What is it about the ephemeral intensity of being a teenager that just makes for the *best* TV.
From old favorites like Freaks and Geeks, My So-Called Life, Gilmore Girls, and Skins, to modern incarnations like Sex Education and I Am Not Okay With This if you’re looking for a show that explores the awkward beauty of navigating high school and young adulthood, you’re really spoilt for choice. The only caveat? So many teen shows largely center around the experiences of white teens.
While we sometimes get incred POC characters as best friends, girlfriends and siblings of the beloved mains, it’s much more rare to see someone dealing with trying to go on a date when they’re in a super strict Muslim household, or dealing with a parent that wants you to pray more rather than get more plays on the football team. Enter Mindy Kaling’s new Netflix comedy: Never Have I Ever.
What is Never Have I Ever about?
Based loosely on Kaling’s experiences growing up as a first-gen Indian American, this is literally the modern brown-girl coming of age story we’ve been waiting for forever. Our protag Devi, played by Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, is a high-achieving sophomore with a quick wit and short fuse—cue the shenanigans. More than that though, the show is built around portraying the authentic experience of growing up in a heady blend of Indian and American cultures.
She’s Hindu, she prays, she’s actually dark-skinned with hair on her forearms, she gets good marks but she also wants bone a hot dude and go to hectic parties. “Nerds are not only the wallflowers and the quiet ones,” Kaling said of the character, “We’re ambitious, we have obnoxious personalities sometimes, we want to have sex and dreams like all the other kids.” I fucking love Devi already, pls watch the teaser trailer for Never Have I Ever below.
Seeing someone so real and so much closer to a lot of first-gen kid experiences is a powerful thing. Movies, books, TV shows, they all feed the archetypes we use to understand our world. If the only language of yearning, anger and joy you have comes from narratives where you’re a supporting character, it gets a lot hard to advocate for yourself. It also becomes more of a challenge to back yourself, or aim for things that others see as natural for them, whether it’s a certain job or a type of relationship or just being the lead in the story of your life. Between shows like Never Have I Ever and films like To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, though it’s nice to see it’s shifting.
Never Have I Ever is dropping on Netflix on April 27th (so close!!), so in prep and anticipation, we’ve rounded up who’s in the cast and ofc, their respective Instagrams for you to follow.
Meet the cast of Never Have I Ever
Maitreyi Ramakrishnan is Devi Vishwakumar
So what do we know about the 17-year-old actress Maitreyi Ramakrishnan herself? She’s a Tamil gal like her character Devi, and she apparently dabbed after all of her auditions. I fucking love her already. Not only that, but according to Teen Vogue Ramakrishnan is a big teen activist too. She’s participated in protests about the situation her people face in their country (her family escaped war in Sri Lanka) and has also been involved in school walkouts to protest funding cuts.
Ramona Young is Eleanor
What would a teen comedy be without some hilarious best friends? Enter actress Ramona Young, who’ll be playing Devi’s close friend Eleanor in Never Have I Ever. The actress is currently playing Mona Wu in the CW’s Legends of Tomorrow, and you might also recognise her from the John Cena n Leslie Mann comedy film Blockers, which coincidentally also features a yung fun brown girl trying to get wild.
Lee Rodriguez is Fabiola
The 20-year-old actress and singer Lee Rodriguez is going to be playing Fabiola, also one of Devi’s close friends. Like Ramakrishnan she’s a relative newcomer, but she has appeared in an episode of of fav Yara Shahidi featuring show Grownish a little while back.
Darren Barnet is Paxton Hall-Yoshida
Ooo, my favourite trope from teen shows: the impossibly hot love interest that no 17-year-old boy will ever actually compare to. Darren Barnet (who’s been in a bunch of shows including This Is Us) is going to be playing Paxton in Never Have I Ever, saying in an IG caption that he’s “an aloof jock with a heart of gold and layers you might not see on the surface.”
Richa Moorjani is Kamala
Playing Devi’s older cousin Kamala (because there is always an older cousin in the fam) is dancer and actress Richa Moorjani. You should check out her Instagram for some incred examples of Kathak dance, which she’s practiced from a young age: “I would be surrounded by other young brown girls also navigating their hyphenated identities in the Silicon Valley, while learning a craft that is ancient, pure and completely uninfluenced by the west.”
Sendhil Ramamurthy is Mohan Vishwakumar
Not to alarm anyone, but both of Devi’s parents in this show are extremely good looking?? Let’s start with Sendhil Ramamurthy, who’ll be playing Devi’s dad Mohan Vishwakumar. Ramamurthy and Kaling have actually worked together before—he played her boyf in later season of The Office, where Kaling gained noticed for her acting and comedy writing chops.
Poorna Jagannathan is Nalini Vishwakumar
Joining the Never Have I Ever cast as Devi’s mom Nalini is Poorna Jagannathan. She’s kind of a Bollywood legend already and is fresh out of roles in HBO’s Big Little Lies and Hulu’s Ramy, suffice to say her IMDB credentials are pretty stacked.
Jaren Lewison is Ben Gross
Finally, every nerd needs a nemesis. Jaren Lewison is another new face joining the Never Have I Ever cast. He’s got a few guest appearances on different TV series under his belt, and we’re intrigued to see the academic rivalry between Devi and Ben play out of the show.
Lead image via Instagram.