The lead of Never Have I Ever reflects on four years as Devi Vishwakumar, teenager-at-large
After forty episodes, four boyfriends, dozens of cringe-inducing moments, and countless laughs, Never Have I Ever came to an end last month. The Netflix series, a coming-of-age sitcom created by Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher, was the rare show anchored by a first-generation Indian-American teenager. The character, Devi Vishwakumar, embodied the struggle of preserving her family’s traditions while embracing the American high-school ethos.
As the lead, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan made Devi exceptionally likeable, even after cheating on her boyfriends (jock Paxton and fellow nerd Ben), lying to her friends, and swearing at her mother. The Mississauga native who beat 15,000 other candidates for the part is now poised to lead her first film, The Netherfield Girls, a contemporary adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” with Maitreyi in the Elizabeth Bennet role.
Darpan had the opportunity to dissect the ending of Never Have I Ever with Maitreyi and learn what she got from the experience.
Maitreyi, now that Never Have I Ever has wrapped, what are you hearing from the fans, your friends, your family?
There’s a lot of discussion. Team Ben is happy, Team Paxton is upset. But beyond that, everyone is satisfied with Devi’s individual story.
I couldn’t help noticing that the show leaves a window open for a possible return (John McEnroe’s narration concludes with “for now”). Can you elaborate?
I would love to tell you what it means, but that’s all up to the writers.
Would you be up for it, or do you need a break?
I would like a bit of a break. I actually like how the show ends. Let it live for a bit, so when it comes back there will be excitement.
The show ends with a Bollywood-style dance with your cousin in the show (Richa Moorjani). How long did it take you to prepare, and who choreographed it?
Fun fact: The person who choreographed the final dance was the main dancer in the Ganesh Puja episode in season one. It was a very nice button-end and what a character ending for Devi, from being this girl who makes fun of the dancers —she described them as “dorky”— to happily becoming one of them. I had 48 hours to learn it, it was kind of tough: I also had to learn the harp and had a bunch of lines to memorize. I gave it the best shot that I had and hopefully was good enough.
Have you evaluated your evolution as an actor from season one to season four?
I knew nothing back in season one. I was learning on the spot. By season four my comic timing came naturally, I felt comfortable with taking risks and playing around. Having said that, I’m very proud of my 17-year-old self. I did a lot for my first ever experience, and I did really good. What I’m proud of the most is how brave and courageous I was for trying.
What was the most “method” thing you did for the part?
I don’t do method. If anything, I did anti-method stuff, things that reminded me of who I was, so I separated myself from the character.
Rather than ask you what are you doing next, tell me what you don’t want to do.
I don’t want to do surface-level characters. If Never Have I Ever gave me anything was the opportunity to play an amazing character supported by great writing. I don’t want to lower my standards by playing a side character. That’s not why I’m doing this. One of the best pieces of career advice I received was to stay picky and do what you love.
Is there such thing as a WhatsApp group for the Never Have I Ever cast?
We have group chats. I’ve one with the guys, Jaren (Lewison) and Darren (Barnet), called “The O.G. Love Triangle”. That’s a fun one.
I keep reading in recent interviews that you may have lied. Can you tell me a lie?
That’s not how it works! You would know it’s a lie!
I did love pranking everyone. I’m glad it got attention. I wanted people to know they got pranked. I’ve nothing to hide.