Mindy Kaling Chose This Canadian Actor out of 15,000 Candidates

Actress Maitreyi Ramakrishnan explains how she made it happen

Ishani Nath
Maitreyi Ramakrishnan
(Photo courtesy of Maitreyi Ramakrishnan)

Name: Maitreyi Ramakrishnan

Age: 17

Job title: Actor

From: Mississauga, Ont.

Currently lives in: Mississauga, Ont.

Education: Meadowvale Secondary School

First job out of school: “Devi” in Netflix’s Never Have I Ever

“Seeking: Role of 15 to 18 year old South Asian American female.” That was the open casting call that Mindy Kaling put out on social media in April to find the star of her upcoming Netflix comedy show, Never Have I Ever. And when Mississauga teen Maitreyi Ramakrishnan saw the opportunity, she thought, “Why not me?”—not realizing that those very words are the title of Kaling’s 2015 book.

“I didn’t see many South Asian role models in film when I was growing up,” says Ramakrishnan. “And I’m a firm believer that if you don’t see what you want [to see] in the media or in the world in general, go be it. That’s your time to make that space.” With that in mind, Ramakrishnan sent in her tape.

Though this was by far Ramakrishnan’s biggest audition, she was no stranger to acting. The Tamil-Canadian discovered her love of the arts early in ballet and piano classes. By the time she was in high school, staying late for theatre rehearsals nearly every day, she realized that acting was her passion. “There’s this adrenaline rush that comes into play,” she says. “It’s like excited nerves. There’s no better feeling.”

That may be true, but finding out that she landed the lead role in Kaling’s Netflix series is likely a close second. “The moment I got the call, it was just pure shock,” says Ramakrishnan. “It was just so surreal, but all I knew was my life was totally going to start changing, and I was just filled with happiness.” She says the whole thing didn’t feel real until she was on the plane to L.A., and it really sunk in when she stepped onto her first-ever film set.

“Whenever I feel like ‘Oh my God, did I do that right? Did I mess up here?’ I just remind myself that they had 15,000 options and they picked me for some reason,” she says. “I have to be doing something right.”

It has been a whirlwind of new experiences, from learning how to act on a TV show to going on her first press tour, but Ramakrishnan isn’t going to let fame change her. “The best piece of advice I’ve gotten is to just stay true to myself and stay humble, and that’s something I plan on doing because I don’t want to be anyone else,” she says. “I like who I am, and that’s what I used in the audition—I was just myself.”

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