Maitreyi Ramakrishnan was a 12th grader starring in a teen production of Chicago when Mindy Kaling began searching for a young South Asian woman to lead her precocious Netflix dramedy, Never Have I Ever. Her winning audition beat the 15,000 others who tried out for Devi—a part that earned Ramakrishnan a spot on A.O. Scott’s list of 2020’s best performances and a Time 100 anointment. Now the 19-year-old is bracing for season two—and trying to maintain perspective: “I kept putting the pressure on myself to represent brown girls everywhere. And I was like, hold on. If I’m not going to put that pressure on a fictional character, why the hell would I do that to myself?”
HER CHILDHOOD HOME in Mississauga was filled with big personalities: Ramakrishnan’s musically inclined brother, labor-relations-specialist mother, government-worker father, maternal grandmother, and dog, Melody. “Everyone is so dramatic. We definitely dish it to each other. You enter our household and we’re going to make you feel like family, but I can’t protect you.”
HER PARENTS both left their native country of Sri Lanka during the Tamil genocide. “Like many immigrant stories, it’s never a linear line. My mom traveled all around the world from Dubai to England. My dad went to South Africa, then Montreal, before meeting my mom in Ontario.”
WHEN SHE SAW Kaling’s tweet, she and her best friend recorded each other’s auditions at their local library. “I still have the text conversation: ‘Imagine if we went to Hollywood, we could totally be Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.’ ”
SHE DREAMS OF playing a princess—“maybe Princess Diana”—in a period piece.
HER FAN BASE is wide ranging: from a seven-year-old girl at a café to a grown woman bursting into tears. “I think the show is what their inner child really yearned for.”
AS FOR THAT second season? “I’m going to put my money where my mouth is: I think season two is better than season one. You’re going to scream at Devi, but you’re also going to want to hug her.”
HAIR, RICK CAROTO; MAKEUP, VIVIAN MAXWELL; PRODUCED ON LOCATION BY PREISS CREATIVE; FOR DETAILS, GO TO VF.COM/CREDITS.
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