The Untold Truth Of Never Have I Ever

If you haven't heard of Never Have I Ever, the Netflix hit series, and are looking for something to binge-watch, it's time to add it to your list. On the outside, Never Have I Ever, which premiered on April 27,2020, appears to be just another teen comedy, but deep down it's actually a "coming-of-age dramedy," according to The New York Times. And with enough teen angst, young love, and loss to make you wish you were a teen again — well, maybe. 

This original series, which consists of 10 half-hour episodes, centers around an unlikely heroine, Devi: an outspoken, straight-A, Hindu, Indian-American teen, who hopes to advance her high school status (and lose her virginity) after dealing with one of life's biggest tragedies, losing her father. Even if you've already binge-watched the entire series, and trust us, you wouldn't be alone — the sitcom hit number one on the Netflix's Top 10 list not long after its premiere — you may not know everything there is to know about the show. Here's the untold truth of the hilarious Netflix series Never Have I Ever. Note: Some minor spoilers ahead.

Netflix's Never Have I Ever was co-created by The Office star Mindy Kaling

It's no surprise actress-writer-producer Mindy Kaling co-created the Netflix hit Never Have I Ever. This is, after all, the same woman responsible for Hulu's The Mindy Project (which she also starred in) and Four Weddings and a Funeral, though The Office fans may always remember her as the hilariously high-maintenance Kelly Kapoor

Like many of her past projects, Never Have I Ever is personal for Kaling, maybe even more so than the others. The successful celeb is a first generation Indian-American and has written a couple of autobiographies in the past about her unique upbringing. Her books are actually what inspired Netflix to reach out, Kaling revealed to The New York Times.

"They had read my books and really loved the parts where I talk about being an adolescent and a teenager," she explained. "Because there isn't a show like this, they thought it would be a great fit for them." Kaling wrote and created the series alongside The Mindy Project writer-producer Lang Fisher.

Hollywood newcomer Maitreyi Ramakrishnan beat out thousands of actors for the lead in Never Have I Ever

Hollywood newbie Maitreyi Ramakrishnan became a star overnight following her acting debut in Never Have I Ever. But she had some tough competition before landing the role that would change her life. The 18-year-old Canadian teen was one of the more than 15,000 actors vying for the lead role in Mindy Kaling's then-untitled Netflix show. 

The young actress told Variety that her best friend was the one who told her about Kaling's open casting call on social media. "I'm lying on my couch, ready to take a nice afternoon nap. ... I remember feeling exhausted, but I was like, 'Okay, let's do it,' just because I honestly only wanted to hang out with my best friend."

So she and her bestie visited their local community center where they recorded her audition — and the rest is history. Ramakrishnan landed the starring role of Devi Vishwakumar, whom she described to Variety as "spunky, sassy and witty." Not only was she excited to have a starring role, she told the mag, but also to have one that gave her the opportunity to represent her South Asian culture.

This is how the dance sequence on Never Have I Ever came to be

To make Never Have I Ever look and feel as authentic as possible, co-creators Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher enlisted the help of some of Hollywood's greatest Indian entertainers. In the series' fourth episode of its debut season, Devi and her family celebrate Ganesh Puja, a Hindu festival, at her local high school where a short, colorful Indian dance sequence ensues. The costumes and moves were all on point thanks to LA-based choreographer and dancer Joya Kazi, who brought some of her dancers along for the ride.

In an interview with Mashable, Kazi said it was refreshing to have been given the freedom to produce the dance scene, from the moves to the costumes. "They said, 'You're the expert. We will defer to you on all the decisions that have to do with making sure this is more appreciation than appropriation,'" she revealed. In a Netflix interview, Kaling said she wanted to make the show feel as "authentic" and "relatable" as possible and "to be able to do that for an Indian girl is really special for me." 

Here's why Poorna Jagannathan, who plays the mom in Never Have I Ever, may look familiar

If you watch a lot of TV, you've probably seen Poorna Jagannathan prior to her starring role as Devi's mom Nalini in Never Have I Ever. Previously, Jagannathan starred in two HBO dramas, The Night Of and Big Little Lies. In the latter, she played a lawyer alongside Hollywood A-listers like Nicole Kidman and Meryl Streep, Deadline reported. "We spent a fair amount of time together, and I found out that [Streep) has a wicked sense of humour," Jagannathan dished to Vogue in 2019. It's possible you've also seen her on Hulu's Ramy or in smaller roles on popular series House of Cards and Better Call Saul.

The Indian-American actress described her character Nalini to Vogue as a "freaking hilarious mom" — and she's not wrong. Not only did Jagannathan enjoy her role, but she also relished the chance to work on a project by Mindy Kaling, whom the actress said is one of the leaders at the forefront working to change the perception of South Asian characters in film and TV. "If it were left to Hollywood, more brown representation would mean a lot more doctors and scientists," she told Vogue

Never Have I Ever was almost set in another decade

When Netflix approached Mindy Kaling about a series idea inspired by her own childhood, Kaling knew she didn't want it to take place in the past. "Netflix was open to us doing it as something set in the '80s or the '90s, but I'd seen that done so well with shows like Fresh Off the Boat and Everybody Hates Chris," Kaling told The New York Times. "I really wanted to speak to kids now." The show is loosely based on Kaling's upbringing — she grew up during the 1980s and '90s in Massachusetts — while the series' protagonist Devi is a modern-day Angeleno.

Kaling told USA Today that memories of her teenage years are a blur and maybe wouldn't be as relatable to today's teens, so she hired young Indian-American writers to accurately depict them on-screen. Kaling also said Never Have I Ever star Maitreyi Ramakrishnan was an asset when it came to knowing all the modern-day slang. "When she would do table reads, we would change the vernacular so it made sense for someone her age," Kaling told The New York Times.

Netflix's Never Have I Ever is all about celebrating diversity

Netflix's hit Never Have I Ever truly embraces diversity right down to its cast. Its star, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, is a South Asian Canadian actor. She told Variety that it was refreshing to play a lead Indian character. "For a lot of people of color and the South Asian community — I can speak for myself here when I say that we're so used to being sidekicks, we're so used to being comedic relief," Ramakrishnan said. Her fellow actors and TV best friends are just as racially diverse, according to Vulture.

Likewise, one of the show's heartthrobs is half Japanese. Originally, Paxton Hall-Yoshida, played by Darren Barnet, was supposed to be your run-of-the-mill white American teen, but after the Japanese-American actor was heard speaking Japanese on set, his character was tweaked to reflect the actor's ethnicity, with a Japanese last name to boot. "I can't think of another show that's got an Asian-American-esque heartthrob in it so it's fun to play," Barnet told Metro

Never Have I Ever squashes Indian stereotypes

In true Mindy Kaling fashion, Never Have I Ever fights off Hollywood's version of what it means to be of Asian descent, CNN Entertainment reported. From details as small as the leading lady, Devi, playing the harp rather than the piano or violin, to her wanting to go to Princeton just as much as losing her virginity. What's more, the series' many female characters defy stereotypes and are far from subservient.  

The Netflix series also addresses issues within the Asian-American community when it comes to topics like mental health. In the series, Devi is shown on various occasions talking to a therapist following her father's death. "In this day and age, I think the South Asian community is becoming more accepting of [talking about] mental health," Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, who plays Devi, told Teen Vogue. Ultimately, the star hopes it starts an honest conversation.

Mindy Kaling also hopes that this series opens the door for other shows. "To me it would be great if there is more L.G.B.T.Q. content for Indian people. I feel like that is almost never talked about. In some Indian communities there's still a stigma attached to coming out," Kaling told The New York Times

The Never Have I Ever cast is younger than you'd think

Unlike many teen shows that cast actors in their mid 20s and even 30s, Netflix's Never Have I Ever is mostly about teen spirit. "There's a ton of teen shows where the average age of the actors is like, 29," Mindy Kaling told USA Today. "We wanted the kids to really look their age." And her wish came true — for the most part.

At the time the series debuted, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, who plays Devi, was 18, which made her the series' only teen by definition. Her TV high school BFFs are only slightly older, though; Lee Rodriquez (Fabiola) is 20 while Ramona Young (Eleanor) is 21, according to a May 2020 report by PopSugar. What about Jaren Lewison, who portrays Ben Gross? Twenty.

However, actor Darren Barnet, who plays Paxton, is the quintessential adult actor playing a teen. He was 29 when the series premiered on Netflix, according to Newsweek. At least that makes it not creepy to have a crush on him, right?

Never Have I Ever is partly a tribute to Mindy Kaling's mom

A major theme in Netflix's Never Have I Ever is loss and grief. Something co-creator Mindy Kaling is all too familiar with. Her mother died in 2012 after losing her battle with cancer, USA Today reported. Since Never Have I Ever is loosely based on Kaling's childhood, she drew inspiration for Devi's mom, Nalini (played by Poorna Jagannathan), from her own mother. 

In the show, Nalini is a dermatologist; Kaling's mother was an OB-GYN. "A lot of their personality traits are very similar: the very high standards, which is similar to a lot of Asian parents I know," Kaling told USA Today. However, Kaling and her mother were close while Devi and her mom have more of a strained relationship. "But that (dynamic) was more interesting to us: What if your favorite parent died and all you were left with was the one who didn't understand you?" 

Never Have I Ever reinvents the definition of a nerd

Never Have I Ever proves not all nerds hide behind books. "There's also the belligerent, confident nerd, and they want big things for themselves," Mindy Kaling, the show's co-creator, told NPR. "We wanted to show an ambitious nerd ... [who] wanted to lose her virginity, wanted to be cool, go to concerts." That nerd is Devi, and although she's all things nerdy (unpopular, book smart, and top of her class), she doesn't sulk in a corner and wait for a popular girl to make her over. She takes action, — by doing a hip TikTok video with friends for example. 

In an interview with Netflix, Kaling said it's typical on TV shows for nerds to appear in the background "and that's not what we wanted to show on this." Never Have I Ever co-creator Lang Fisher quipped, "We want our losers out in the crowd."

The cast of Never Have I Ever bonded immediately

The Never Have I Ever cast has a close bond on-screen and in real life. Lee Rodriguez, who plays Fabiola, told The Hollywood Reporter that she, along with her on-screen BFFs, Ramona Young (Eleanor) and Maitreyi Ramakrishnan (Devi), are real friends. "We all vibe really well, and it shows onscreen," Rodriguez said. The friendships don't end there. Ramakrishnan revealed in an interview with Entertainment Tonight that she looks up to co-creator Mindy Kaling, who doesn't appear in the show, but is very much a key figure behind the scenes.

During the interview, Kaling asked Ramakrishnan what she liked about her as a boss, and the leading lady responded: "You're just so chill. This is not just me, this is all of the cast. We all love you and think you're so grounded."

To celebrate the last day of shooting, the younger cast members hit up Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios, Jaren Lewison, who plays Ben Gross), told Vulture. "We dressed up as the Scooby Doo gang. We ended up wandering around the backlot, which we probably weren't supposed to do, but it was a very sentimental moment," he said.

The heartthrobs on Never Have I Ever competed with each other onscreen and off

There may be room for two heartthrobs in Netflix's Never Have I Ever, but the actors who competed for Devi's heart onscreen didn't know it at first. In an interview with Vulture, Jaren Lewison (Ben) and Darren Barnet (Paxton) revealed that when they first saw each other at a screen test they assumed they were both vying for the same role. "I saw Darren and I was like, 'Man, this guy kid looks way too attractive to play Ben,'" Lewison admitted during the joint Zoom interview with Barnet. "With a chiseled jawline and a tight shirt, he looks jacked." 

Barnet gave his account of that day and said he assumed Lewison, who was wearing a basketball jersey, was reading for the same part. "He's sitting there, smiling, like, 'Who the hell does this kid think he is?'" Barnet said. It wasn't until they met at the show's initial table read that they realized they had gone for different roles. As such, they reserved their competitiveness for the screen — and did it so well Never Have I Ever fans created a Team Ben and Team Paxton. 

What the stars of Never Have I Ever thought about these awkward scenes

Love scenes in movies and TV shows can sometimes be the most cringeworthy part of filming for any actor and also the most relatable, according to the cast from Netflix's Never Have I Ever. In the series' second episode, fans see Paxton about to kiss Devi, but before he does, she gets cold feet and bolts. Talk about awkward. Lee Rodriguez, who plays Devi's BFF Fabiola, told Refinery29 she saw her teen self in Devi's character, especially in that kiss scene.  

"Because I was just like, 'Oh, gosh, that is just so me.' A lot of other people the same age as Devi or older will relate to that," Rodriguez said. There's also a scene that shows the three friends educating themselves about sex by googling kegel exercises and quizzing one another on sex positions. Ramona Young, who plays Devi's BFF Eleanor, told Refinery29 that sex can be scary "but there's another part where we're genuinely curious and we're genuinely experiencing this for the first time and we actually want to know."