We Sat Down With Maitreyi Ramakrishnan And Decoded Never Have I Ever Season 2
From character growths to favorite moments on set
A year ago, when all of us were confined to the limits of our home, we sought comfort in the world of entertainment. At the time, Never Have I Ever (NHIE), a coming-of-age story about Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), felt like a blanket of wit and humour, completely engulfing us into the world of an Indian teenager’s life at an American high school. Just this time, the Indian girl was not a side character but the lead. Loosely based on Mindy Kaling’s childhood experiences, the show brought to the forefront the lives in South Asian households in a refreshing take, beyond cliches.
With the second season of the show out now, we sit down with Maitreyi and talk about everything that went into the making of NHIE 2.
Season one saw Devi and her desperate attempts to live the ultimate American high school experience, by the end of which she has not one but two guys interested in her. Unable to decide whom to date (despite her pros and cons list), season 2 saw the beginning of the most elaborate lie Devi would ever pull off (does she, though?)—two-timing Ben (Jaren Lewison) and Paxton (Darren Barnet). As her flawless plan goes south, Devi goes back to being the invisible only-Indian kid at school, except she’s not alone. Enter Aneesa (Megan Suri), the dope new Indian girl joining Sherman Oaks. Devi instantly feels threatened. ‘She had always assumed her unpopularity was because of racism, but this new kid was proving that Devi might just be objectively lame.’
This season we get a deeper insight into the complexities of Devi’s character. Her insecurities, poor decision making, grief management—issues that had not been quite acknowledged in the previous season, are brought to the forefront. “She still makes mistakes; she’s still this mess. She’s trying to deal with her anger issues and learn how to love herself, how to be a good friend, family member and just [a good] person, in general. So, a lot happens in her character arc, for sure,” Maitreyi shares.
Devi’s paralysis, which had been shrugged off in a single episode last season, is addressed when she’s finally ready to talk about her trauma with her therapist (played by Niecy Nash). “There are a lot of times in season two, where Devi does things that she wouldn’t have in season one—where she would’ve blown up and had an entire meltdown, but instead says, ‘You know, I’m gonna be mature,’” shares Maitreyi.
Devi and her mother, Nalini (Poorna Jagannathan), are seen warming up to each other, besides the hiccup when Devi feels her mother is not sad about her dad’s death. Nalini’s character is acknowledged, showing her struggles as a newly single mother trying to raise a teenage girl and her attempt to get a break from the pain of losing her husband.
Other important themes, such as sexism in the workplace, are explored through Kamala’s (Richa Shukla) storyline. Despite her brilliant discovery on which an entire research paper was based, she is not credited. This incident is also casually shrugged off by her to-be fiancé Prashant (Rushi Kota), which is quite the turn-off (obviously!).
Talking about the interesting themes included in the storyline this season, Maitreyi says, “It’s super important [to talk about it] because they’re all real issues that people go through, and films and TV series can make a huge impact.”
The struggle of a queer teenager in school is portrayed by the nerdy Fabiola (Lee Rodriguez), who finds it difficult to keep up with queer pop culture and essentially ‘fit in’. “I personally love the storyline of Fabiola not necessarily knowing where she fits in with the LGBTQI+ community because more often than not, we just see characters come out and then they’re miraculously just part of the community (it may be the case for some, but not for all).” Adding to notable story arcs this season, Maitreyi says, “Eleanor’s (Ramona Young) line at the end of episode 10 where she says it’s important to love and value yourself, rather than waiting to find someone who is gonna be loving for you- I thought that was a really nice message, and an important life lesson.”
Talking about favourite scenes to shoot, Maitreyi says, “The apology dance was really fun, despite the fact I was sweating like crazy (that suit was disgusting). Another fun scene was when Ben and Devi play beer pong because we all started getting naturally competitive. And the time Devi flips over the cup, I actually flipped over the cup that way! It went back and then forward. There are no cuts in between there, so I thought that was really cool.” COVID, however, certainly affected the way these scenes were shot- “In a lot of scenes, we make a group of like ten background actors look like 20, 30, 50, a whole dance.. But it’s just a lot of positioning and angles. A set in COVID world is completely different.”, she added.
All in all, this season was a good mix of humour with important sub-plots addressed subtly. Devi’s witty comebacks, the Gen Z dialogues, and high school dramedy made it hilariously relatable. Not to forget, Devi’s thoughts, yet again narrated by McEnroe, certainly add a comical touch to the show. Adding to our speculation of a third season, Maitreyi, while not confirming it, concludes with, “I’d love to see Devi continue this journey of self-love and figuring things out for herself. Hopefully, Devi won’t Devi things up!”
Photographs: Netflix, Instagram