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The cast of Never Have I Ever is spilling all the behind the scenes secrets of filming the second season.
The hit Netflix series stars Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Devi Vishwakumar, a first-generation Indian American teenage girl growing up in Southern California and navigating her friendships, family and love — all while coping with the sudden loss of her father. Season two finds Devi in a possible new love triangle, a frenemy and still torn between two love interests: her school rival Ben Gross, played by Jaren Lewison, and school heartthrob Paxton Hall-Yoshida, played by Darren Barnet.
The coming-of-age series, co-created by Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher based on Kaling’s childhood, has been seen as refreshing for its representation of the South Asian community led by a young Indian American protagonist.
Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, the cast shared the importance of that representation, how showcasing new and diverse talent was a big win, and what’s to come.
Star Ramakrishnan, who landed the lead role after an open casting call with over 15,000 submissions, recalled the nerves before going into season one saying not only was the role her first professional acting job, it was her first job altogether, noting “Mindy Kaling is my first boss.”
“Definitely there was that pressure of like sure I’ve never acted before on film,” she noted, “and I don’t know what that’s like so I have to figure out all these terms and what they all mean because I know nothing. So it wasn’t lost on me of making sure I do a good job that I’m actually proud of.”
For much of the cast, the overwhelmingly positive response to the show was both moving and shocking. “I don’t think any of us knew that it was going to take off in such a big way,” said Richa Moorjani, who plays Devi’s cousin, Kamala, in the series. “First of all with stories like these we never get to tell them or make it past the written pilot stage let alone getting picked up straight to series.”
Poorna Jagannathan, who plays Nalini in the series, added, “We’ve been talking about representation for a long time. This show is radically diverse and radically authentic yet radically universal. When you imagine something and it comes into being, it’s much more joyful and amazing and beautiful then you ever thought it could be. And it gives us all so much purpose.”
Lewison, who noted how much of the young cast was relatively undiscovered at the time, also credited creators Kaling and Fisher to the success of the show. “Mindy [Kaling] and Lang [Fisher], they believed in us from the very start,” said the actor. “They sat us down our first pre table read and told us why we booked this show and how much they believed in us and believed in our talent and when you’re pulling that much belief and perspective together you know you’re making something special.”
However the latest season didn’t come without its own set of challenges. Production on season two took place during the novel coronavirus pandemic which shut down and thereafter affected many Hollywood TV and film productions around the world. Jagannathan noted that for the cast and crew, it was “a scary time.” “I was scared, I’ll be really honest,” the actress said. “There were some days where I was just terrified. [Netflix] took some unbelievable precautions but there was so much anxiety.”
The actress also noted that adjusting to COVID-19 precautions also proved to be a challenge when it came to performing due to mask requirements during rehearsals and not being able to see facial expressions in a scene, however she credited the chemistry and tight knit bond of the cast and crew for quickly adjusting and pushing forward.
Elsewhere, season two also gave the actors an opportunity to dive deeper into the characters they portrayed in season one. For Barnet, the actor is excited to bring out a different side of Paxton and teases how the upcoming season is a further exploration into his heritage with a Paxton-centered storyline in episode 3 featuring a top secret narrator (It was recently revealed that the narrator is none other than supermodel Gigi Hadid.)
“I’m really excited to pull back the layers and get beyond the cover of what Paxton is portrayed as a lot in season one,” Barnet said. “You’re seeing a whole new vulnerable side of him. It’s a lot more diving into his heritage, his home life, his parents and what that environment does to him as a young high school student.”
The new season also continues to tackle the heated Team Paxton vs. Team Ben debate, and while Ramakirhsnan won’t spill the beans on who wins Devi’s heart at the end of the season, she’s content with where the show leaves off.
“I thought it was really wholesome” the actress said. “Not just for the love triangle purposes but also for the friendships. So it was a really nice way to end the series and filming it we filmed that as the last kind of scenes that we did so it was all honestly really sweet.”
Season two of Never Have I Ever is streaming now on Netflix. Watch the video above for more on this story.
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