B.J. Novak virtually visits UMass

‘It’s going to work out the way it’s supposed to work out, no matter how much you worry,’ said Novak, reflecting on his time as actor and writer of hit sitcom ‘The Office’

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Collegian File Photo

By Sofi Shlepakov, Collegian Contributor

The University Programming Council at the University of Massachusetts hosted a Q&A with B.J. Novak, an actor best-known for his role as Ryan in the comedy sitcom “The Office,” on Wednesday. The event was held via Zoom and had around 150 attendees.

The event was hosted by senior hospitality and tourism major Abigail Walsh, freshman legal studies major Julia Curto and Director of Student Broadcast Media Carson Cornelius Burke, who acted as the mediator and asked Novak questions throughout the event. There were different segments that each focused on different topics, such as his time on “The Office,” his life in Boston and other productions and publications that Novak has participated in.

Novak says that he did not really think that “The Office” would have such a strong legacy because they did not expect for there to be Netflix. “It’s funny, we thought, we were thinking ahead when we were like ‘Someday this will be on syndication’ that’s when you really get on TV,” he said.

Novak said that his time as both a writer and an actor for the show did not feel different, and he felt that the cast was more of a comedy troupe. Novak said, “It didn’t feel like different jobs to me, it felt like my job was to make ‘The Office.’”

Novak said there was a point in time where the show had zero ratings, and it looked like they were going to get canceled. “I remember in the writer’s room, back when the show had zero ratings, and it looked like we were going to get cancelled, we wrote ‘Ryan started the fire’ and one of the directors said, ‘people are going to be singing Ryan started the fire for the rest of your life,’ and we all laughed.”

As he was talking, many fans of the show were quoting that exact song in the Zoom chat feature.

Describing his time on the show, Novak said he wished he was not as stressed and appreciated his time working with such a funny cast. “It’s going to work out the way it’s supposed to work out, no matter how much you worry.”

In the chatroom feature, participants were able to share their thoughts, which could be seen by Novak. When Novak was asked about whether or not the cast would be willing to have a reunion, many of the attendees were in full support of the idea.

Vi Pham, a sophomore microbiology and public health major, said that Novak was his favorite actor and writer on the show. “I have a final paper due tomorrow that I just started today, but here I am watching this instead. I’ll probably write 20 more papers by the time I graduate, but when will be the next time I get to watch B.J. Novak do a Q&A with UMass?”

Karan Sanghvi, a sophomore mechanical and industrial engineering major, said, “B.J. is someone I look up to and aspire to be like in the future.” He added that getting to hear Novak’s experiences in such a candid way was “an amazing experience.”

Another student, psychology major Lindsey Cable, said that Ryan is one of her favorite characters on the show because of his personality.

“I loved the Q&A with B.J. Novak tonight and learning more about the things he has done in his life so far. This was a great experience, and I’m really glad that I was able to take a break from doing my schoolwork to listen to B.J. Novak,” Cable said.

Sofi Shlepakov can be reached at [email protected]