B.J. Novak on Landing ‘Fresh Air’ Host Terry Gross to Play ‘Queen Bee’ Radio Mogul in His Film ‘Vengeance’

After wrapping an interview with Terry Gross for her NPR radio series Fresh Air in September, B.J. Novak surprised the iconic interviewer with an offer.

“I said, ‘Hey, I have a role for you,’ and she was so confused and surprised,” Novak tells THR‘s Kim Masters on a new episode of KCRW’s The Business.

The multihyphenate wanted Gross for his new film, Vengeance, which he wrote, directed and stars in as a radio host from New York who travels to the South and winds up investigating the murder of a former fling. Issa Rae plays his character’s producer, and Novak zeroed in on Gross to portray the “queen bee” of the radio enterprise.

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“It’s someone we only hear as a voice, and it’s a huge deal to my character when she calls and likes what he’s working on,” he explains. Gross not only said yes but took her acting debut “very seriously,” Novak says. “To me, that’s the biggest star in the movie.”

During his appearance on The Business, Novak also opens up to Masters about what it was like to grow up with John Krasinski as the two went to the same high school before making it big on NBC’s The Office. He jokes that it would make for a better story if they were enemies but the reality is that they are “lifelong friendly acquaintances.”

He also keeps it real when looking back on the good and the bad of spending a decade on the TV juggernaut that was The Office. “I mean, that’s your family and families fight, families get sick of each other, families love each other, families miss each other, families are inseparable,” Novak explains. “I’d be lying and disrespecting it to say, ‘Oh, we’re all best friends, we always get along. It’s nothing but wonderful memories.’ It is mostly that, but I think it’s even better that it has the texture.”

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Listen to the full episode here.

B.J. Novak and Boyd Holbrook in Vengeance from Focus Features. The film hits theaters on July 29.

Patti Perret/Focus Features

A version of this story first appeared in the July 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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