They Wrote Their Love Story While Scripting Others

Bill Prady and Jessica Queller both remember almost every twist and turn in their nearly two-decade-long journey together. The details of their relationship trajectory align like those of a good romantic comedy. It’s the subplot that trips them up.

The couple agree on the basics. They met in Los Angeles in 2003 as staff writers on the TV series “Gilmore Girls.” They became friends. “Bill was the smartest guy in the room, and so kind, too,” Ms. Queller said.

Mr. Prady was divorced and remarried with a young daughter at the time and saw Ms. Queller as “the embodiment of Manhattan. She was strikingly smart and sophisticated.”

When they met, Ms. Queller, who grew up on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, was reeling from the recent loss of her mother to ovarian cancer. She had taken one year off work in Hollywood to care for her in Manhattan, and then commuted from Los Angeles to New York over another year of her mother’s illness, before Ms. Queller and her sister spent the last three months of their mom’s life with her in Southampton.

She returned to Los Angeles from Southampton with a goal.

“I was like, ‘OK, now I have to find a husband and start a family,’” said Ms. Queller, who describes herself as a “free-spirit” and a “crazy romantic.” But in 2004, just as she began purposefully dating, she received her own troubling health news: that she had what’s known as the BRCA1 gene, which put her at an increased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.

Ms. Queller, then 34, faced a tangle of thorny decisions. Should she prophylactically have a double mastectomy? Could she carry a child and then have her ovaries removed? Did she even have time to meet her soul mate?

Friends weighed in, including Mr. Prady, who suggested she “be practical” and settle down with a “suitable mate.”

In a March 2005 op-ed piece in The New York Times, Ms. Queller announced that she would have both breasts removed. About three years later, her wry and heart-aching memoir about her ordeal, “Pretty Is What Changes,” was published. She started writing for the original “Gossip Girl” on the CW network. And she shopped sperm banks.

“My dream was always to become a mother, even if I didn’t have a partner,” said Ms. Queller, who, after nine intrauterine inseminations, got her wish. In 2009, she gave birth to a daughter, Sophie, and then had her ovaries removed.

Mr. Prady, a Detroit native, met his own milestones. In 2007, he created the hit TV show, “The Big Bang Theory,” with the producer Chuck Lorre. Five years later, he joined the University of Southern California as an adjunct faculty member in its cinematic arts school. He even had an asteroid named after him, by the astronomer Schelte J. Bus of the University of Hawaii, in 2015.

In 2017, 14 years after they met, Ms. Queller and Mr. Prady, then a father of two in the midst of his second divorce, crossed paths again in San Diego, at Comic-Con, an annual gathering of super hero and comic book fanatics. They had casually kept in touch over the years, but she had no idea that his marriage had ended.

Ms. Queller, now 51 and the executive producer of the TV show, “Super Girl,” was there on business. Mr. Prady, 61, who last year signed a deal with Netflix to develop scripted series for the streaming platform, is a regular attendee of Comic-Con and went to participate in a panel about “The Big Bang Theory.” (A zealot for all things sci-fi, he once rode the New York City subway wearing a uniform from Star Trek’s Starfleet.)

Soon after that run-in, they agreed to meet for a casual lunch in Los Angeles. Neither spruced up. “I didn’t think it was a date until Bill started describing his ideal woman,” Ms. Queller said. “He described me exactly, right down to someone who has read ‘Anna Karenina,’ my favorite book!”

Mr. Prady, who admits that he may a bit “spectrum-y” and not so attuned to social cues, was oblivious to Ms. Queller’s assumption. He blithely suggested a follow-up dinner. “I’d come out of a 17-year marriage and was reconnecting with old friends, building community,” he said. “I’m quite a know-it-all, but I had been given advice to ‘be out in the world’ and I was following that advice.”

Now, here’s where their story gets a little murky. It’s not so much that they don’t agree on who made the first move, but more a case of unintentional mixed messages.

Mr. Prady insists that everything seemed platonic enough until Ms. Queller covered his hand with hers at the bar during their follow-up dinner. The gesture made him nearly spill his margarita. “Well, this is a done deal,” Mr. Prady recalled thinking. “I’ve found my person and now I will move onto other things I have to accomplish in my life.” In Ms. Queller’s mind, though, she offered nothing more than an affable pat of the hand.

Mr. Prady said his interpretation was influenced by Ms. Queller’s reaction when he told her at dinner that he was thinking of buying a place in TriBeCa. “She said, ‘Oh, we don’t belong in TriBeCa. We’re old. We belong on the Upper West Side.’” Mr. Prady recalled. “There was something captivating about the first person plural,” he added. Mr. Prady texted Ms. Queller a few apartment listings in New York that very night.

But after that, he said, “as the kids say, she ghosted me.”

Ms. Queller said she feared a romance with Mr. Prady would compromise their friendship. He sent her an email entreaty that acknowledged his amorous intentions, but she barely responded and her radio silence left him feeling baffled.

He missed her, but ultimately decided to quash the possibility of a courtship in a heartfelt email. “Even though I think you’re the person for me, I have no interest in arguing you into loving me,” he wrote to Ms. Queller.

Still, he couldn’t help but share his dashed vision of them in that note. “I wrote that I could see how we would be, together,” Mr. Prady said. “I could see us walking home from a Broadway play to an apartment on the Upper West Side.”

Ms. Queller took notice of his candor. “It was a staggeringly beautiful email about love and relationships,” she said. “Something shifted in me. But still, I ran away for another eight months.”

During those months, Mr. Prady followed a strict friend protocol and invited Ms. Queller to film screenings, political events and to the theater. “Most of the time, I couldn’t go because I was a single working mother,” she said. “But I remember each time thinking, ‘Wow, this is something I’d really liked to do.’”

Ms. Queller did attend an intimate private screening of “Rear Window” at Mr. Prady’s home. “It was just a wonderful night,” she said, “and yet, I still had cold feet. In retrospect, I think that something in me knew this could be it and I was terrified.”

In July 2018, almost a year after they reconnected, the two met for dinner one more time, at his suggestion. Unbeknown to Mr. Prady, the woman he had since pursued to no avail had finally come around — after scheduling an emergency session with her Manhattan psychiatrist.

“I finally snapped out of chasing unavailable men,” Ms. Queller said. “I decided to open myself up to this wonderful person who was available and interested and, on paper, perfect for me.” The two returned to San Diego for Comic-Con a few weeks later as a couple.

The next year, in December, Mr. Prady proposed to Ms. Queller while they were in Vancouver, British Columbia, to attend a 100th episode celebration of “Super Girl.”

The couple postponed their wedding twice because of Covid. During that time, Ms. Queller and her daughter, Sophie, now 12, moved in to Mr. Prady’s house in the Toluca Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles with him and his two children, Stella, 22, and Asher, 14. “If you want to pressure test a blended family, do it during a pandemic when nobody can leave the house,” Mr. Prady said.

On Sept. 11, Ms. Queller and Mr. Prady were married in the McGraw Rotunda of the New York Public Library, with Barbara Salinitro, a retired New York State family court judge, officiating. In attendance were 140 guests, who were vaccinated and tested for Covid. They included the actors Calista Flockhart and LeVar Burton, the film director John Landis and the Broadway director Gordon Greenberg.

The bride wore an A-line lace gown by Vera Wang; the groom donned a tuxedo by Mattarazi Uomo. Passages by Ernest Hemingway and the poets Jalaluddin Rumi and Rainer Maria Rilke were read during the black-tie ceremony.

Mr. Prady, who once wrote for the TV show “Fraggle Rock” and worked with Jim Henson, asked the puppeteer Dave Goelz, who voices Gonzo, to perform the song “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday” from the 1979 film “The Muppet Movie.”

Before the crowd via video, Mr. Goelz sang the tender line, “There’s not a word yet for old friends who’ve just met.”

On This Day

When Sept. 11, 2021

Where The New York Public Library in Manhattan

Literary Touches Table assignments were made to look like Dewey Decimal System catalog cards. Each guest also received two books: “Nine Horses” by the poet Billy Collins and Ernest Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms.”

The Surprise Soloist During the bridal procession, Mr. Prady serenaded the bride a saxophone performance of “Moon River” while Betty Buckley, the Tony Award-winning actor who is a friend of the couple, sang.