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Mississauga teen shines in new Netflix comedy

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, the 18-year-old Mississauga-based teenager isstarring on the much acclaimed Netflix comedy series, Never Have I Ever. Last year she made headlines after being hand-picked last year by Mindy Kaling after she had responded to an open casting call on social media.
The series debuted this Monday on Netflix and is already garnering early acclaim from critics and promises binge-worthy entertainment for young people stuck at home and eager for vicarious high school antics.
After seeing the initial video that Ramakrishnan sent in for fun, shot by her best friend at their community library, “because neither of us had, like, a nice blank wall” — producers wanted to see more.
“They asked me to send more tapes,” Ramakrishnan told a news outlet. “I read that email thinking ‘OK, the standard must have been set low’ … like, ‘this is an automated email, right?'”
According to Kaling and co-creator Lang Fisher, 15,000 hopefuls had reached out from around the world to play the teenage character of Devi Viswakumar before they landed on Ramakrishnan. She was cast with no professional acting experience.
“It could have gone so badly. It really could have been a major mistake,” said Fisher. “All of a sudden, a show is riding on your shoulders and the only thing you’ve done before that is your high school production of Chicago. I think I would have had panic attacks. But she didn’t. She really showed up.”
Never Have I Ever follows 15-year-old Devi, an overachieving high schooler whose outbursts and decision-making are often driven by a combination of teenage emotions and hormones. She’s also trying to cope with the death of her father.
The story, loosely based on Kaling’s childhood, weaves the difficult and unique balancing act experienced by many first-generation kids: trying to navigate a traditional, often strict household (Devi describes herself as Indian, but not “Indian, Indian”) and also manage regular teen desires for friends, popularity and romance.
The series comes as Netflix reports nearly 16 million new subscribers amid global lockdowns. It could take on added resonance, too, as physical distancing has deprived many teens of formative experiences, such as hanging out together and attending prom.
While the series focuses on Devi’s charming escapades and hot-headed demeanour, it also touches on grief, family strain and belonging.
The budding actor, currently isolating in Mississauga with her family, is “keeping her fingers crossed” for a Season 2 but for now is back to regular teenage life.

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