‘Never Have I Ever’ star Maitreyi Ramakrishnan on dating and grieving as a brunette teenager

Warning: this article contains minor spoilers.

In the third season of Mindy Kaling’s Netflix series “Never Have I Ever,” which premieres Friday, Devi Vishwakumar has hit her stride in school, but one problem threatens to ruin everything: her self-esteem.

The South Asian American who is in 11th grade in Sherman Oaks, Calif., grapples with new romantic relationships, balancing cultural expectations and the opinions of her peers while continuing to mourn the loss of her father .

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, 20, who plays Devi, told NBC Asian America that the biggest takeaway from season three is that “she learns to be a better person for herself and that includes dealing with grief. from his father. She’s actually going through a grieving journey and moving on, which is really nice to see.

Being the “it girl” who dates the most desirable guy in school is usually just a dream for most teenagers at the fictional Sherman Oaks High School. For Devi, that dream is a reality this season as she struts down the halls with her arms tied to school idol Paxton Hall-Yoshida.

Lee Rodriguez as Fabiola Torres, Ramona Young as Eleanor Wong, and Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Devi in ​​”Never Have I Ever” season three.netflix

Ramakrishnan says seeing this level of nuanced representation would have been personally meaningful for his growth.

“The main reason is that I would have killed to see all the handsome boys fighting and trying to get the brunette girl. It would have made a big difference to me,” she said. “Yeah, I could make a general statement right now like, ‘It would just be awesome to see a girl who looks like me in the lead character position because I would feel like my story was worth telling.’ No, no! I’m a simp, okay? And I want to feel like people can simp on me,” she joked, referring to being flattered.

“We’re showing a brunette girl fair in her own skin not changing who she is – hair and all – smart, not trying to dumb down, and these guys want to be with her.”

The third season begins with Devi publicly dating Paxton, but she doesn’t understand why he would choose to date her, as she thinks he is out of her league, which creates a major set of problems.

“Most of us get into relationships when we really shouldn’t be because we don’t even like each other. We expect others to like us and our relationship to be great,” said Ramakrishnan.

Devi feels compelled to have sex with Paxton after the popular girls at school question the validity of their relationship, and she fears he will break up with her if she doesn’t. The idea, however, sends Devi spiraling and imagining her mother, Nalini, and grandmother staring at her in shame after having sex in a hypothetical scenario.

Ramakrishnan says it’s not uncommon for teenagers and young adults of South Asian descent to feel similar shame.

“It certainly reflects the fact that in most South Asian households they don’t talk about sex,” she said. “The shame doesn’t need to happen because it’s a lot for a kid – to feel that pressure and that anxiety, like, ‘Oh, no, I’m going to disappoint people. “”

Poorna Jagannathan as Nalini Vishwakumar in
Poorna Jagannathan as Nalini Vishwakumar in the third season of “Never Have I Ever”.netflix

Devi continues to heal from the loss of her father and deal with the daily pressures of teenage life, including meeting Des (Anirudh Pisharody), a dreamy Indian and the son of Nalini’s new friend, played by Sarayu Rao.

Devi, who has never been into Indian men before, is forced to acknowledge her own bias towards Des after assuming he would be nerdy and weird.

Ramakrishnan said she was lucky to have grown up in an area where she was surrounded by many other South Asians, but acknowledges that is not Devi’s experience.

“She realizes she has a lot of subconscious biases and she unpacks that. We approach it, like, ‘Wow, Devi, you really had your guesses about this guy before you even met him, or really talked to him.’ And now you’re trying to reverse very quickly,” she said.

The first season depicted Devi’s greedy attempt to lose her virginity to the sexiest guy in school in hopes of inevitably skyrocketing popularity. During the second season, she connected to her cultural identity and learned to be a better person for others. This season, viewers see Devi learning the importance of self-love in a very public way.

Lee Rodriguez as Fabiola Torres, Ramona Young as Eleanor Wong and Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Devi in
Lee Rodriguez as Fabiola Torres, Ramona Young as Eleanor Wong, and Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Devi in ​​”Never Have I Ever” season three.Lara Solanki/Netflix

The third season also focuses on changing cultural expectations where dating a smart Indian boy is an exception to Nalini’s ‘no dating’ rules for Devi, the double standards of dating for South Asian girls by about guys and the cultural stigma of mental health.

Ramakrishnan said she was excited about Devi’s progress this season and showed a story where the brunette girl doesn’t conform to Eurocentric expectations, but has a thriving love life that Ramakrishnan wanted when she was younger.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *