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Maitreyi Ramakrishnan
Photo: George Chinsee/StyleCaster. Design: Sasha Purdy.

It’s three days before the series finale of Never Have I Ever, and Maitreyi Ramakrishnan is posing in a library in New York as LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” plaཧys in the background꧟. 

“Imagine the world was dying, an asteroid hit, there’s no water, and this song was playing in every store,” Ramakrishnan, 20, says as she leans against a table in a belted white blazer and wide-leg black pants. “That’s apocalyptic.” A minute later: “People are going to look at these photos and be like, ‘Oh my God. She looks so studious,’ when this is what I’m thinking about.”

Ramakrishnan is funny. Like, really funny. It’s something she can admit now after starring in four seasons of Never Have I Ever, Netflix’s coming-of-age comedy series about Devi Vishwakumar, an Indian-American teenager who navigates young adulthood after the sudden death of her father. “I love making people laugh,” Ramakrishnan says. “It wasn’t until the last season of Never Have I Ever that I realized that. Because I thought, you know, actors, they do dramatic things. Bleh, bleh, bleh. But comedy is fun and it has a unique kind of power.”

Comedy has a unique kind of power. 

Ramakrishnan was 15 when she was cast in Never Have I Ever and had never acted professionally. She submitted a self-tape—though she had to Google what that was—after her friend saw creators Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher’s open call for the show; Ramakrishnan agreed to audition to hang out with her friend. When the producers called to invite her to Los Angelꦏes for a screen test, she꧒ thought it was spam. 

Photo: George Chinsee/StyleCaster. Design: Sasha Purdy.George Chinsee/StyleCaster

A lot has happened since then. Ramakrishnan has been nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, an MTV Movie & TV Award, and People’s Choice Awards. She voiced a role in Pixar’s 2022 Oscar-nominated movie Turning Red. And she was cast as the lead in Netflix’s upcoming Pride and Prejudice adaptation, The Netherfield Girls. Still, there’s so much more she wants to do. “I’d like to think I’m not the same because I don’t want to be the same,” she says. “I want to grow. I want to continue to have new ambitions.”

With the end of Never Have I Ever, which released its fourth and final season on April 9, Ramkrishnan’s schedule is free for the first time since she was 17. A year ago, her uncertain future would freak her out. But today, she couldn’t be more excited. “I’m just getting started,” she says. 

Ahead, Ramakrishnan talks to StyleCaster about what she took home from the Never Have I Ever set, the characters she would want a spin-off with, and how she really feels about Devi’s endgame.

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan
Photo: George Chinsee/StyleCaster. Design: Sasha Purdy.George Chinsee/StyleCaster

Did you predict how Never Have I Ever would end? 

I did predict a couple things. Of course, Devi going to Princeton. I did predict the Ben ending, just because it definitely tipped in his favor once Devi and Paxton seal the deal on their friendship. One odd thing that I predicted, and I’m so happy it happened, [is about Dr. Ryan]. In Season 1, 2 and 3, we have always seen Dr. Ryan and Devi be on opposite ends of the table, and in Season 4 in the first episode, Dr. Ryan comes to Devi’s side of the table. Devi says, “What’s wrong with me that someone wants to have sex with me but not want to be with me?” Dr. Ryan makes that move, which is, in my opinion, a very important move because here is Devi, this young woman talking to probably the only adult figure she feels comfortable enough talking to about sex because she doesn’t feel comfortable talking about that with her mom. Too awkward. But here she is getting to Devi’s level. I predicted that [for] the last Dr. Ryan scene, Devi was going to be on her side of the table and give her that hug. I hope fans catch that. 

You can be in a relationship and not learn a single damn thing if you just don’t choose to learn.

Was it always the plan for Devi and Ben to end up together? 

That’s all the writers and Lang’s call. But I know during Season 3, Lang said there was going to be a winner. So I think they were determined to have a winner. I don’t know if it was always in the cards that it would be Ben. I had my predictions. Knowing them, I feel like they’ve definitely entertained everything under the sun. I know Lang has said in the writing room it’s always evenly split to who’s Team What and Team What. I’m sure they’ve had a lot of debates. I would love to be a fly on the wall in the writing room.

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan
Photo: George Chinsee/StyleCaster. Design: Sasha Purdy.George Chinsee/StyleCaster

Why do you think Devi and Ben were the perfect match for each other in the end?

I mean… I didn’t say that. I don’t think you’re gonna find a perfect match in high school. Because you’ve got so much growing to do as an individual person. How could you possibly find a perfect match? You’re not your most self yet. Even in life after high school, you’re still growing. So you’ll never have a perfect match. For me, it could have gone either way at the ending of the show. The ending of the show for me is that last scene when she’s praying. That’s the ending. After that, she could have ended up with anyone under the sun and it would have been whatever to me. But the fact that she ends off with so much overwhelming gratitude instead of asking the gods for materialistic things, that shows the epitome of her character. Not who she’s hanging out with after in her Princeton dorm. But I do think Paxton brought out a nice opposite energy, which I like better than someone who’s really mean. I mean, OK, if you had a homie who had someone say the things that Ben said to your friend, would you want your friend to be with that person?

It’s sort of enemies to lovers.

Enemies to lovers versus you’re just a dick. You’re also not nice to my friends. It’s not like just we’re enemies. It’s like you’re an enemy to the world.  He wasn’t nice to Fab. He was like, “I’m smarter than you.” Fab was the smartest person in the school. Get off your high horse.

Devi dated a few different men throughout Never Have I Ever: Paxton, Ben, Des, and Ethan. What do you think she learned from each of them? 

The relationships help bring forth challenges that help her learn, but it’s not necessarily the men that make her learn, it’s her willingness to grow first and foremost. You can be in a relationship and not learn a single damn thing if you just don’t choose to learn. It’s because Devi reflected and wanted to grow as a person. Let’s kick it back from the beginning. She started dating Paxton and she learned that she needs to love herself properly. Paxton literally tells her, “Hey, dude, I can’t keep reminding you of that.” She understands that she needs to learn how to love herself first. She takes that knowledge and then when she starts dating Des, she realizes—when he’s ashamed of her and he’s not able to accept who she is fully as a person who’s dealing with grief and isn’t the most perfect pinup girl ever—she’s like, ‘You can’t accept me? Peace out.”

Then she goes on to date Ethan next. He definitely makes her realize, “I have to stick to my morals as a human being and be honest. I can’t just give away my identity to be with someone who’s great looking and all of that.” Then finally with Ben, in that first episode in Season 1 when he says, “You’re just too much and we’re gonna be too chaotic.” First of all, lots of problematic things that he said in that. But when she says like, “OK. I can accept that,” she’s learned her value isn’t in this person fighting to be with her. She’s OK to say, “Alright. I accept that you don’t like me like that, and that’s fine. I don’t need anyone to like me like that. I just need to like me like that.” Every guy helped inform her next relationship. 

What was the last scene you filmed for Never Have I Ever?

The last scene of the show, which is really rare because you usually shoot out of order. It’s funny because a fan somehow found a video of Jaren and I on set when we wrapped and then they were like, “Oh my God, they wrapped together. That must be the end of the show.” Other fans were like, “Oh, they usually shoot out of order, so that’s probably not the end. We don’t know, guys. We can’t jump to conclusions.” Well, they were right. That actually was the last scene. Devi and Ben in Devi’s Princeton dorm room. It was sweet because we didn’t need to have mics because there was no dialogue. It was just McEnroe’s. VO. It was cool because all I had to do was grab the popcorn bowl, walk over to Jaren, sit beside him and eat popcorn with him. The entire time in actuality, we were whispering to each other like, “Oh my God. This it!” It’s funny because we also had to act all cutesy and under my breath, I’m taking the popcorn like, “Open your fucking mouth. I need to throw this at you. I love you so much.” We were just fucking around with each other. But also every single take, we were like, “This is gonna be the one.” Every single time they said cut, we were like, “Is that the least one?” and then they say one more and we’re like, “Phew, we get to do one more.” It was like a ticking time bomb.

I don’t want to be the same. I want to grow. I want to continue to have new ambitions.

Did you take anything from the set?

The typical actor stuff. Like perfectly tailored jeans because, I mean, they were already tailored for me and I already have a struggle with jeans. So I was like, “Can I please take this?”. She’s always wearing the best blue jeans. I just wanted the perfectly tailored blue jeans that fit my waist, fit the thighs, the length is good. And then I took the whole harp. That was a lot to ship. But production was super cool helping me figure out how to ship that back home to Canada. Harps are big. You need professional harp movers. Right now, it resides in the basement of my home. It was the same harp every single year. So that’s the one that I touched when I was 17 until the very end during the wedding scene.

Were there any talks of a spin-off? Are there any characters you would want a spin-off around?

That’s all in the creators’ hands, like Lang and people who were way more powerful. But if I could take a spin-off, I would either want it for Trent or Nirmala. Or both. It would just be so cool. Trent is just so dope. I also love Benjamin Norris, who plays Trent. He is so hilarious. The same thing goes for Ranjita who plays Nirmala. They’re my favorite characters, so I’m very biased. 

Never Have I Ever was your first big acting role. What do you want to do now that the show is over?

There are so many things that I want to do. Truly that’s actually what I’m excited for. I don’t have any plans for the immediate future. Maybe if you asked me this a half a year ago, I would have been like, “That freaks the shit out of me. I am so nervous. Oh, my God, what are we going to do next?” Now, I feel way more OK not knowing. I have so many dreams. My dream role is Rapunzel. I’ve been wanting that for so long. I need to get out of the habit of ugly singing because there are so many videos right now of me ugly singing. Because when I do karaoke I’m not singing nice in karaoke. That’s weird. But I swear I can sing. I need to prove to people that I can. Cause they’re probably like, “Oh, she’s kind of shit.” Which is valid because in karaoke, I am shit.

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan
Photo: George Chinsee/StyleCaster. Design: Sasha Purdy.George Chinsee/StyleCaster

When you look back at when you were first cast on Never Have I Ever, does that feel like a different person?

Honestly, kinda. But in the best possible ways. I’d like to think I’m not the same because I don’t want to be the same. I want to grow. I want to continue to have new ambitions. Seventeen-year-old me in 2019, she probably didn’t think something like dreaming about a role like Rapunzel was even possible. She probably thought like, “That’s stupid. Get your head out of the clouds.  That’s a hopeless dream.” But now I’m like, “No, the world is my oyster.” That’s a result of growing up, becoming more confident during the seasons of the show, but also seeing the world around me. Seeing people like Halle Bailey killing it. Every time a Little Mermaid trailer comes up, I cry. It’s really embarrassing. My friends are like, “You need to stop.” But I’m like, “Oh my God. This is real. It’s a real viable thing.” Years ago, I couldn’t even imagine it. In those ways, I am different. I am still annoying and grumbling. I really am a bad swimmer. I’m not great at running. My form is very awkward. But I have grown in other ways.

It’s hard for me to say I’m proud of myself.

If you could come up with a Never Have I Ever title to describe how you are right now, what would it be? 

“Never Have I Ever Been More Confident and Proud of Myself.” Genuinely. The purple carpet premiere for the show a couple of days ago? I usually dread looking at photos of myself the next day because it’s closeup shots and you see all the things that nobody else sees. You know that nobody else is seeing it, but you see it. You feel sometimes so ugly. You’re like, “I wish I could change my face.” Suddenly you’re like, “Plastic surgery quotes.” Obviously nothing wrong against that, but you just don’t feel as great as you wish… But I looked at those photos and I felt so cool, like I was a princess. I was just so happy and proud of myself. It finally hit me like, “Hey, dude, your first project ever, your first job ever, you were the lead of it. You’re the only character that’s in every single episode. All 40 of them.” You did that and the show wasn’t even canceled. We actually got to have a season close, which is not easy. Of course, I’m not crediting all that hard work to myself. But I acknowledge humbly that I was a part of that. That for me is growth because I used to be like, “Whatever. Bleh.” It’s hard for me to say I’m proud of myself. But anyways, you just asked for an episode title.

Never Have I Ever is now streaming on Netflix.

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