Never Have I Ever is an American comedy-drama television series starring Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, created by Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher. Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, a high school student with no prior professional acting experience, responded to an open casting call from Mindy Kaling in 2019. Kaling was looking for someone to portray an Indian American teenager in a TV series. Ramakrishnan went through multiple callbacks and emerged victorious among more than 15,000 applicants, securing the role of Devi Vishwakumar in the popular Netflix show.
Ramakrishnan, now 21, gained immense recognition and acclaim for her portrayal of the intelligent and bold protagonist in the series. She also lent her voice to the character Priya Mangal in Pixar’s “Turning Red” and is set to portray Lizzie Bennet in the upcoming romantic comedy film “The Netherfield Girls,” a modern interpretation of “Pride and Prejudice.”
With the fourth and final season of “Never Have I Ever” now available for streaming, Ramakrishnan reflects on the conclusion of her journey as Devi. She describes it as the end of an era.
CNN recently conducted an interview with Ramakrishnan ahead of the Season 4 premiere. In the interview, she discusses her feelings about wrapping up “Never Have I Ever,” the experience of having Mindy Kaling as her first boss, and the significance of a show like this for her own upbringing.
The Impact of “Never Have I Ever” and Representation, according to Maitreyi Ramakrishnan
The fact that “Never Have I Ever” served as my first major acting role is something I still struggle to fully grasp. It’s incredible to think that this was my very first opportunity and job in the industry. I am incredibly grateful to have had Mindy Kaling as my boss because she has been an amazing support system for me, both professionally and personally. She has been there for me through thick and thin, and I genuinely adore her.
Additionally, I feel incredibly fortunate to have had such wonderful cast members and crew members who became like a second family to me. We grew together over the course of these four seasons, and that experience is truly invaluable, says Maitreyi Ramakrishnan.
Devi was a refreshing character not only because she represented a South Asian American protagonist but also because she defied stereotypes typically associated with brown girls. She was a multi-dimensional character who exhibited intelligence, boldness, and a loud personality.
Throughout the series, Devi underwent various character arcs and had diverse relationships, showcasing her as a fully-formed human being. As an actor, it was a dream to sink my teeth into such a role, and portraying a brown girl as my first major role was the icing on the cake. Mindy Kaling spoiled me with this incredible opportunity.
When I initially took on the role, I had a partial realization of how rare it was. On one of Utkarsh’s (Ambudkar, who played Mr. Kulkarni, Devi’s teacher) first days on set, he expressed his astonishment at being on a set with so many brown people. That’s when it struck me that my normal wasn’t the normal for representation in the industry. As an audience member, I hadn’t seen a show like “Never Have I Ever” featuring a brown girl and tackling the topics it did, especially on a mainstream platform like Netflix.
I knew the show would have an impact simply because it offered something we hadn’t seen before. Unfortunately, there is still a significant lack of representation, and the bar remains relatively low. What made “Never Have I Ever” so radical to me was, first and foremost, its portrayal of therapy. It’s a topic that is rarely discussed, let alone depicted on TV. The fact that Nalini, Devi’s mother, was open to getting her daughter into therapy was amazing, adds Maitreyi Ramakrishnan.
Devi extend her heartfelt words to the show’s devoted fans
While fans may feel a sense of sadness that “Never Have I Ever” has concluded, I am hopeful and optimistic that more shows like it will emerge in the future. Shows are continuously improving, and we can anticipate even better representation than what we experienced with Devi. This is just the closing of one chapter for audiences, and there will be new and exciting shows with improved representation to look forward to. “Never Have I Ever” will serve as a cherished and enjoyable show to reminisce about.
If given the opportunity to be on any other show right now, I would choose “Money Heist” (“La casa de papel”). Despite not speaking Spanish, I could envision myself as one of the hostages in the series. Additionally, if I were to pursue voice acting roles, I would love to be a part of shows like “Bojack Horseman” and “Black Mirror.”
As for what’s next for me, I honestly don’t know, and I believe it’s perfectly fine to admit that. There is often pressure on actors to have something incredibly exciting lined up. However, I don’t have any concrete plans at the moment. What lies ahead for me is embracing the excitement of the unknown. Moreover, I am looking forward to spending time with my friends in Canada during the summer, something I haven’t been able to do since 2018, says Maitreyi Ramakrishnan.