Skip to main content
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track on the Olympic Games
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track onthe Olympics Games
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Plan your screen time with the weekly What to Watch newsletter. Sign up today.

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan stars as Devi Vishwakumar in Netflix series Never Have I Ever.

Lara Solanki/The Associated Press

“Never Have I Ever” star Maitreyi Ramakrishnan is on Zoom from her family home in Mississauga, Ont., talking about plans to visit a billboard for her Netflix series that evening.

The downtown Toronto trip she later posted on Instagram marked a milestone moment for the 19-year-old Tamil-Canadian, who previously hadn’t seen a billboard of herself in person during the pandemic lockdown.

Story continues below advertisement

“Last season, I saw all the billboards just via social media,” she says in an interview ahead of Thursday’s season 2 premiere.

“I always joke: my face has been in Times Square but I’ve never been to Times Square. I’ve never, in person, seen a billboard of me, a photo of me, that big. I can’t fathom my face being that big.”

In some ways, she hasn’t fully been able to fathom how big her career is, either.

“Never Have I Ever” premiered as COVID-19 spread globally in April 2020 and Ramakrishnan couldn’t be out and about to see the full impact of her character, Devi Vishwakumar, a first-generation Indian-American dealing with high-school drama and the death of her father.

Ramakrishnan, a virtual unknown before beating out 15,000 actors for the role, says she’s proud of glowing reviews for the show and her performance but has also found pandemic-era stardom to be “a weird experience, because everything, for the most part, has been in online digital spaces.”

“When it came to the actual show releasing, that was a little difficult for me, because my friends here in Canada, they’ve never done such a thing before. They’re not in the public eye. So they didn’t know what all of this newfound attention felt like,” says Ramakrishnan, who was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award in January and made Time magazine’s 100 Next list in March.

Other cast members include Ramona Young and Lee Rodriguez as Devi’s best friends, Poorna Jagannathan as her mother and Richa Moorjani as her cousin.

Story continues below advertisement

“Looking back, I wish I was with my fellow cast members in physical proximity to be like, ‘Hey Ramona, do you want to come over and play Mario Kart or something?’ That would have been nice,” says Ramakrishnan.

“But everything happens how it happens. I don’t want to be all sad about it or angry about it, because it is what it is. And there are a lot of pros.”

Those pros include being able to enjoy her higher profile on home soil, surrounded by family, and not feeling like the attention was “too stark,” she says.

Still, Ramakrishnan admits she feels she’s “grown up a little fast” and has discussed this with show creator and comedy star Mindy Kaling.

“I’ll be honest and just say: childhood cut short,” she says. “It’s just the reality. It’s not something that I’m like, ‘Damn, give it back,”’ she says.

“It’s a part of the package. And I’m proud of myself for growing up and maturing as well as I have in the past year. I’m still, though, just a 19-year-old twerp, very capable of making mistakes as much as the next guy.”

Story continues below advertisement

Devi has also grown up in the past year.

Season 2, which was shot under pandemic protocols on the Universal Studios Lot in Los Angeles, finds Devi caught up in a love triangle and doing a lot of kissing — something Ramakrishnan’s grandmother had reservations about.

“It’s not that my grandma has an issue with me kissing. She’s like, ‘Yeah, go for it,”’ she says with a laugh. “She’s just like, ‘No COVID. I don’t want my granddaughter to have COVID.”’

Ramakrishnan is next set to play protagonist Elizabeth Bennet in Netflix’s upcoming modern feature adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” called “The Netherfield Girls.” It’s in pre-production, with Rebecca Gleason as writer-director.

“One reason why I really liked the character, for me, personally, is just that I wasn’t the best brown girl for the role; I just happened to be the best girl for the role,”' says Ramakrishnan.

“It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, you’re the best out of all the South Asian women that we have thought of.’ No, it’s just, ‘You can do this, you encompass this character as her true form.”’

Story continues below advertisement

With her schedule full, Ramakrishnan says she’s deferring her acceptance into York University for a second time. She’s also switched her degree from theatre to human rights and equity studies, something she’s clearly passionate about, given the causes she posts about on social media. She’s also an ambassador for Plan International Canada, which is dedicated to advancing children’s rights and equality for girls.

“When it comes to activism and all that, that’s something I had before fame,” says Ramakrishnan, whose parents fled civil war in Sri Lanka and moved to Canada as refugees.

“My parents always raised me (to believe): ‘If you see an injustice, speak up. Don’t be a bystander when you see someone facing injustice, or you are complicit.’ So with that mentality, that’s what I still just live and lead by.”

Sign up for The Globe’s arts and lifestyle newsletters for more news, columns and advice in your inbox.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies