Mindy Kaling has described her relationship with sometime-co-worker, sorta-once-boyfriend, still-best-friend B.J. Novak as “weird as hell” — and now it’s also as profitable as hell, with the duo scoring a reported $7.5 million deal to write a book about it. What’s so intriguing about this “romantically charged camaraderie with loud arguments,” as Kaling once called it? For starters, there’s a whole Tumblr dedicated to their fromance. (Still working out the portmanteau for this one.) There must be something there, right? Here’s a timeline of their adorably fraught relationship, so you can judge for yourself.
March 24, 2005: The Office debuts on NBC, with several of the show’s writer-producers also appearing onscreen as characters. This includes Kaling as shallow, self-absorbed Kelly and Novak as cocky intern Ryan.
February 13, 2006: Kelly and Ryan start dating on the show. Ryan tries to break up with her several times, but fails until he finally moves to New York. Later, Novak hypothesizes to Vulture that their characters’ relationship probably came from “an observation from the writers’ room that Mindy and I were extremely close and constantly fighting. … Honestly, we would sometimes not be speaking for an hour, and I couldn’t remember why. I don’t think she could either. The tone in choosing which place to order lunch from. The tone that one of us would have about Thai food in general. Who knows?”
Kaling and Novak start dating, or whatever you want to call it, in real life soon afterwards. Novak later said, “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 was that you’d always find one of us next to the other, even if we weren’t getting along.”
October 29, 2009: Ryan appears in Kelly’s excellent music video, “Male Prima Donna.”
February 23, 2012: @bjnovak to @mindykaling on Twitter: “You autocomplete me.”
September 25, 2012: Office co-star Rainn Wilson tells Vulture, “To do an imitation of Mindy, all you need to do is just be constantly texting and saying, ‘Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!’ and then looking up and going, ‘Where’s B.J.?’”
Kaling leaves The Office to create and star in her own sitcom, The Mindy Project, on Fox. It premieres in September 2012 with Novak credited as a consulting producer. (This role ends after one season.) His brother, Jesse, works as the show’s music producer.
January 29, 2013: Novak begins a three-episode arc on The Mindy Project, playing Jamie, a potential love interest for Mindy. Mindy is interested in Jamie but suspicious of his weirdly close relationship with his female best friend. In the end, Jamie ends up with the best friend. Kaling and Novak write the first of these three episodes, “Harry & Sally,” together. He tells Entertainment Weekly about the relationship his character has with his BFF, and how it compares with his real-life friendship with Mindy: “I don’t know that it’s a direct analogy, but it’s definitely inspired by our relationship. 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.”
Kaling and Novak begin a now-ongoing tradition of calling each other “soup-snakes” via Twitter when Novak tweets, “Mindy and I are soup-snakes!” This is a reference to an Office episode in which Michael bungles an attempt to say “soulmates.”
March 23, 2013: @bjnovak to @mindykaling: “sorry I haven’t been tweeting back quick enough, I have been busy texting you back.”
April 2, 2013: @mindykaling to @bjnovak: “when do u come home? It’s weird here.”
May 6, 2013: Kaling brings Novak as her date to her first Met Gala.
May 16, 2013: Kelly and Ryan run away together in The Office’s series finale.
June 2013: Kaling and Novak post this Instagram of their text exchange about the “sound made when a person eats dried seaweed.” We assume this was for strictly professional reasons.
June 30, 2013: Samantha Ronson posts this cute photo of them.
August 2, 2013: Novak tells Entertainment Weekly, “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.”
November 27, 2013: @mindykaling to @bjnovak on the Island cover of “Nothing Compares 2U”: “if we get married I insist John Mayer sing and perform this version at the reception.”
@bjnovak: “I have to agree that it would be very ‘us’ to have a famously wrenching breakup song play at our wedding.”
December 19, 2013: @bjnovak to @mindykaling: “living for your Instagram today.”
February 2014: Kaling appears on the cover of Elle magazine. In the article inside, Novak says, “A friend of mine who doesn’t know Mindy told me that for a year she considered Mindy’s book one of her closest friends. People really respond to her voice. It’s extremely intelligent without being the least bit pretentious.” He also says, “She’s a gangster. And guys respond to that. This is not a girl who waits by the phone. This is a girl who picks up the phone and calls whoever she wants.”
February 4, 2014: Novak’s short-story collection, One More Thing, is published. The acknowledgements include a mention of Kaling: “Mindy Kaling gets her own line in the acknowledgments, as previously negotiated by her representatives. Thanks, Mindy. I love you and you’re the best.” The moody, black-and-white book trailer includes Kaling as Novak’s sparring partner.
February 5, 2014: Novak does a Reddit Ask Me Anything, in which someone asks whom he was closest to on The Office. (Duh.) “I was closest with Mindy Kaling, and also least close with Mindy Kaling, on a minute-by-minute basis,” Novak wrote. “And I wouldn’t trade it for the word [sic]. Actually, I would trade it for the world. What am I talking about: I’d trade it for a more consistently positive relationship with Mindy Kaling. She’s the best.”
July 11, 2014: @bjnovak to @mindykaling: “you are the girl of my memes.”
July 31, 2014: Kaling makes Novak this montage of photos for his birthday.
August 7, 2014: @mindykaling to @bjnovak: “I would’ve subtweeted you so much in the ‘00s.”
September 15, 2014: In an interview on “The Howard Stern Show,” Kaling says Novak was her “great love,” as Stern put it, who got away. “He broke up with me,” she says. “It was years and years ago that the 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.” She also says Novak was “pretty damn good” in bed. Though she also adds, “He’s legitimately one of my best friends. I love him, and I think he’s a great person, but I’m not holding a candle for B.J.” She would have married him if he’d asked her at the time, she says: “I was 24. For the record, if anyone asked me to marry them, I would have said yes.” Then again … when Stern asks her if she’d ever get back together with Novak, she offers a noncommittal, “I don’t know.”
September 28, 2014: @mindykaling to @bjnovak: “you sound really smart in that Atlantic interview.”
September 30, 2014: Novak responds to her “Stern” revelations in an interview on Watch What Happens Live. “It sounded to me an honest and heartfelt account of a complicated and mostly wonderful relationship,” he says. “The highlight of that experience for me was my mom calling to sort of pry, like, ‘So, what do you think of what Howard was saying? Sounded pretty interesting to me.’ Like Howard Stern would somehow end up as part of my mom’s sort of gentle harangue as, ‘When are you gonna get your life together?’”
@mindykaling: “Today the terrific The Book With No Pictures comes out, written by @bjnovak. No one bother me, I’m reading it all day.”
@bjnovak: “Thanks, Mindy. I saw that video of you dancing with @elmo and was hoping nothing had changed between us.”
October 3, 2014: Novak tells People that Kaling is “a really complicated person” and their relationship is “a really complicated friendship, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”
October 9, 2014: @mindykaling to @bjnovak: “when ya coming back? Whose [sic] gonna tell me when my favorite Lana Del Rey lyric is actually a famous Nabokov line?”
October 20, 2014: After being photographed leaving a restaurant together, Kaling denies that she and Novak are back together during an interview with E! on the set of The Mindy Project. “We went to dinner before we saw Gone Girl, so I love that that very boring errand-slash-meal was considered sexy,” she said.
February 1, 2015: Kaling and Novak watch the Super Bowl together, which we mention mainly to link to this pic:
Novak tweets in response to Kaling’s Nationwide Insurance ad, in which the voice-over speaks of her feeling invisible: “YOU’RE NOT INVISIBLE TO ME MINDY KALING.”
April 22, 2015: They’re photographed looking fashionable while hanging out in New York City together.
May 8, 2015: Kaling’s June InStyle cover is revealed, making her the first Indian-American to appear on the fashion magazine. In the accompanying story, she says, “I will freely admit: My relationship with B.J. Novak is weird as hell. He is not my boyfriend, but he is not my best friend. I guess you could describe our relationship as ‘romantically charged camaraderie with loud arguments,’ but I don’t think Facebook would accept this as a new status.”
May 21, 2015: The New York Daily News reports that the two are writing a book together, noting that their price tag lands them somewhere between Lena Dunham and Hillary Clinton as highly paid authors. The paper also wonders if the book will include “juicy information about the Office stars’ ‘complicated’ courtship.”
May 26, 2015: Kaling confirms the book deal via Twitter, but says it’s “not a tell-all, sadly. I can say it’s going to be really funny and cool.”