Never Have I Ever: The Untold Truth

Netflix is an absolute monster when it comes to producing content. They revealed that they would spend $17 billion on content in 2021, up from around $11 billion in 2020. Not everything Netflix creates is a huge success, but they have a surprisingly strong track record, especially in the company's bread and butter: binge-worthy series. And few of their comedy series have received as much nearly universal acclaim as "Never Have I Ever."

Created by "The Office" alum Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher (who also worked with Kaling on "The Mindy Project"), "Never Have I Ever" focuses on the awkward, early high school life of Devi, an Indian-American student, along with her two best friends, Eleanor and Fabiola. The series draws significantly from Kaling's own experience growing up, and a diverse group of writers and actors all add their own twist on typical high school situations.

The first season of "Never Have I Ever" is already in the books, and a second season is on the way. Before you go back and rewatch Season 1, learn the untold truth of "Never Have I Ever."

An odd casting call

Even though "Never Have I Ever" has a really impressive ensemble, the series couldn't work without an incredibly strong lead actor. As a character, Devi has a huge range of emotions and ideas, and constantly has to code-switch depending on if she's dealing with her family, her friends, or the people she's trying to impress at a drunken party... just like we all did in high school. Luckily, star Maitreyi Ramakrishnan is a perfect fit for the role.

Amazingly, it's Ramakrishnan's first credited role ever, and she really only tried out for the series as a bit of a laugh.

Showrunner Mindy Kaling actually put out an open casting call for three central roles for the series on her InstagramRamakrishnan eventually beat out over 15,000 girls for the lead on "Never Have I Ever." In an interview with Variety, Ramakrishnan said that she and a friend decided to send in auditions together. It took them over an hour to even figure out how to work the camera they used. Something about her audition resonated with Kaling and Fisher. Seeing how easily Ramakrishnan slips into the character of Devi makes it obvious what the showrunners saw.

Obviously a prank

We've all been there: the phone rings, and the call is coming from a phone number you've never seen before. There aren't a lot of us that would answer that call, lest we're met with an urgent message about our extended warranty expiring. "Never Have I Ever" star Maitreyi Ramakrishnan was doing just that, causing her to almost miss out on the fact that her audition landed her the life-changing role of Devi.

Since she responded to Mindy Kaling's open casting call by just sending a tape in, and had never acted professionally before, Ramakrishnan obviously didn't have an agent or anything to help get her in touch with the showrunners. And, since they were calling her directly, Ramakrishnan assumed it was spam. She ignored several calls telling her the good news, and the showrunners eventually gave up on hearing her reaction and just emailed Ramakrishnan to inform her she'd been cast.

The star's favorite memory

There are a lot of seriously memorable moments from the first season of "Never Have I Ever," many of which are extremely relatable from our own memories of school. Sure, we didn't all drunkenly try to pet a coyote, but many of the situations Devi and her friends find themselves in are instantly recognizable.

Ramakrishnan herself is only a few years older than her character is supposed to be, and she told The Observer that she was encouraged to bring some of her own mannerisms and ideas into her character. That's a lot of trust to give someone in their first credited role, but the actor was more than happy to make Devi her own. When asked about her favorite memory from creating the first season of the show, Ramakrishnan had a very Devi-like response: "I really enjoyed being able to learn the harp. That was so cool, being able to get harp lessons and learn a brand new instrument. I just love learning."

Though Devi probably wouldn't admit it to her crushes, "I just love learning" could probably be one of her catchphrases.

A happy casting coincidence

There are more than a few attractive actors on "Never Have I Ever," but the most obvious (for both the characters in the show and the audience alike) is Paxton. In fact, one of the first times we ever see the character is when he emerges from the pool and Devi immediately propositions him. Actor Darren Barnet is more than happy that he's one of the show's heartthrobs. Like Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, his own experiences have helped mold his character.

In an interview with Teen Vogue, Barnet said that his character was originally named Paxton Hall, rather than having the hyphenated "Hall-Yoshida" last name. He explained that, early on in filming, the showrunners heard him speaking Japanese on set. They asked him about it and he told them that he was actually part Japanese, and Kaling was quick to take this detail and run with it for the character.

Barnet was happy to incorporate that aspect of himself into the character, as an Asian-American heartthrob is not something you typically see on mainstream entertainment. 

One actor embarrasses his daughter

Darren Barnet isn't the only actor on "Never Have I Ever" that fans are making moony-eyes over. Sendhil Ramamurthy, who plays Devi's father, Mohan, on the series, is also the object of many fans' desires—a bit odd, considering his character is actually dead. Mohan only ever appears in flashbacks and in Devi's dreams, as coping with her father's death is one of the major developments Devi goes through in the first season.

Like Barnet, Ramamurthy is glad that fans respond so well to his character as a "hot dad." In an interview with ET, he said that fan response is "overwhelming and totally surprising" and that he is "blown away" by it. He also added that one person he knows is not excited by his heartthrob status: his daughter.

He told ET that his daughter is excited by her dad gaining some attention, but is also "mortified" by how much some people online really... love his character. He says, "I think she's really grossed out because she's on social media and she reads it. And I'm like, 'You should probably not do that. I think that's a bad idea for you.'" Probably not a bad bit of advice.

Relatable and authentic

Creating a show about high school that is true to the experience is a daunting task, but Mindy Kaling drew inspiration from several different sources in creating the world of "Never Have I Ever." She and fellow showrunner Lang Fisher knew that balancing the age of the characters (most of the protagonists are supposed to be around 16 years old, though the actors portraying them are a bit older) and the thought processes of many high schoolers would be difficult.

Speaking with TVLine, Kaling says part of the reason she put out the open casting call was to find actors who were closer to the age they wanted for the show. She took inspiration from shows like "Freaks and Geeks," where the cast seemed much more authentic for being close to the correct age. As such, even though the show does broach subjects like sex, it avoids any of the really steamy stuff. She also said that much of the show's mature content comes from the difficult situations, like Devi dealing with her father's death, that many high schoolers must go through.

Constant evolution

Many ensemble comedies are constantly evolving, working in situations and character development based on fan responses and new voices in the writer's room. "Never Have I Ever" takes this script evolution even further, as scripts are often changed in the middle of filming in order to work with new ideas or incorporate new ideas.

Even though the series is Maitreyi Ramakrishnan's first credited role, she told Vulture that the showrunners trust in her enough to constantly make revisions to what her character says and does. The series sometimes changed plot details on the fly while filming, as an actor's decision or new idea would generate an entirely new direction to take. You often hear about veteran comedians being given room to riff and explore their own dialogue, but a cast as young and inexperienced as the one on "Never Have I Ever" is practically unheard of. However, that trust in the actors is part of what makes the series feel so natural and authentic.

Wedding juggling

One of the many plot points of the first season of "Never Have I Ever" is Devi's relationship with her seemingly perfect cousin, Kamala. As the season moves forward, however, we learn much more about Kamala and the situation she is in: she's stuck preparing for an arranged marriage that she is not interested in, something that actor Richa Moorjani told Brides she could relate to.

She said her own upbringing as a South Asian woman put a lot of pressure on her to get married as quickly as possible, but she took her time with it and actually met her husband through a dating app a few years before "Never Have I Ever" began filming. The couple was engaged, with Moorjani planning many aspects of their wedding, which was scheduled for just two days after the first season wrapped. This led Moorjani to some odd situations, where her character would be planning for a wedding onscreen and, between takes, she'd be planning her real wedding. 

She also told the magazine that the wedding in Cancun went off without too much of a hitch, and having the series to focus on as she was planning gave her a way to help manage the stress.

Recognizable voices

Voice-over narrators in popular movies and television often become essential elements of pop culture. Think of movies like "The Princess Bride" or "A Christmas Story," or a series like "The Wonder Years" or "Arrested Development." Now try to imagine those beloved, pop culture staples without their narrators—it's a tall task. We're not arguing "Never Have I Ever" is up there with those classics (at least, not quite yet), but it's also tough to imagine without the narrator: tennis legend John McEnroe. The unexpected choice of a gruff, 61-year-old voice adds a layer of whimsical humor to the show.  

However, "Never Have I Ever" occasionally serves up something tricky. In one episode of the show's first season, the perspective shifts to a different character, so we get a new narrator. Hearing the voice of Andy Samberg in Ben's head was a wonderful little twist on the show's formula. The showrunners have some other tricks up their sleeves for the second season.

They're coy about what ideas are getting tossed around for possible Eleanor, Fabiola, or Paxton-based episodes, but we're sure there's a secret list somewhere of "ideal" options.