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Inside Mindy Kaling and BJ Novak’s strange relationship

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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.”