Kaling offers new comedy
LOS ANGELES (AP) — When Mindy Kaling was growing up in the Boston area, few classmates looked like her, and her television choices ranged from angsty white teenagers to funny white teenagers.
It helps explain her latest project, the hit Netflix comedy “Never Have I Ever,” which follows Devi Vishwakumar, a first-generation Indian American teen navigating not only her culture and Hindu faith, but also raging hormones, commitment to excellence and explosive temper.
“Some old loser was telling me that I was too Indian,” Devi says in the show’s fourth episode. “And some other people think I’m not Indian enough, and honestly all I want to do is eat a donut.”
It’s a rarity on Western television.
Though “Never Have I Ever” has received mixed reviews, it has drawn wide praise for its representation of South Asians. Netflix says it’s the No. 1 most-viewed show in several countries.
“It’s about time we had a show like this,” author Jeetendr Sehdev wrote for Forbes. “For years, South Asians have been raised with next to no positive representation on U.S. television — we’ve mainly been represented as terrorists.”
Devi is played by 18-year-old Canadian newcomer Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, who got the role after being plucked from an open casting call that drew 15,000 hopefuls. Her last acting experience before landing the role was a high school play.
“It’s amazing how sometimes certain things just fall into your life,” Ramakrishnan said in a recent interview.
Even though Ramakrishnan is playing a character created by Kaling and loosely based on the actor-writer’s childhood — not to mention that Kaling is her boss and a personal hero — the teen said she hasn’t felt too much pressure.
“Even on set, I never really felt nervous about it,” Ramakrishnan said. “First of all, (Mindy) never put any crazy weird pressure on me. She made it very easy and welcoming to just let me experiment and try it out. She’s very understanding.”