In April 2019, the comedian and writer Mindy Kaling posted a tweet that changed Maitreyi Ramakrishnan’s life forever: “ATTENTION DESI LADIES! I’m holding OPEN casting calls for leads in my new @netflix show!” In an internet version of right place, right time, scrolling her timeline led to Ramakrishnan, then a 17-year-old resident of Mississauga, Ontario, landing the starring role of Devi in Kaling’s coming-of-age comedy Never Have I Ever. All Ramakrishnan had to do was submit six self-tapes, ace numerous auditions, and then convince Netflix that someone without an IMDb page could anchor a high-profile, long-running series. Oh, and beat 15,000 other applicants in the process.
Ramakrishnan, a Canadian of Tamil Sri Lankan heritage, imbues so much warmth and wit into Devi, Never Have I Ever could easily be called The Maitreyi Project. In season one, which attracted 40 million viewers in its first four weeks, 15-year-old Devi prays for a boyfriend (“he can be dumb, I don’t care”) then stumbles into a tumultuous love triangle with hotties Ben (Jaren Lewison) and Paxton (Darren Barnet). But beyond cracking jokes, Ramakrishnan also movingly portrays Devi as a three-dimensional character who’s dealing with her father’s death, teenage angst, and other relatable themes that are usually reserved for only white actors. Luckily, season two will soon be coming to a laptop screen near you. (FYI, we’re Team Paxton.)
Text Nick Chen