Exclusive: Netflix’s ‘Never Have I Ever’ Star, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan Talks Season Two
Coming-of-age teen comedy hit, Never Have I Ever is back for a second season. The Netflix series was viewed by 40 million households since its release and has been a watershed moment for South Asian representation on screen.
This season, we follow Indian American teenager Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), as she continues to deal with the everyday pressures of high school and drama at home while also navigating uncharted waters in the love department.
Ahead of the second season, Tatler Hong Kong sits down with breakout star Maitreyi to share what she’s excited about, who she has the best chemistry with, and how much she relates to her role as Devi.
Can you tell us more about season two, what you’re excited about and what should the audience be excited about?
There’s a lot that happens in season two—a lot that I can’t possibly say all in one sentence. But I will say, it’s all the drama and comedy that you loved about season one but to the exponent of 10.
I’m so excited for the fans to see the characters that fans already know, meet these new characters that we don’t know and see how that shows different sides and personalities to the audience. We’ve got Aneesa (Megan Suri) boiling Devi, we got Malcolm (Tyler Alvarez) with all the other kids and we also got Dr Jackson. With Devi’s mom, we got the rival dermatologist [Dr Chris Jackson, played by Common].
Which cast member do you have the best chemistry with?
If I say any one of them, I think the rest are going to stab me. I guarantee you that the person I pick will not save me. But I truly do love working with all of them because they all give me something different which is really nice—whether it’s a scene with Darren [Barnet, who plays Paxton Yoshida-Hall] and myself where we’re supposed to be like, “Oh my god, will-they-won’t-they tension” and we just have such a fun time joking around. Or when it’s Jaren [Lewison, who plays Ben Gross] and myself where Ben and Devi would rival it out, we’d have fun with that.
But if I have to give you an answer since I won’t cop out of this and say all of them are my favourite kids then I have to say, I truly do love doing scenes with Ramona [Young] and Lee [Rodriguez]—who plays Eleanor and Fabiola—because we’re not acting like friends. A lot of people when you meet them, as an actor or fellow cast member, it’s like, “yeah, you guys play as best friends!” You have to act as if you’ve known each other for years but with these two, I feel like I’ve known these guys for years and we have such a ball, it’s such a great time.
Representation does matter. It sucks that we have to say that so often that it water downs the meaning. But it's true because it hasn't happened properly yet and we're still having to ask these questions— Maitreyi Ramakrishnan
Speaking of Fabiola and Eleanor, will we get to see more friendship moments between the three of you or see more of their own storylines that we’ve seen hints of in the past season?
Yes, I can talk about this for so long! You will a lot more of the good ol’ trio. I'm really passionate about the whole friendship because we rarely ever see female friendships that are positive, especially young female friendships. That’s one of my favourite things that we get to show our audience, especially the younger audience because it’s so important.
We will see a lot more scenes [with them] which is really nice but they have their own stories this season which is really cool. They go through their own struggles for sure and the thing is with these standalone stories, they still go off with each other. At the end of the day, it’s this trio of best friends that tell each other everything and that they’re still up in each other lives.
What’s it like working with Mindy Kaling again?
It’s awesome. I love working with her. She’s absolutely amazing and every day, I get to learn so much from her. She’s also just such a cool person, she can just talk to you and be around. She tolerates a lot of my jokes and The Office references—she’s such a good friend.
How different or similar is Maitreyi to Devi? What aspects of Devi’s life do you relate to?
Devi’s a really relatable character, right? There’s a lot that we can relate to when it comes to Devi. I was good in school but I wasn’t shy like Devi, I was still confident. But in ways I’m not like Devi, I was nowhere near as boy-crazy. My mum isn’t as strict as Nalini (Poorna Jagannathan), she’s very supportive of me and truly a champion of me, all the time. And my dad is still here—and I’m thankful for that.
On the times when I’m like Devi is those anger and blow up moments. But we’ve all been there. And when I was in high school, I relate to that feeling of everything in high school is all that matters, that you just feel “Oh, my life is over!”
When you cast for this role, it was such a watershed moment for South Asian representation, how do you feel about being at the forefront of that?
It’s wild. The fact that I’m at the forefront ... me? There’s definitely pressure to make sure that I represent everyone in the best possible light. But I can only represent people based on what I know and my experiences. When I’m acting as a character, that’s a character. But for me, as Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, I’ve only been alive for 19 years and I only know so much. That’s what I’m trying to do—just be myself. I don’t want to be fake and pretend that I know things that I don’t.
But representation does matter. It sucks that we have to say that so often that it water downs the meaning. But it’s true because it hasn’t happened properly yet and we’re still having to ask these questions. I think when we’re at a good place is when we don’t have to ask, “How does it feel about being a South Asian lady?” but rather, “How do you feel about acting?” and that’s when we achieved that. But until then, it’s a very important question we have to ask to get there.
Never Have I Ever season two is available exclusively on Netflix.
(This article was originally published on July 15, 2021 and was updated on August 3, 2021.)