B.J. Novak B.J. Novak

Dunder-Mifflin temp Ryan Howard may be joining his on-again, off-again flame Kelly Kapoor in exiting The Office. B.J. Novak, who has doubled as a writer off-screen and a series regular on-screen since The Office's 2005 launch, is leaving as a full-time part of the show.

Novak will remain a member of the extended Office family, however. Even though he no longer has a deal in place with series producer Universal TV, Novak is expected to make recurring appearances on The Office and could even still do some writing for the show. Novak has also directed several episodes of The Office and could return in that capacity as well.

But Novak's decision to end his full-time presence at The Office comes just as his good friend Mindy Kaling, who has played Kelly since the show's launch, leaves to star in Fox's new fall comedy The Mindy Project. Novak served as an executive producer on The Mindy Project pilot but won't hold a permanent position there either.

The Office, already at a crossroads following the departure two seasons ago of Steve Carell, is in for more big changes this year. Besides Kaling and Novak, James Spader is exiting after one season, while Catherine Tate is now full-time. Stars Ed Helms and John Krasinski are expected to appear in fewer episodes next year as they juggle their busy movie schedules.

Also, departing showrunner Paul Lieberstein (who plays The Office's human resources manager, Toby) is moving on to develop an Office spinoff centered on the character of Dwight (played by Rainn Wilson). That means executive producer Greg Daniels, who originally adapted The Office from its U.K./Ricky Gervais roots, is returning full time to oversee the show's creative evolution this season. With Daniels in charge, NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt told reporters last month that the show will deliver some "explosive story twists."

The character of Ryan has seen ups and downs throughout the run of The Office. Originally the office temp, Ryan quickly moved up the ladder to become a big time Dunder-Mifflin executive — until he developed a drug habit and then was exposed for corporate fraud and fired. He was later brought back as a temp in the Scranton office and from there occasionally came up with new schemes (like a social networking site dubbed "WUPHF") and toyed with Kelly's affections.

Novak's other credits include appearances in the features Inglorious Basterds and The Dictator.

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