“Never Have I Ever” Star Maitreyi Ramakrishnan on the Final Season & Devi’s Send Off
“I’m dealing with cramps.”
That’s the first thing 21-year-old Maitreyi Ramakrishnan tells me when she hops on our Zoom. It’s wholly indicative of her character — an actress plucked out of obscurity at 17, grounded, down-to-earth, unapologetically herself no matter the circumstance.
It’s something she says she’s never had to think about — being herself in the public eye.
“When I first got the role and then, like, the Deadline article came out, a lot of my Canadian friends were like, ‘Hey, dude, are you going to take down that strike post that you put up from high school?’” she says. “Because context: When I was in grade 12, I went on strike. I led a student walkout for 500 kids in my 700-kid school because of cuts to public education and, therefore, extracurriculars. And I was like, ‘No, I’m definitely not taking that down because that’s who I am.’”
Since Maitreyi was chosen for the part of Devi out of 15,000 kids who responded to an open casting call on Twitter, she has not shied away from staying true to her beliefs, even as her fame continues to rise.
“I wouldn’t have gotten Never Have I Ever if it wasn’t for public education and extracurriculars because it was free extracurriculars provided by public education that gave me my passion to know I love acting,” she says very firmly.
This attitude has followed Maitreyi into her adulthood. She’s outspoken about her beliefs in gender and racial equality and has openly posted about abortion and LGBTQIA+ rights on Twitter.
“I can’t not speak up about what I believe in,” she said with the same emphatic oomph as her character. “And I can’t just choose not to learn about things because I don’t want to be involved. At the end of the day, like, yeah, I’m an actor, I am a public figure, but also being an actor—I’m not curing cancer. I’m a human being. At most, all we’re doing as actors is either providing the people with cancer entertainment or providing the people who are curing cancer with entertainment.”
While she may not yet consider herself a serious actor, serving as a role model for millions of teenage girls is a task she does not take lightly. As a Tamil-Canadian actress playing a Tamil American onscreen, Maitreyi views the responsibility of representation (40 million Americans watched Season 1 alone!) as a “privilege” but a “daunting” one.
“It’s my privilege to be able to represent anyone who really can relate to me, not just brown young women like myself,” she says.
The “daunting” part comes from the reality of having millions of people observing your every move, an aspect of fame she says she underestimated.
“I never like, of course, prepared myself for the fame part of it,” she says. “The, you know, so many people watching you part of it.”
Maitreyi had never professionally acted before Never Have I Ever. But starring in a hit, Mindy Kaling-created Netflix show is a sure-fire way to propel oneself into stardom.
“That’s the biggest change,” she says, thinking. “Because, like… Otherwise, I would just be a kid, just running around the streets of, you know, the good ol’ Greater Toronto Area. But now I’m a GREMLIN in front of BILLIONS.”
The ease with which Maitreyi can switch between humor and sincerity is something that could be studied in public speaking courses. Like her character, she speaks in colorful metaphors at speeds that would make NASCAR tremble.
“Yesterday, at the premiere, I had this moment where I was like, ‘Oh, my God, this is my life,’” she said. “Of all the lives that I could have possibly lived in this lifetime, this is the one I get to.”
Never Have I Ever airs its fourth and final season on June 8. Maitreyi says knowing this was the finale helped “wrap up” all the characters nicely.
“Instead of just leaving characters on the fishing line, which is nice,” she says. “I was very, very happy about that because, you know, sometimes in TV, you don’t get the nice kind of endings. Not that it’s a perfect show, but the writers definitely do a good job by everyone’s fave.”
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Featured image: Never Have I Ever. Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Devi in episode 410 of Never Have I Ever. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022