On Feb. 25, Mindy Kaling received the prestigious Norman Lear Award at the Producer Guild of America awards (PGAs) ceremony, and it was her best friend, B.J. Novak, who had the honor of presenting her with the trophy. For fans of “The Office” or the two multihyphenates’ longtime friendship, the moment was a poignant one that illustrated just how far they’ve come since they met way back in 2005.
Novak used his speech to discuss how Kaling has always cared about . . . well, everything. “The first thing I noticed about Mindy in that writers room is that she cared so much about everything,” he 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.”
“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 continued, “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. 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.”
Kaling was visibly moved by her friend’s speech. After hugging Novak, she stepped up to the podium to say a few nice things about the star and producer of “Vengeance” as well. “‘Wow, that guy is so brilliant, so funny and so unfriendly, I just need him to like me,'” she said of her first impression of Novak all those years ago. “And it turned out great. He’s remained my closest friend throughout my entire career. 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 “Never Have I Ever” producer went on to thank her many collaborators over the years, including “The Office” executive producer Greg Daniels, who gave her three months off from work so she could be with her mother during the last days of her life. Kaling revealed it was during this time that she learned the true power of television when she watched her mother forget all of her troubles when they tuned into “Modern Family” together.
“We burned through season after season, and during those little 22-minute stretches, she didn’t have to think about how she was feeling or how much time she had left. She could just laugh,” Kaling shared. “And it was the first time I truly understood the power of what we do. To take people away from their pain and their struggles if just for a moment and just enjoy it. It’s such a gift. So this is for my mom.”
The Norman Lear Award is given out to producers or production teams who have left their mark on the television landscape. Previous winners include Shonda Rhimes, Amy Sherman-Palladino, and Dick Wolf.