Newcomer Maitreyi Ramakrishnan was plucked from an audition pool of 15,000 hopeful actresses to star in Mindy Kaling’s Netflix show, “Never Have I Ever.”
When Kaling and co-creator Lang Fisher called to tell her she landed the widely coveted role, “I remember all that I said was, ‘That’s crazy!” Ramakrishnan, 18, tells The Post. “And my entire family was around — my mom, my dad, my brother, my grandma, my cousin who was staying with us from England, they were all screaming.”
Premiering April 27 — and marking Kaling’s first show for the streamer — “Never Have I Ever” is a coming-of-age comedy following Devi, an Indian American teen girl living in California and navigating the ups and downs of high school. Devi is an overachiever with a hot temper who is trying to win over school heartthrob Paxton (Darren Barnet, “This Is Us”), all while coming to terms with the death of her father (Sendhil Ramamurthy, “Heroes”).
Devi’s mother and her cousin Kamala (an Indian student who is staying with Devi’s family while she gets her PhD) are also prominent characters. That three different types of Indian women are shown onscreen felt special to Richa Moorjani, 30, who co-stars as Kamala.
“You’re getting to see the Indian experience through three different lenses,” she says, referring to the three women in Devi’s family. “I know that this is going to be groundbreaking, not just for the South Asian community but others as well. It’s the first time you see a high-school-aged Indian girl as the lead of a show.”
Although she uses an accent for the show, Moorjani is Indian-American in real life. Ramakrishnan is Tamil-Canadian, and she still lives in Toronto with her family. The show is her Hollywood debut, and she says she wasn’t initially aware of the high stakes.
“I was excited, but I wasn’t fully aware of how my life was going to change… and this was before Mindy Tweeted out the fact that [many people] auditioned,” she says. “I thought that was wild. Looking back, it’s cool to know that … but it’s more important to think about the fact that over 15,000 people wanted to be a part of it and see this project happen. That’s pretty awesome.”
The show is packed with typical coming of age experiences, such as Devi embarrassing herself in front of Paxton, attending her first parties and trying hard to fit in. But Ramakrishnan says she didn’t base her portrayal on any other pop culture characters, and that’s why she thinks she landed the sought-after part.
“I remember asking Mindy why she picked me — why me, out of thousands? — and she said what was awesome was that I brought myself into the role without totally changing the character, but finding a nice balance that there was authenticity behind Devi,” she says. “There’s a real person there.
“I didn’t imitate what has been shown on TV before; I didn’t imitate the teens that are represented in film. I took it in a unique way, and that’s a real way that people can relate to.”