-com tribute

If there were ever a real-life version of the When Harry Met Sally dynamic, it's Kaling and Novak's evolving relationship. In 2014, these two fittingly paid homage to this quintessential rom-com, channeling the ultimate besties-turned-couple example in People's revisit to the film's iconic diner scene.

"Well, it's about something great: Can men and women be friends? That's a perennial issue. Not one that I've ever thought about, I don't know about you," Novak quipped in a behind-the-scenes clip. "'Cause women and men can't be friends," Kaling jokingly replied. To which, Novak said, "Oh, I was gonna say they could."

She added, "I love this movie, and I love their relationship in the movie, but I don't think that you and I are like this at all." Novak, however, disagreed. "I think we are," he told her, explaining that he was more like Sally while she was more like Harry. "You can be a little overconfident, and I can be a little, like, fussy."

"But it's a little endearing ... I always love everything about you," Kaling said. He then replied, "I love you too." Okay, could these two be any more aww-worthy?

Their plus-one tradition

It's almost an unspoken rule at fancy Hollywood affairs: Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak will most likely be seen hitting the red carpet together.

The tradition began in 2013 when Kaling attended her first Met Gala and brought Novak as her date. "This is embarrassing, but I'm a really impatient person," she told Us Weekly at the time, explaining how they got ready together in only about 40 minutes. "I had my hair and makeup done, and I had my pal B.J. deejaying. He's my date tonight. We were listening to Nirvana and we drank a little."

Since then, the pair have walked a number of red carpets together, including the annual Vanity Fair Oscars Party. "I'm headed out for a night of fun with my best friend," Kaling said in a Snapchat video of the two on their way to the star-studded event in 2018. Despite her clear "best friend" distinction, the clip refueled rumors that the famous exes had reunited romantically. However, a Page Six source was quick to break the hearts of fans who ship these BFFs, saying, "They're just good friends and they've often come to the VF dinner together."

Hypothetical wedding plans

For two people who aren't romantically linked anymore, marriage is certainly a topic that has come up a lot for Kaling and Novak. 

While discussing their breakup on Howard Stern's radio show, the shock jock asked if the actress-writer would have considered marrying Novak when they were still dating. "At the time? Yeah. I was 24," she said, but added, "For the record, if anyone asked me to marry them, I would have said yes."

They've even publicly planned their hypothetical wedding on social media. After sending Novak an "island" cover of Prince's "Nothing Compares 2 U" in 2013, Kaling tweeted, "If we get married I insist John Mayer sing and perform this version at the reception." The actor replied, "I have to agree that it would be very 'us' to have a famously wrenching breakup song play at our wedding."

But that doesn't mean these besties are seriously considering walking down the aisle. "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,'" Novak jokingly told Entertainment Weekly. "I just couldn't f**king deal with that. But we know. We know what's there."

Those baby daddy rumors

When the exciting news that Kaling was expecting her first child broke in July 2017, social media users immediately began to speculate who the father was. Paternity rumors continued to abound as the Mindy Project star remained mum on the issue throughout her pregnancy, with most fans really hoping for it to be Novak. 

"If Mindy Kaling actually is pregnant + she doesn't reveal the father I think we should all collectively agree to just assume/pretend it's BJ," one Twitter user wrote, while another tweeted, "Not to sound dramatic but if BJ Novak is not the father of Mindy Kaling's baby I will no longer believe in love."

Following the birth of her daughter, Katherine Swati, that December, the actress-writer famously left her baby daddy's name off the birth certificate, which only added fuel to fire. It wasn't long before a number of op-eds popped up, arguing that the identity of the child's father was, quite frankly, no one else's business. And honestly? We can't help but agree with that.

Making bank off of their friendship

How many friendships have actual monetary value attached to them? After landing a whopping $7.5 million book deal with Penguin in 2015, we're guessing it's probably just Kaling and Novak's.

The NY Daily News initially reported what every fan had hoped — that the book would cover "their off-and on romance. ... likely to include juicy information about The Office stars' 'complicated' courtship." 

However, Kaling quickly took to Instagram to confirm that this was not the case. "Many of you asked about a book that my friend B.J. (@picturesoftext) and I are working on. I heard somewhere it was a tell-all but it's not!" she wrote, captioning an illustration of the children's book characters Frog and Toad. "What I CAN tell you [is] it will be super cool and funny and even better. For now we are researching. Here is a cool pic of us working at my house."

At the time of this writing, neither Kaling nor Novak have updated fans on the status of their book, but we can safely say we all can't wait to read it!

Their non-relationship is still relationship goals

Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak's strange friendship may always keep us guessing, but their non-relationship is still somehow total #RelationshipGoals.

These two are each other's biggest cheerleaders. They constantly gush over one another in interviews and on social media, where they're known to share their most heartfelt, endearing, and funny photos and exchanges. Some of our fave moments include the time Novak called Kaling "perfect" and, of course, their best friend selfies

But the best is how they often refer to one another as their "soup snake." The term is an inside joke stemming from an Office episode in which Michael Scott (Steve Carell) mistakenly created an alternative term for "soul mate." As Kaling described their strong friendship in Why Not Me?, "'Soul mates' is what you aim for, but soup snakes is what you get sometimes" (via Time). And as Novak once told People, he "wouldn't trade it for anything in the world."

Seriously, how sweet are these two?