Maitreyi Ramakrishnan talks Desi girl frenemies, ‘Never Have I Ever’ season 2

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All Desi American girls know the feeling: a lover, cousin, or sibling that’s just a touch too perfect. They’re smarter, prettier, speak their maternal language perfectly, and are just effortlessly cool. Everyone seems to love them more, maybe even your friends and fogeys. The comparisons are constant; they’re the person you’re keen on to hate. Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, 19, star of Mindy Kaling’s Netflix show “Never Have I Ever,” is intimately conversant in this example, and now she gets to portray it on screen. In season two of the show, which hits Netflix on Thursday, main character Devi faces an entirely new set of issues — including, yes, a new, cooler Indian girl joining her class.

“It sucks,” Ramakrishnan told NBC Asian America. “It’s so unfortunate because you’re like, ‘Hey, why can’t you only be friends?’ you would like to be like, ‘Devi, please just go be friends. You’re just jealous.’” “Never Have I Ever” follows Devi Vishwakumar, a 15-year-old Indian American high school student whose father died of an attack at the start of last season. Season one Devi has one goal: to lose her virginity to the varsity hottie and rocket her group of outcast friends to popularity. But her quest goes awry during a tangle of lies and anger issues and a turbulent relationship together with her friends and mother. The season ends with Devi finally putting her feud together with her mom behind her and confused about her feelings for 2 different boys.

Season two picks up exactly where it left off, with Devi’s confusion, anger, and lying returning to bite her. But a central focus for this season is Devi’s deepening relationships with the Desi women in her life — old and new. Touching moments of bonding together with her |along with her”> together with her mom (Poorna Jagannathan) and cousin Kamala (Richa Moorjani) and a replacement relationship with her grandmother visiting from India shape Devi’s character arc in season two and Ramakrishnan’s life outside the show, as well. She reflected on the role relationships with brown women play in her life.

“I wouldn’t be who I’m without those,” she said. One of the most storylines centers around the character Aneesa (Megan Suri), a transfer student who enrolls at Sherman Oaks highschool and is mentioned as “Devi 2.0” by the white students. The athletic, stylish and effortless Aneesa immediately draws attention and affection from all of Devi’s classmates, favorite teachers, and relations, and Ramakrishnan said Devi is understandably jealous. “You understand where Devi’s coming from,” she said. “She’s trying to form her mark. she has her own baggage; she has s— that she’s handling .”

Over the course of the season, Devi’s relationship with Aneesa goes from threat to frenemy to friend. As she gets to understand her, it becomes harder to hate her. But after she suspects Aneesa is hooking up together with her ex-boyfriend Ben (Jaren Lewison), Devi spreads a rumor that she has a disorder, which pushes them apart. Recommended Eventually, the 2 find themselves sharing a friendship unique to any of her others. Ramakrishnan said the show’s narrator, John McEnroe, described it perfectly in his voiceover. “For once, Devi had a lover that understood her in ways her other friends didn’t,” Ramakrishnan said. “No shade to Eleanor [Ramona Young] and Fabiola [Lee Rodriguez], but Aneesa understood those small things like comparisons between cousins or the random judgment of wearing baggy clothes.”

When the 2 finally put their differences aside, Aneesa relents that she experiences those things too, and it’s not beat Devi’s head. Ramakrishnan said those relationships between brown girls are so meaningful and important, emphasizing the role they play in her own life. “Having someone who really gets that identity and every one those little isms, it’s very nice and really fulfilling,” she said. “Hopefully it’ll make Devi grow and realize like, ‘OK, cool, I can mention this stuff, about what bothers me within the culture, what I prefer about the culture, and just have those deep conversations that I’m very happy to possess with my friends.’” On top of developments in Devi’s relationships with both Ben and Paxton (Darren Barnet), which started in season one, the new season also introduces a love interest for Devi’s mom, a fellow dermatologist and single father played by Common. Kamala — who is another perfect, feminine Indian woman whom Devi feels she will never live up to — also finds empowerment in standing up to her misogynistic co-worker who refuses to offer her credit for her work.

Paxton also gets an episode explaining his backstory, his journey together with his education, and his struggle to be seen as quite just a beautiful jock, guest narrated by model Gigi Hadid. “Believe it or not, I relate to the present kid,” Hadid says in her voiceover. “We’re both constantly underestimated because people only see us as sex symbols.” Ramakrishnan doesn’t know what’s next for Devi or any of the show’s characters, but she said she thinks the deep relationships and maturity developed between the Desi women during this season are essential to Devi’s evolution as she navigates adolescence.

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