B.J. Novak recalled the early days in his career, working with Mindy Kaling on The Office, while presenting her the Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television at the 2023 PGA Awards Saturday night.
“The first thing I noticed about Mindy in that writers room is that she cared so much about everything,” the Vengeance actor and producer said. “We were in love with each other, and we were reckless idiots, and the two of us would argue about all of these things forever grinding the writers room into a halt until we got too upset and we go to our respective offices and slammed the door where we would continue arguing over AOL and instant messenger. It was 2005.”
Novak went on to shout out several of Kaling’s hit projects and achievements, including The Office, The Mindy Project, Never Have I Ever and The Sex Lives of College Girls.
“Now, it would be tempting to tie all this together by saying how much Mindy grew up or changed since those early days. But what’s more important is how much she didn’t change. No matter how much pressure she felt, how silly or self-conscious she could have been to care so much about so many things, especially when some of those things had never been on television before,” he added. “She knows a lot about producing now, but she was great at it even before she did because she’s a great producer for the same reason that many people, including her, are great parents right away. She cares so much that she either knows what to do or finds out fast.”
Once Kaling took the stage, she first shared fond memories she has of Novak, saying she thought, “‘Wow, that guy is so brilliant, so funny and so unfriendly, I just need him to like me.’ And it turned out great. He’s remained my closest friend throughout my entire room. He’s seen all the ups and downs, and it just means the world to me. I am so lucky that my favorite writer is also my best friend, I love you.”
The Velma executive producer went on to thank her parents for their support “when I told them I wanted to pursue a career in show business” and to dedicate the award to her late mother. She said remembers when her mother got sick and how she loved watching her favorite shows so “she didn’t have to think about how she was feeling. … She could just laugh and we could laugh together, and it was the first time I think I truly understood the power of what we do to take people away from their pain and their struggles just for a moment and enjoy it.”
In her acceptance speech, she continued to thank The Office producers Greg Daniels and Howard Klein for helping to start her career and credited Lear for “paving the way for all kinds of people to be centered on TV — nuanced, three-dimensional people who are sometimes awkward or selfish, but they’re always hilarious.”
The Late Night actress also showed her appreciation for the “powerful people [studio exec partners] who have all believed in me, believed in the good business that is inclusive content and encouraged me to fill my productions with promising new talent, particularly women of color.”