Get ready for your brand new Netflix obsession. The streaming giant just released their latest YA series, Never Have I Ever, and it is nothing like you’ve seen from them before.
Cast: Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Ramona Young, Lee Rodriguez, Darren Barnet, Jaren Lewison, John McEnroe, Poorna Jagannathan, Richa Moorjani
Creators: Mindy Kaling, Lang Fisher
Rating: 4 stars (Out of 5)
In the teen series, Devi is trying to move on with life after the death of her father. Now ready to take on the world, she enlists the help of her two BFFs to assist her in climbing the high school social ladder, while also getting her crush to notice her. Needless to say, it’s the high school drama you need to get you through quarantine rn. So get ready to meet a set of brand new characters and the awesome actors who bring them to life — because you’re going to be obsessed by the time you finish watching this show.
The appeal of Never Have I Ever, a charming, peppy Netflix teen dramedy created by Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher, stems primarily from its spry tempo, which alternates between the rollicking and the staccato, vividly capturing, in the process, the caprices of youth and the intricacies of a minority culture viewed from within and without.
The 10-episode series pivots around a 15-year-old first-generation Indian-American girl growing up in California’s San Fernando Valley and dealing with teenage pangs aggravated by issues pertaining to, while going beyond, chasing “perfect grades and killer test scores”, finding camaraderie and love, and dealing with a fretful single mom forever worried that her daughter might be hurtling down a ruinous path. No boyfriends until you are old enough to rent a car, the girl is told by her mother.
Never Have I Ever, which follows Devi as she negotiates love and hate, confusions and certitudes, love and loss, friendships and fulminations, sees the girl in full-blown confrontations with her demanding dermatologist mom Nalini (an outstanding Poorna Jagannathan) and her besties Eleanor (Ramona Young), a theatre enthusiast, and Fabiola (Lee Rodriguez), a robotics geek.
And that relatable quality is embodied in the series’ leading lady, 17-year-old newcomer Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, who plays lead character Devi Vishwakumar. To speak to the Canadian actress is like talking to your best friend from high school. As series co-creator Lang Fisher tells IndieWire, this sentiment was what attracted her and Kaling to Ramakrishnan’s audition tape. “We both wanted to try to find the real deal [an actual teen]” Fisher said. The pair were seeking a female version of Jonah Hill’s character from the feature “Superbad” and Ramakrishnan “was so brash and had this raspy voice. [She] was just a tough little punk,” Fisher said.
But Ramakrishnan has a slightly different view of her discovery. She confesses that, in all honesty, she wasn’t initially drawn to answering Kaling’s worldwide casting call. “I wanted to hang out with my best friend,” Ramakrishnan told IndieWire. After Googling how to film their video audition — “Google is my friend,” the teen said — the pair used Ramakrishnan’s mother’s camera to make her audition video. “I read the script just as if I was auditioning for my drama teacher back in high school,” she said.