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Maitreyi Ramakrishnan’s role in “Never Have I Ever” changed her life, with 40 million households watching Season 1 on Netflix in the spring of 2020, according to the streamer.
“It’s weird because with Covid and the quarantine that followed that, some aspects [of my life] stayed the same, like where I live and do my work from,” said the 19-year-old Canadian actress, who was 17 when she landed the role.
“But other aspects are completely different, like the fact that millions of people apparently like to see my face and hear me talk,” she said. “Usually it’s my brother just telling me, ‘Shut up!’ So there’s little difference. It’s a wild ride for sure,” she told the Post.
Season 1 of the comedy, created by Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher, followed sarcastic and hot-headed Indian-American teenager Devi (Ramakrishnan) as she mourned the loss of her father, struggled to balance her two cultures and tried to navigate her high school social scene and become cool — all with voiceover narration from tennis star John McEnroe, since Devi’s late father Mohan (Sendhil Ramamurthy) was a fan.
Season 2 (now streaming) picks up with even more drama, as it finds Devi’s family on the verge of moving back to India and Devi torn between her two crushes: brainy Ben (Jaren Lewison) and jock Paxton (Darren Barnet).
“The first couple of episodes, Devi is trying to do a lot at once,” said Ramakrishnan. “Later on in the season you realize that she sees these two guys not just as romantic partners — she wants to know them as people. That was really endearing, to see how she gets to know Paxton for more than just his abs, and she realizes, ‘I value Ben more than just a rival who likes to make fun of me.’ I’m not on either team — team Devi all the way. I think both characters are good characters, and I think Devi is better off loving herself first.”
Season 2 also has several new additions to the cast, including rapper/actor Common. He plays suave dermatologist Dr. Chris Jackson, who crosses paths with Devi’s mom, Nalili (Poorna Jagannathan).
“I remember everyone freaking out about Common,” said Ramakrishnan. “Everyone was like, ‘Are we going to get to see him? I want to say hi to him!’ So that was funny to hear about, the fact that we got Common on our show. He’s so nice and so down to earth.”
Over the course of working on the show, Ramakrishnan said she’s learned from Kaling, who based the show, in part, on her childhood in the Boston area (“Never Have I Ever” is set in LA).
“I learn a lot from watching how she works with people and takes charge. She’s an amazing leader, but I think if there’s one key lesson, it’s to be unapologetic and don’t take ‘No’ for an answer from people who are purposefully trying to get in your way. Don’t take s–t from them.”
Soon, “Never Have I Ever” will no longer be Ramakrishnan’s only acting credit, since she will also star in the Netflix movie “The Netherfield Girls.”
“I’m a modern adaptation of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ which I’m very excited about,” she said. “I’ll be playing Elizabeth Bennet.”
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