If you’ve ever watched the US series of The Office, BJ Novak’s face will be instantly recognisable as obnoxious temp Ryan Howard. A producer, writer and actor on the show (he landed the gig aged just 25, after producer Greg Daniels saw him at a comedy club), he’s since had recognisable roles in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and in recent PL Travers biopic Saving Mr Banks. So it’s been a bit of a surprise to everyone – himself included – that he’s come out with a collection of short stories, which he’ll be reading in his debut Edinburgh comedy show this month.
‘The ideas for many of the stories came to me while I was on [The Office],’ he tells us, on the phone from Los Angeles. ‘I kept all these notebooks, literally boxes of them, for the eight years I was on the show. But the one thing it had never occurred to me to write was a book of stories, or any stories at all. It just never occurred to me. So when The Office was finished, I looked through all of the ideas and thought maybe they were movie ideas or stand-up comedy ideas, and I surprised myself with the idea to write a book of stories.’
Him: A celebrated actor, writer, and comedian who won our hearts long ago in one of the most romantic movies of all time.
Her: An award-winning actress, writer, and TV show creator who makes us laugh on The Mindy Project, while keeping the dream for true love alive.
Together: Two massively creative people who came together for a legendary interview — conducted by Mindy Kaling, ahead of Tuesday’s Mindy Project season finale — about television, When Harry Met Sally, the art of collaboration, and the glorious mystery of on-screen chemistry that you’ll only see here on EW.
This is when Mindy Kaling met Billy Crystal (again). You’ll see what we mean by that…
MINDY KALING: Thank you for talking to me. This is so cool. I’m really excited about your new show, The Comedians. I think Matt Oberg and Josh [Gad] are so hilarious. Have you guys already started shooting it?
BILLY CRYSTAL: No, we shoot in September. We’re writing now.
If my writers room were asked to describe me as a showrunner, they’d probably say …
Dan Harmon (Community): He’s like if you removed all the atheism, charm and current events from Bill Maher, then beamed that into Randy Quaid‘s body and hit it with a belt in a basement for 10 years.
Jason Katims (Parenthood): Here comes Mr. What Would Really Happen?
Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project): Demanding. Decisive. Grouchy when hungry.
Adam F. Goldberg (The Goldbergs): Any pitch about a robot, a lightsaber or Sloth from Goonies will get into the script. No matter how lame it is. That’s right, writers. I’m on to you.
The season-two finale of The Mindy Project just finished and we have questions! Luckily, we also have Mindy Kaling’s email address, and she graciously agreed to answer them. Obviously this article will contain spoilers about tonight’s second-season finale, so read no further if you haven’t watched it yet.
A delightful mash-up of the Nora Ephron classics Sleepless in Seattle andYou’ve Got Mail, The Mindy Project second-season finale ended with Mindy and Danny getting horizontal (but not for sex!) on the observation deck at the Empire State Building. He said, “I love you,” they argued about baby names, and balance was restored to the universe. Here’s what the busy series boss and star Mindy Kaling — who has been very busy of late, hitting the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday and Late Night With Seth Meyers on Monday — had to say about the season finale, a personal letter she wrote to Bruce Springsteen, and the politics of Mindy Lahiri.
That was quick! Not only did Danny and Mindy get back together, he used the L word. When and why did the show go all in on committing to that relationship?
Danny says he loves Mindy because, well, after looking back at the season, and all of his gestures and longing, it just felt like that’s all it could be. I remember seeing the first cut of “Christmas Party Sex Trap,” the vulnerable way that Chris does that Aaliyah dance, it was so clear to me. I mean, who does that unless he’s in love? People responded so well to them dating, and hated when they broke up, which was also very encouraging.
A few weeks ago, you said that Danny and Mindy are “a terrible fit,” but that they care deeply about each other. How do things look when we come back next season now that it’s public that they’re together?
We are just starting to break stories for next season, but last season, we found that the funniest things to pitch on were stories of Danny and Mindy dating. Two people together, against their better judgment, is a really fertile comedy area.
We stopped by the launch of Mindy Kaling’s customized manicure (called the “Mindy-cure”) at Bliss Spa in New York City to find out more about her impressive style streak.
You’re so busy, How do you pamper yourself?
Pampering for me is sleeping, I have the sleep patterns of a 12-year-old boy, so I could sleep until 2 in the afternoon. In terms of massage and stuff, massages make me a little uneasy. My mind wanders.
How does your personal style compare to your character’s?
My character is not afraid of color, and she’s not afraid of print, and she’s frequently not afraid to wear them at the same time. I’m less complicated than Mindy Lahiri, but I love her love of color.
What’s one of your wardrobe essentials?
When I’m in New York City, I need a cool pair of sneakers because I like to wander around shopping and looking for adventure. I invested in some Maison Martin Margiela sneakers, in addition to black high tops from Giuseppe Zanotti. And of course, my white hight-top Converse.
Could the next great novel be simply a collection of tweets and status updates? For most, the idea may seem preposterous. The depth allowed in literary fiction couldn’t be more dissimilar to the brevity valued by social media. But for producer and actor B.J. Novak, the idea of social media as literature might not be so far-fetched.
“[Social media] makes everyone aware of the minutia of conversation in literary form,” Novak told Mashable. “A status update contains so much fear and hope and worry and fakery and inadvertent honesty and style and attempts to not try too hard.”
Not long ago, Novak, who is most well-known for his roles in Saving Mr. Banksand The Office, delved into the world of literary fiction with his debut short story collection and this month’s MashableReads selection, One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories.
“I was overwhelmed with ideas and fragments of ideas as The Office ended. All of the thoughts and fragments of emotional expression and comedic expression … I thought, ‘I’ll just write all of them,’” Novak said.
When “The Mindy Project” premiered on Fox in fall 2012, it was widely hailed as a breakthrough in the diversity of mainstream television. Its star, Mindy Kaling, who plays a romantically challenged obstetrician in a New York hospital, became the first woman of color to create, helm and star in a successful sitcom on a major network.
But even as the broadcast networks overall are showcasing more minority actors in scripted programming than ever, Kaling is facing mounting criticism that her own sitcom isn’t diverse enough. Critics and other observers have pointed out that the popular Indian American actress and executive producer with 2.8 million Twitter followers has surrounded her prime-time fictional self with a mostly white cast.
Unlike many past and present medical shows on network television — a list that includes “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scrubs,” “House” and even “E.R.” — “The Mindy Project” does not feature a strong multi-ethnic ensemble. In addition to Kaling’s character, the only other minority regular cast member is Xosha Roquemore, who joined the show late in the first season as a sassy nurse.