The Saga Continues in “Never Have I Ever”

The acclaimed coming-of-age comedy from Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher settles in for its penultimate season

The acclaimed coming-of-age comedy from Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher settles in for its penultimate season

When we return to Sherman Oaks High for the third season of Never Have I Ever, self-professed nerd Devi Vishwakumar is living the dream. “She truly feels like she’s got it all,” says Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, the Mississauga native who portrays the Indian-American teen at the centre of this series. “She’s got Paxton [Darren Barnet]. She’s got a real relationship, which we’ve never seen her in. She’s feeling really good about herself, but very quickly realizes that—as Dr. Ryan [Niecy Nash] says in the trailer—having a relationship isn’t going to fix all your problems.”

Despite her new social status and the fact that the hottest guy in school is genuinely into her, there are deeper issues that Devi just can’t shelve. “She’s so happy that she’s with Paxton, someone she’s wanted for so long. And then she realizes that she’s not feeling comfortable in her own skin while side by side with him,” says Ramakrishnan. “Because of that, it’s like, ‘Oh s***, this isn’t the sparkles and rainbows that I thought it would be.’ I think that really hits her and is what makes her spiral.”

If the first season of Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher’s young adult comedy tackled the death of a loved one and dealing with grief, and the second season looked at self-perception, Ramakrishnan says season three is all about self-love. “Devi is still dealing with a lot of insecurities. She’s not valuing herself or actually loving herself. If you ever want to get into a good, healthy relationship, that love has to come towards yourself before you can accept the love of someone else. So, she’s really dealing with a lot, feeling like she’s less than. And that’s tough.”Never Have I EverNetflixDevi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) has gone from lonesome social outcast to the corner point in a deeply fraught love square.

While Devi has an unwavering support group in friends Eleanor (Ramona Young) and Fabiola (Lee Rodriguez), it is the role of Devi’s mother Nalini (Poorna Jagannathan) that may surprise both viewers and main character. “It’s really nice to see how even in the first couple of episodes of season three, they’ve grown so much,” she says, adding that the evolution of the mother-daughter relationship is her personal favourite. “What I love is that it’s very natural and realistic,” says Ramakrishnan. “I like that it moves in a positive direction. Sure, we could say a realistic relationship is also one that is very combative, because that is the case for some people. But I like that we also show that though they have those hiccups and those moments, they’re always going towards a better and more healthy relationship. I think that’s nice for audiences to see and aspire to.”

If previous seasons have formed something of a love triangle between Devi, Paxton and Devi’s frenemy Ben Gross (Jaren Lewison), the third season serves up a love square when Nirdesh (Anirudh Pisharody), a handsome Indian-American teenager, enters the picture. “Ben has a good line. He says that he’s a mix of both Ben and Paxton, if they were Indian,” says Ramakrishnan. Des also seems to arrive at a time when Devi might just be ready for it. “Devi really is growing and learning more about herself. When she gets involved with this new guy, she’s able to recognize, ‘Hey, I’m actually pretty cool, too. You are just as lucky to be around me as I am to be around you.’ I think that’s really awesome.”

Three years into its run, the show still stands out for its representation of a South Asian family, but to the 20-year-old, Never Have I Ever is more than just a show about the Indian-American experience. “Devi is more than just a Brown girl. She’s also a very relatable girl, as proven by the audience that watches the show. She’s everyone, of all ages, of all backgrounds, of all identities,” says Ramakrishnan. “And we’re able to show that YA can be deep. In season one, we put you through all of this comedy, to make you forget about that. And in the last two episodes we say, ‘Hey, remember that this girl’s going through deep, severe trauma?’ We show you that coming-of-age moments can be really real. And I think we continue to do that in season three.”

With a fourth and final season left to come, Ramakrishnan hopes that the viewers, like her, continue to relate to Devi’s coming-of-age journey. “A lot of Devi’s journey are things that we all feel, even if we’re not in high school,” she says. “Devi’s going through things that I know I’m still going through. And I know my older friends are still going through that. I know my young high school cousins are still going through. Devi’s just one big mirror and I think that’s why people still root for her, no matter how much of a mess she makes.”

“Never Have I Ever” is currently streaming on Netflix