It’s entirely possible to finish Never Have I Ever in one sitting. A coming-of-age teen comedy produced and written by Mindy Kaling, the hilarious and heartfelt series spans 10 episodes that run for only 30 minutes each. Meaning, it's a welcome entertaining escape that’ll have you laughing, and possibly, tearing up in no time. Consuming a piece of the series won’t even take up much of your day and, considering the current landscape, it’s just the distraction we all need.
Sure, Never Have I Ever’s riddled with ridiculous cringe-worthy moments, but what’s a depiction of a genuine teen experience without reimagining the shameful memories we’d rather bury in the back of our minds?
Now you may be wondering, what sets Never Have I Ever apart from the rest of Netflix’s arsenal of teen comedy originals like Atypical, End of the F***ing World, or I am Not Okay With This? To state the obvious, the series follows a glorious racially diverse cast of characters, particularly with a South Asian family front and center. They’re not just for show either. Mindy Kaling, a proud Indian herself, introduces her vast heritage, nuances and all, through a modern and relatable lens by way of its 15-year-old lead, the brilliant and zealous Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan). Along for the ride are her two best friends, Fabiola Torres (Lee Rodriguez), an African American dealing with her newfound sexuality, and Eleanor Wong (Ramona Young) a self-proclaimed thespian of East Asian descent.
“I’m so honored to be able to be the first person to depict an Indian-American teenager on TV in a starring role. That's the thing I think I'm most proud of,” Mindy tells Preview. In fact, in a bid to keep the story as real as possible, the actress-turned-producer sent out an open call for the main role. Thus, Maitreyi, the series’ 18-year-old star, was plucked from obscurity out of 15,000 girls who’d vied for the top bill.
Asked about the show’s impressive range of diverse leads, Maitreyi responds “We've waited a long time as minorities, and I know for myself I didn't grow up with a show with a character that had depth to it that looked like me. We were either the butt of the joke or the sidekick, or we just had one funny line, and that's it. It's awesome that we get to take on this role. I can say for Ramona, Lee, and myself that we're gonna be role models. That's bizarre, but I'm thankful and I'm so happy it's us three.”
Aside from the show’s three main girls, its supporting characters are particular standouts as well and further prove to be testaments to the show’s pursuit for diverse representation. There’s Devi’s strict and traditional mother Dr. Nalini Vishwakuma (Poorna Jagannathan), Devi’s patiently charming therapist played by Niecy Nash, Eleanor’s boyfriend Oliver, portrayed by Filipino-American Martin Martinez, and Kamala (Richa Moorjani), Devi’s beautiful cousin, caught in her own dilemma between staying with her boyfriend, or obeying her family and going though with an arranged marriage.
That said, a notable casting story goes to that of Darren Barnet as Paxton Hall-Yoshida, the school’s resident heartthrob and Devi’s crush. Originally meant to be an All-American swimming jock named Paxton Hall, as revealed by the actor himself, Mindy incorporated Darren’s Japanese heritage into the role after catching wind of him speaking the language on set.
Suffice to say, Never Have I Ever is a carefully handled, refreshingly colorful reprieve from the sea of caucasian-led Netflix offerings, and we're definitely keeping our fingeres crossed for a second season.
To learn more of our thoughts on the show, read up on our review here.
Never Have I Ever may be streamed exclusively on Netflix.