Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak's Friendship Timeline

·13 min read
B. J. Novak (L) and Mindy Kaling attend the 2018 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on March 4, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California
B. J. Novak (L) and Mindy Kaling attend the 2018 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on March 4, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California

John Shearer/Getty

Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak's relationship proves that exes can stay friends.

The Office costars, whose off-screen relationship was on and off like their beloved characters, have maintained their friendship through the years. "Complicated," is the word Novak used to describe their relationship to PEOPLE in 2014. "A really complicated person and a really complicated friendship, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world."

Friends since they met while working on The Office in 2004, Kaling and Novak have been vocal about their now-platonic love for each other. They've helped each other on creative projects, attended each other's red carpet premieres, and in 2017, Novak officially became a member of Kaling's family when he became her daughter's godfather.

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"It isn't the thing that people sometimes think it is," Kaling said in a 2019 interview on CBS Sunday Morning. "But 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."

From their days costarring on The Office to their many supportive comments, here's everything you need to know about Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak's friendship.

2004: Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak meet while working on The Office 

Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute, Mindy Kaling as Kelly Kapoor and B.J. Novak as Ryan Howard
Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute, Mindy Kaling as Kelly Kapoor and B.J. Novak as Ryan Howard

Dean Hendler/NBCU Photo Bank

Kaling and Novak met in 2004 when they began working on the Emmy-winning NBC series The Office. As both writers and performers on the show, Kaling and Novak had a lot of creative control over their characters, Kelly Kapoor and Ryan Howard.

2004: Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak start dating

Though it's not known exactly when Kaling and Novak started dating, they did embark on an on-again, off-again relationship in the show's early years.

"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," Novak told Vulture in 2012. "We didn't know. No one knew. All you'd know for sure was that you'd always find one of us next to the other, even if we weren't getting along."

February 9, 2006: Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak's characters on The Office get together

In the "Valentine's Day" episode of Season 2 of The Office, Kaling and Novak's characters finally got together, kickstarting their off-and-on relationship.

"Sometimes viewers would ask, 'Are Ryan and Kelly together right now, not together?' It's not even that I wouldn't know. I thought the question was missing the point," Novak continued to Vulture. "I think it was sort of expressive of the relationship that we were in."

2007: Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak end their on-again, off-again relationship

B.J. Novak (L) and actress Mindy Kaling attend the NBC Universal and Focus Features' Golden Globes after party sponsored by Cartier at Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 17, 2010 in Beverly Hills, California
B.J. Novak (L) and actress Mindy Kaling attend the NBC Universal and Focus Features' Golden Globes after party sponsored by Cartier at Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 17, 2010 in Beverly Hills, California

Christopher Polk/Getty

Kaling and Novak's off-screen romance seemingly ended for good in 2007, though their friendship didn't change. "In real life, I think we just essentially grew up and it became more of a transition," said Novak.

August 10, 2009: Mindy Kaling supports B.J. Novak at the Los Angeles premiere of Inglourious Basterds.

Kaling supported Novak at the L.A. premiere of Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds. In the WWII film, Novak plays Private First Class Smithson Utivitch alongside Brad Pitt.

May 10, 2012: Mindy Kaling leaves The Office

On May 10, 2012, the season 8 finale of The Office aired, Kaling's final episode as a series regular. She left the show to focus on her Fox and eventual Hulu show, The Mindy Project.

Novak followed suit halfway through season 9, later revealing on a 2021 episode of the Armchair Expert podcast with Dax Shepard that it was mostly due to burnout: "Sometimes, you just know when it's time."

January 29, 2013: B.J. Novak admits that others are "intimidated" by his relationship with Mindy Kaling

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Novak admitted that it can be difficult for his and Kaling's partners to understand their relationship.

"We are pretty inseparable best friends with a lot of chemistry ourselves, and we're not dating," he said. "Whenever we date anyone else, I think there's a period where the person is very skeptical of our friendship."

January 29, 2013: B.J. Novak makes an appearance on The Mindy Project

B.J. Novak as Jaime, Mindy Kaling as Mindy
B.J. Novak as Jaime, Mindy Kaling as Mindy

Beth Dubber/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal

Kaling tapped Novak to help her produce the first season of The Mindy Project, and he even had a three-episode character arc. On the show, he played Jamie, one of Mindy Lahiri's love interests.

The duo again based their characters' relationship on their own while also referencing the iconic film When Harry Met Sally with their co-written episode "Harry and Sally."

May 6, 2013: B.J. Novak and Mindy Kaling attend the 2013 Met Gala together

Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak attend the Costume Institute Gala for the "PUNK: Chaos to Couture" exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 6, 2013 in New York City
Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak attend the Costume Institute Gala for the "PUNK: Chaos to Couture" exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 6, 2013 in New York City

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

Kaling and Novak attended their first Met Gala side by side. Kaling wore a purple Lela Rose dress, in line with the year's theme of PUNK: Chaos to Couture.

"We woulda gone punk even if it wasn't the theme," she later captioned an Instagram selfie with Novak from the event.

May 16, 2013: Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak's characters on The Office run away together in the series finale

The Office officially came to an end on May 16, 2013. After leaving the show a year prior, Kaling and Novak returned for the series finale.

In the final episode, Kelly and Ryan get their own version of happily ever after, running away together and ditching their responsibilities at Dwight Schrute and Angela Martin's wedding.

July 31, 2013: Mindy Kaling calls B.J. Novak her "soup snake"

In a cute Office reference, Kaling called Novak her "soup snake" in a birthday tribute on Twitter, a running joke between the pair.

The term "soup snakes" comes from an episode in season 7 where Steve Carell's Michael Scott confuses his own handwriting, reading "soup snakes" rather than "soul mates" in a written love confession.

March 2, 2014: Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak attend the Vanity Fair Oscars party together

B.J. Novak (L) and Mindy Kaling attend the 2014 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter on March 2, 2014 in West Hollywood, California
B.J. Novak (L) and Mindy Kaling attend the 2014 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter on March 2, 2014 in West Hollywood, California

Mark Sullivan/WireImage

Kaling and Novak kicked off their cute tradition of attending the Vanity Fair Oscars party together in 2014.

The pair also attended the bash together in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2022. Before the 2018 party, Kaling shared a video of the two en route, saying, "I'm headed out for a night of fun with my best friend."

September 15, 2014: Mindy Kaling admits that B.J. Novak once broke her heart 

On Sept. 15, 2014, Kaling went on the Howard Stern show and spilled about her previous relationship with Novak, saying that had he proposed at the time, she would have said yes.

She also shared that it was Novak who initiated their final breakup. "He broke up with me," she said. "It was years and years ago that that breakup happened. I was so sad, not angry, sad."

May 7, 2015: Mindy Kaling breaks down her complicated relationship with B.J. Novak

Mindy Kaling (L) and B. J. Novak attend the 2017 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 26, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California
Mindy Kaling (L) and B. J. Novak attend the 2017 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 26, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California

Kevin Mazur/VF17/WireImage

In a 2015 profile for InStyle, Kaling got a lot of fans' hopes up after opening up about her complicated friendship with Novak.

"I will freely admit: My relationship with BJ Novak is weird as hell," she said. "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."

November 15, 2016: B.J. Novak reprises his role on The Mindy Project

Mindy Kaling, B.J. Novak, Moderator
Mindy Kaling, B.J. Novak, Moderator

Chris Haston/Universal Television/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal

Novak reprised his role as Jamie in season 5 of The Mindy Project. On the show, Mindy Lahiri and Jamie share a quick kiss after one too many shots at a party.

"I was doubly happy to come back to The Mindy Project, but I never ask. It's just not my style," Novak said of the role in an interview with Glamour magazine. "I'd never ask for a favor from Mindy because she'd do it," he continued.

June 8, 2017: Mindy Kaling celebrates National Best Friends Day with an Instagram tribute to B.J. Novak

Kaling celebrated Nation Best Friends Day by posting a tribute to Novak on her Instagram.

"Best friend isn't a person, it's a tier," she wrote in the caption, again quoting her Office character.

She also continued the When Harry Met Sally references, noting that the pair were dressed as the fictional best friends in the photo.

December 15, 2017: Mindy Kaling gives birth to daughter Katherine Swati and names B.J. Novak as godfather

Mindy Kaling (L) and B. J. Novak attend the 2019 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 24, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California
Mindy Kaling (L) and B. J. Novak attend the 2019 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 24, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California

Emma McIntyre /VF19/WireImage

On Dec. 15, 2017, Kaling welcomed her first child, daughter Katherine "Kit" Swati. In 2019, she revealed to Good Housekeeping that Novak is Kit's godfather.

Novak took on the role of godfather again when Kaling gave birth to her second child, son Spencer Avu, on Sept. 3, 2020.

February 9, 2020: Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak attend the Academy Awards

Mindy Kaling (R) and US actor BJ Novak arrive for the 92nd Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California on February 9, 2020
Mindy Kaling (R) and US actor BJ Novak arrive for the 92nd Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California on February 9, 2020

VALERIE MACON/AFP

Kaling and Novak hit yet another red carpet together at the 92nd Academy Awards before Kaling took to the stage to present an award. After the event, the pair kept up their tradition and attended the Vanity Fair Oscars party, later posting a series of photos from a photo booth.

October 28, 2020: Mindy Kaling talks about B.J. Novak's relationship with her kids

In an October 2020 interview with the Today Show, Kaling shared that Novak has become pretty attached to her kids: "He said the funniest thing, he was like, 'Can you sue for god-paternity rights?' "

December 23, 2020: Mindy Kaling shares B.J. Novak's role in her family's holiday traditions

Mindy Kaling and B. J. Novak attend the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 09, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California
Mindy Kaling and B. J. Novak attend the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 09, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California

Matt Winkelmeyer/VF20/WireImage

Novak's most important role? Playing Santa Claus for Kaling's kids. In 2020, she revealed that she and Novak schemed as to how to pull off the surprise.

"We're going to be baking cookies and then all of a sudden we're going to hear bells from another room and I'm going to go, 'Kit, what do you think that is?' " Kaling said the act ends with Kit finding Novak in a Santa costume asleep on the couch with a bag of toys.

November 10, 2021: B.J. Novak supported Mindy Kaling at the premiere of The Sex Lives of College Girls

Mindy Kaling and B. J. Novak attend the Los Angeles Premiere of HBO Max's "The Sex Lives Of College Girls" at Hammer Museum on November 10, 2021 in Los Angeles, California
Mindy Kaling and B. J. Novak attend the Los Angeles Premiere of HBO Max's "The Sex Lives Of College Girls" at Hammer Museum on November 10, 2021 in Los Angeles, California

Emma McIntyre/Getty

In November 2021, Kaling's HBO Max comedy The Sex Lives of College Girls premiered in L.A. at the Hammer Museum. Novak was on hand to support Kaling, who created the show under her own production company, Kaling International, Inc.

June 1, 2022: Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak attend a Red Sox game

B.J. Novak, New England Patriots running back Damien Harris, and Mindy Kaling pose for a photo before a game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Red Sox on June 1, 2022 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts
B.J. Novak, New England Patriots running back Damien Harris, and Mindy Kaling pose for a photo before a game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Red Sox on June 1, 2022 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts

Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty

Kaling and Novak, both of whom are Massachusetts natives, spent a fun evening together at Fenway Park for a Boston Red Sox game on June 1, 2022. "A couple of Dundie Award winners," the team captioned a photo of the pair, decked out in Rox Sox jerseys and posing with the team mascots, Wally and Tessie.

In her own post, Kaling joked that it was "a completely perfect night at Fenway to see my fave guys, the Boston Red Sox, and with my best friend, the Green Monster, Wally. B.J. Novak was also there."

June 12, 2022: Mindy Kaling attends the premiere of B.J. Novak's directorial debut, Vengeance

On June 12, 2022, B.J. Novak made his directorial debut with the film Vengeance, which has a star-studded cast including Dove Cameron and Ashton Kutcher. At the film's debut at the Ace Hotel in Downtown L.A., Kaling dropped by to complete her best friend duties and support Novak.

August 2022: Mindy Kaling says the rumors about B.J. Novak being her kids' father don't "bother" her

Kaling addressed the rumors that Novak is the father of her children during an interview with Marie Claire. While Kaling has never revealed the paternity of her kids, fans have long theorized that Novak could be their father. However, as the Never Have I Ever creator explained, the speculation "doesn't bother" her.

"He's the godparent to both my kids — and they have such a great relationship — and so far [the rumors haven't] affected my happiness at all, it hasn't affected my kids or BJ," she told the publication.

"If that's what is going to be titillating to people, I'll take it," Kaling added.

August 28, 2022: B.J. Novak joins Mindy Kaling and her daughter on a visit to the Griffith Observatory

Kaling allowed her four-year-old daughter to stay up past her bedtime for some stargazing at the Griffith Observatory with her godfather, Novak. Kit came dressed for the occasion, donning black pajama bottoms adorned with yellow stars and crescent moons.

The Mindy Project star posted a few photos on Instagram from the trio's late-night outing in L.A. One photo showed Kit peering through a giant telescope, while another pictured Novak holding his goddaughter as she pointed to something in the sky.

"My four year old had the best night of her life at our star party + Saturn spotting," Kaling captioned the image carousel. "Thank you @bjnovak for sharing your passion for astronomy."

September 6, 2022: B.J. Novak offers Mindy Kaling parenting advice

While chatting with Meghan Markle on her podcast, Archetypes, Kaling shared the parenting advice — courtesy of her friend Novak — that has stuck with her.

"I grew up always feeling ugly, overweight, othered. And so with my daughter, I'm always telling her that she's beautiful," she said. "To the point where my friend B.J. is like 'You can tell her other compliments.' "

Kaling went on to add: "It's funny to realize 'Oh, I'm focusing too much on this.' Every morning I'm like 'You're so beautiful,' to the point where that's not healthy either. But I do think that's how we can change things."

September 12, 2022: B.J. Novak and Mindy Kaling joke about their "insanely complicated" relationship at the Emmys

Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak speak on stage during the 74th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards held at the Microsoft Theater on September 12, 2022.
Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak speak on stage during the 74th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards held at the Microsoft Theater on September 12, 2022.

Chris Haston/NBC via Getty Mindy Kaling and BJ Novak

At the 2022 Emmy Awards, Novak and Kaling presented the trophy for writing for a limited or anthology series or movie. Before announcing a winner, however, Novak and Kaling poked fun at the genre.

"To all the nominees, we just want to say congratulations, you lazy sons of bitches," teased Kaling. "How are you getting away with this?"

"Eight episodes?" Novak asked before Kaling added, "We came out doing network sitcoms, 22 episodes a year."

"And that show, that would take up your whole life. No time for other projects," Novak chimed in. Kaling looked at her co-presenter and continued, "No time for a social life. You had no choice but to form insanely complicated relationships with your costars," joking about the buzz surrounding their relationship.