In Netflix’s upcoming YA series, “Never Have I Ever,” newcomer Maitreyi Ramakrishnan plays a character based loosely on the teenage years of creator Mindy Kaling, who she says “can do it all.”
It’s a good fit for the 17-year-old Canadian actress, who will make her television debut with the April 27 premiere of Kaling and Lang Fisher’s coming-of-age dramedy. Ramakrishnan stars as Devi, a 15-year-old high school sophomore who is a lot more concerned with winning a guy’s heart (Paxton Hall-Yoshida) than she is with dealing her father’s sudden death.
Ramakrishnan has been a fan of Kaling’s since she saw her as Kelly Kapoor on “The Office,” the young actress said, and she became an even bigger one once she learned that Kaling was also a writer on some of the show’s most iconic episodes.
“She wears so many hats, and she’s so much more than just a South Asian woman. She’s a writer, she’s an actor, she’s a director, she’s a producer. She can do it all,” she said. “That’s what I love about her. That makes me look up to her.”
Ramakrishnan also draws her inspiration from Kaling’s adolescence, as well as her own.
“It’s loosely based on [Kaling’s] life, as well as Lang Fisher’s. The experiences that they both shared together went into Devi’s character,” she said. “So within Devi, there’s Lang, there’s Mindy, but then there’s also me. So it’s a mix that then creates something that so many people are gonna relate to all over the world.”
As much as the show focuses on Devi on the hunt for a boyfriend, though, Ramakrishnan said the show is about a lot more than puppy love.
“There’s literally a line when Devi says to Dr. Ryan, her therapist, ‘My life is about boys,'” she said.
But the moral of the story “isn’t actually about boys at all. It’s about figuring out that there is more to who we are and our identity. Who you define yourself as is not relying on anybody else but you.”
“Never Have I Ever” premieres April 27 on Netflix.