Crown The Brown: Maitreyi Ramakrishnan
Crown The Brown: Maitreyi Ramakrishnan. Never Have I Ever has officially premiered on Netflix and we cannot stop watching! The lead character, Devi Vishwakumar is played by the talented Maitreyi Ramakrishnan.
It follows the life of the 15 year old and the navigation between school and family. We wanted to know more about Maitreyi’s experience being on set and how she related to her on-screen character. This is what Maitreyi Ramakrishnan shared with us.
Who is Maitreyi Ramakrishnan? How would you describe yourself?
I am a Tamil Canadian, born and raised in Mississauga, Ontario. Raised to explore and try new things so chasing my dreams was always my first priority. I got into acting when I was in high school, soon finding that it was what I wanted to do as a career.
I love the arts be it music or drawing, but acting has a special place in my heart. I’ve lived a pretty normal life until now but that being said, what really is normal nowadays?
For those who may not know, what is the show about and what makes it so relatable to the youth?
Never Have I Ever is a comedy coming of age story that follows the life of Devi Vishwakumar, a 15-year-old sophomore living in California, and how she navigates her high school life as well as her family.
Never Have I Ever has so many characters that many audiences can relate to, not just youth. Whether you relate to Devi’s experience or the struggles another character faces, you are sure to find something that you can see yourself in.
We have seen many trailers and snippets of the show on social media related to your character Devi, working towards becoming a woman and exploration.
Why do you think it is important to explore your sexual identity, as well as bring more awareness regarding sexual exploration?
To explore and grow awareness of your sexual identity is a personal choice. Not anybody else’s business or debate to discuss how you should go about it. Becoming a woman has no correlation to virginity and has nothing to do with having sex.
Becoming a woman is so much more complicated as I am sure becoming a man is as well. It is completely normal to be curious and have questions about anything. Sex is no exception!
What was the experience like working on set with so much talent, as well as Mindy Kaling?
It’s amazing to have such a diverse cast for Never Have I Ever. The diversity of this cast is not token. It is intentional and truly reflective of the complex nature of each character.
Each of us had the creative space and opportunity, encouraged by Mindy and Lang, to completely own our characters and bring our own experience into the process.
Being that it was my first job, I looked to my cast mates for help throughout filming. They helped me figure my way around the production set but also helped me come into my own by always supporting me.
There are many young girls who are excited to watch this show. The show is so relatable to many, especially those of Indian descent.
Why do you think representation such as this show is so important in the entertainment industry?
Growing up, it sucked to not be able to see someone who at least superficially looked like me onscreen. I think many south-Asians have just normalized not seeing themselves represented on screen which isn’t okay because that is like living in the shadows.
We dangerously start seeing ourselves within white characters because we don’t have a choice on who to relate to and this is when definitions of beauty and success become skewed.
Especially when the only representations are painful stereotypes and exaggerated myths of who we are as South Asians. It is so important to have content creators that are themselves, diverse, and confident in who they are – unapologetic in creating stories that celebrate all our South Asian identities, not just some.
Being on set, have you ever felt overwhelmed? If so, what do you usually do to boost your confidence or calm your nerves?
On set I don’t think I ever felt super overwhelmed or nervous but in general, whenever I feel like that anywhere, I remind myself of what is in my control versus what is not. I remind myself that I have control of just my actions so my focus has to be on doing the very best job I can.
It is easy to get caught up on trying to be something that others want you to be and run in circles trying to figure out what that is. While filming I constantly reminded myself that I was chosen for a reason and that while I continue to do the best that I can, so is everyone else.
How did you prepare for your role as Devi on the show and what did you find most relatable between you and your character?
When bringing Devi to life, I was encouraged by Mindy to bring myself to the character, to create authenticity. Personally I think that this helped flesh out Devi into a realistic and relatable character. This also meant that Devi wasn’t a stereotype with exaggerations.
Mindy was always on set to help myself and the rest of the cast, a fabulous mentor and guide who really knows the art of storytelling.
What do you want this show to inspire others to do? What underlying message do you hope that people can take away from the show?
That brown girls are just regular girls that don’t need to be squeezed into stereotypical boxes labeled ‘exotic’. Never Have I Ever isn’t a ‘brown’ show but rather a great show about a regular family trying to figure things out, something everybody can relate to.
If you take the Vishwakumars out and replace them with the Jones, the show still works, but it is all the more powerful the Never Have I Ever way because it tells the world that brown families are no different from their white neighbors.
Hopefully others will see this and realize it’s time for them to start prioritizing authentic representation for their own projects.
What advice do you have for other young girls out there?
To the girls I say, do not let anyone tell you you can’t. Take a chance on yourself and be unapologetic about it. Girls deserve to be just as happy as anyone else and for them to chase their dreams they need their families to believe in them. Be your own best friend and know who you are, not what others want you to be.
QUESTIONS FROM OUR READERS
Are you a fan of Bollywood films and if so, what is your favourite Bollywood film?
I personally never grew up watching Bollywood films so I never really got into them!
How many languages can you speak?
Who would you love to work with in the future?
There’s a lot of people I would love to work with but definitely working with Jordan Peele and Ava DuVernay would be a dream.
What is your favourite colour?
Blue but like a really deep, dark shade of it.
What is your favourite movie of all time and why?
That’s tough because I have a lot but as of right now my favourite movie is Us. My favourite is constantly changing up though!
If you could be any animal in the world, what would you be?
My favourite animal would be a lion, but I’d love to be a phoenix if I could pick any mythical creature!
What does your name mean?
I was named after a philosopher sage from ancient times, one of the few women mentioned in the Vedas. She dedicated her life to living on her own terms.
Do you have any siblings or pets?
Yes! I have an older brother and a dog. Her name is Melody and she’s my favourite family member.
Be sure to watch Never Have I Ever on Netflix now! What an exciting time for representation and we cannot wait to hear what you all think of it! Follow @maitreyiramakrishnan on instagram to see her journey on the show and future projects!
CROWN THE BROWN