After starring on the US Office, BJ Novak became equally known as a bestselling author and Mindy Kalings soulmate. Now the actor has invented Hollywoods favourite app. Elizabeth Day meets him
This time last year, BJ Novak was already an acclaimed actor, stand-up comedian and author. He had starred in Hollywood movies (Inglourious Basterds, Saving Mr Banks) and popular sitcoms (the American version of The Office, The Mindy Project). His childrens book had been a New York Times bestseller for several months. His collection of short stories had been garlanded with praise. He was the worst kind of high-achiever, in that his achievements were myriad and in different fields. People were calling him a polymath and they werent even being sarcastic. Unlike James Franco, another actor who tried his hand at creative writing only to be roundly derided by the critics, Novak actually seemed to be good at the many things he was doing.
Was he ever worried about being called pretentious? Not pretentious, says Novak when we meet on a sunny afternoon at Soho House, West Hollywood. For me, it was more [the worry of] seeming distracted from my main work by a side project I was oddly passionate about. And side projects especially from celebrities dont tend to be successful either, they tend to be distractions.
Still, even all those side projects (and its worth pointing out that he also served as a writer on The Office and executive produced The Mindy Project) werent quite enough to sate Novaks ambitions. He wanted to be a millionaire tech entrepreneur, too. As a little kid growing up in Boston, his earliest ambition was to be a real-estate developer. I think I had some vague awareness of Donald Trump. Like, I want to put my name on buildings, I want to be rich and important and a businessman!
You dont get many Hollywood liberals admitting that Trump used to be their hero, I tell him.
But culturally, hes an icon, counters Novak. I think a secret aspect of [his popularity] is how familiar he is. Hes not a crazy man on the street, hes the crazy uncle thats been at your Thanksgiving for 30 fucking years! Hes been there for ever. So I think people feel safe with him considering how outrageous he is as a candidate. There is some subliminal comfort with him.
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