The Complete Evolution Of Never Have I Ever Star Maitreyi Ramakrishnan

Since landing a breakout role on Netflix's original series "Never Have I Ever," star Maitreyi Ramakrishnan told the hosts of "Good Morning America," "So much of my life has changed." The young actress had no television or film experience when creator Mindy Kaling discovered her. And Ramakrishnan was only 17 years old and two weeks out of high school when she headed down to Hollywood to portray a teenager named Devi Vishwakumar. 

The fourth and final season of "Never Have I Ever" has come to a close, but it's not the last time you'll see this young actress in the spotlight. "I just want to be able to take on characters that are like Devi, that have so much to them, that have this crazy hero journey," she said. "Because why would I want to settle for anything less?"

Since Ramakrishnan's television debut back in 2020, her acting career has exploded and her personal evolution has been incredible.

She aspired to be an animator

After a vacation to Disney World with her family, 10-year-old Maitreyi Ramakrishnan began dreaming about what it would be like to create new characters for the big screen. "I decided I wanted to be a Disney animator for Pixar. That was the dream," she shared while on the "Jay Shetty Podcast." "That was the dream for the longest time, up until my last year in high school."

Ramakrishnan thought she had had her life all planned out. However, after realizing that drawing wasn't her lifelong dream, she had no idea where to turn next. When it became time to apply to colleges, Ramakrishnan felt lost. She had no clue what she should major in — but her mother came up with a brilliant idea. After watching her daughter light up every time she came on stage during her high school plays, she suggested that Ramakrishnan apply for theater school.

Though Ramakrishnan never thought she'd end up as a professional actor, she also figured she had nothing to lose, so she decided to apply for a local theater program in Canada to see what would happen. "My mom recognized my passion for theater before I did," she said.

She booked her breakout role on Netflix

Surprisingly, acting professionally was never the original plan for Maitreyi Ramakrishnan. She was simply acting in her 12th-grade production of "Chicago" when social media changed Ramakrishnan's life forever. The actress explained to The Observer that Mindy Kaling had tweeted an open casting call. "It was actually my best friend who found this, and she came to me and said we should try this."

Using her mom's video camera, Ramakrishnan and her friend Shaharah Gaznabbi headed over to their community center to film an audition tape for a new show called "Never Have I Ever" — something they had no idea how to do. "My headshot was a photo that my best friend took outside of my high school wall, and my eyes are squinty because of the sun. It's so messed up," Ramakrishnan later shared on the "Jay Shetty Podcast."

At the time, Ramakrishnan had absolutely zero acting experience and had never even held any sort of job. Yet, after being asked to send in a second audition tape, she was then invited to come audition in person in Los Angeles. "When I got the email saying 'Can you come to L.A.?', me, my best friend, and my whole family flipped out," she told NOW Toronto.

The young actress eventually beat out 15,000 other actresses for the lead role of Devi in the Netflix series "Never Have I Ever."

She celebrated her success safely at home

When it came time for Maitreyi Ramakrishnan's television debut on "Never Have I Ever," her life didn't seem all that different after Season 1 premiered in April 2020. "It was a very interesting experience, because we didn't get the red carpet, or the premiere or that fancy moment," the young actress explained to Mashable. "So at first, it sort of felt like this small little thing."

At the time, the world had just entered into a global pandemic, forcing people to stay at home. While most of the world was stuck on their sofas, they were searching for something to watch — and many of them turned to the Netflix series. Before Ramakrishnan knew it, "Never Have I Ever" became a huge success, and fans were constantly talking about it online. Ramakrishnan recalled, "Around Season 2 is when I finally got to understand that this is really big."

Looking back, the young actress is happy that her overnight success was something she was able to experience away from the rest of the world. "I'm glad I'm at home during this whole time," she told the Toronto Star at the time. "I can make sure that I take the time to myself amongst all the chaos and hype of 'Never Have I Ever.' I really get to make sure that I'm taking care of myself."

She'll always be an activist

As fans of "Never Have I Ever" were stuck at home talking about the new series on social media, actress Maitreyi Ramakrishnan found herself building up a large following online. She became determined to use her platform for something important. "It is a privilege to have such a huge following," she told Yahoo Canada. "So with that privilege comes responsibility."

The actress knew she needed to bring people together in order to create change. When the world was just beginning to get to know Ramakrishnan as Devi, she took to social media to discuss the global pandemic. She, along with her "Never Have I Ever" castmates, gave the world an exclusive sneak peek of Season 2 in order to raise awareness about a detrimental second wave of COVID-19 in India. She also did an online reading of the Shakespearean play "Twelfth Night" to raise money for a Chicago hospital that was overwhelmed with cases of the virus.

Using her online platform, the actress has since brought attention to other worldwide issues like food insecurity, representation in media, and the importance of education for all. Today, Ramakrishnan is a global ambassador for Plan International, an organization that fights for female equality and children's rights. "My own focus for philanthropy has always been public education, particularly of girl children globally and the protection of their human rights," the young actress told Nylon.

She's taking her talent to animated films

With the success of "Never Have I Ever," casting directors continued to come calling for Maitreyi Ramakrishnan. She told Z100 New York that one call she received was for a role in an upcoming animated film by Pixar called "Turning Red." After sending a voice recording she made on her phone as an audition, Ramakrishnan booked the role of Mei's best friend Priya in the film, which was a full circle moment for the young actress. "Ten years ago at the brilliant age of ten, I decided I wanted to be an animator and work for Pixar," she explained to her Instagram fans upon the film's release. "Flash forward to today and I did 50% of exactly that."

Shortly after securing the voice acting role, Ramakrishnan hopped on a Zoom call to audition for another major project with the "My Little Pony" franchise. Upon booking the role of Zipp Storm — which she's described as one of her "childhood dreams" — she lent her voice to the series "My Little Pony: Make Your Mark" and "My Little Pony: Tell Your Tale."

After securing every role she's auditioned for through her phone, video camera, and computer, Ramakrishnan joked to Z100, "It's been a weird track record so far of how I've gotten my jobs." 

She made the Time100 Next list

In 2021, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan accomplished what few actors get the chance to do: She landed the cover of Time Magazine after the outlet named her one of the 100 most influential rising stars who are currently breaking barriers and changing the world. "I'll always speak up for what I believe in and continue to grow myself," the young actress wrote of the honor on Instagram. She also shared that she'll continue to seek out the fun in life while pursuing her true purpose.

In honor of Ramakrishnan landing a spot on the Time100 Next list, "Never Have I Ever" co-creator Mindy Kaling penned a piece for the outlet describing why she felt Ramakrishnan is exceptional. "When you're with her, you think you're simply talking to a cool, smart teenager," Kaling wrote. "But later, when you see her work onscreen, you realize you were actually interacting with a great artist at the beginning of her journey."

Her future is in film

The fourth and final season of "Never Have I Ever" marked the end of an era for star Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, whose breakout role was on the set of the Netflix series. However, her acting career is still only getting started. Ramakrishnan's next project is the leading role in her very first feature film, a romantic comedy called "The Netherfield Girls" which is a modern-day interpretation of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice."

As for future film roles, Ramakrishnan is looking forward to exploring all sorts of different genres. She said during an interview with NPR that she longs for the opportunity to act in a car chase. The actress also shared, "My dream role is Rapunzel."

One day, the young actress even hopes to write and direct behind the scenes and even start up her own production company, much like her mentor Mindy Kaling. "I don't want to go behind the camera quite yet," Ramakrishnan clarified to Flaunt. "I still want to get my South Asian face in different roles and in different capacities."

Ultimately, Ramakrishnan hopes to change another aspiring actress' life forever, just like Kaling did for her. "I'll direct and find my brown girl out of 15,000," the actress said.