Never Have I Ever Season 3, co-created by Mindy Kaling, has landed on Netflix and while it may be tempting to focus on whether we’re Team Paxton (Darren Barnet), Team Ben (Jaren Lewison), or Team Des (Anirudh Pisharody), the new boy in the show, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan is stressing that it’s really about being Team Devi.
“I feel like the entirety of the season is very focused around self-love and self-respect, and I feel like that's something I've been asking for since Season 1,” Ramakrishnan told Yahoo Canada. “All the time being asked the question, ‘what do you want for Devi, Team Ben or Team Paxton?’ And I would always say Team Devi, because she really needs to learn how to love herself.”
“I think it's very, very important and not just for the teen characters,...I think also adults too. [If] Devi was an adult and she was working at her job and had two love interests, or whatever, I think she'd still have that sense of like, ‘hey, let's not make it just about [whoever] the main character is going to end up with,’ there's so much more to life than just that.”
The penultimate season of Never Have I Ever starts with Devi and Paxton dating, but she’s not totally secure in her relationship, letting peer pressure seep in and leading to Devi questioning why Paxton actually wants to date her. Along with that comes the pressure to have sex, after a group of schoolmates says Paxton won’t stay with a girl who doesn’t have sex with him. While Devi is processing these feelings, she starts getting anonymous text messages from someone claiming that Devi has to “watch out” for Paxton.
“[This season] is Devi figuring out what she likes and what she doesn't like, what she's ready for, what she's not ready for, how she wants to be treated, and how she wants to be seen, and how she needs to be OK with herself first, before she starts to do anything with anyone, especially romantically,” Ramakrishnan said.
'Crippling pressure' to get married
While Devi is dealing with the pressures of high school her cousin Kamala (Richa Moorjani) is dealing with family pressure to get married, specifically from her grandmother Nirmala (Ranjita Chakravarty), after breaking off her relationship with Prashant (Rushi Kota). Nirmala’s idea is, if Kamala gets engaged quickly, their family back in India won’t realize it’s a different person.
“In Season 3, it's more about her having to speak her truth and, and carve out her own path when it comes to her family,” Richa Moorjani told Yahoo Canada. "I think for me personally, and for Kamala, it's even more difficult to stand up to your family than it is to somebody that you don't care about at the end of the day, and so Season 3 is really about her learning to put her happiness first, despite the fact that might mean upsetting her family.”
In one particularly poignant and funny moment, Kamala goes to see Prashant and honestly tells him that she fears that if they stayed together, he wouldn’t support her professionally, but also, the thought of marrying him makes her “ill,” recognizing that the problem could come down to her not wanting to marry anyone at the moment.
“Even though it's comedic, it is such a great little moment, because that pressure…is very toxic in a lot of ways and it's very crippling, and it's something that so many women of colour, or just women in general face, especially in their 20s and in their 30s,” Moorjani said. “The pressure to get married and the pressure to follow this cookie cutter path, when Kamala says that to him, that the thought of it makes her feel physically ill, I think I personally felt that way in my 20s when I was single, and my parents wanted me to get married.”
“It was so hard for me to put my heart and my soul into my craft and into my career, because…I kept feeling this crippling pressure on me to, at the same time, find somebody to get married to, and I've seen how that's impacted my life and people around me, and that's why I think it's so great that this show touches on that, and shows that, because hopefully, if anything, parents will watch this and see how destructive that can be.”
Another interesting storyline in Season 3 is seeing Devi still going through the grieving process of her father, with certain events in her life triggering reactions Devi doesn’t necessarily expect when they remind her of her dad.
“I think one of my favourite scenes actually is the one where we're tossing around the tennis racket and Devi’s not really realizing that it's her dad's, and then it hits her and she's just so overwhelmed,” Maitreyi Ramakrishnan said. “Because she talks about it in therapy, she feels like she's forgetting her dad,... the grief over her dad was really top of her mind [in Season 1], very fresh, very raw, versus Season 3, she's actually witnessing herself move on.”
“That freaks her out, that scares her, because she feels like she's forgetting him but rather, she's actually just growing up, moving on peacefully, and still loving her dad nonetheless.”
'I would rather end when the story naturally concludes'
Never Have I Ever co-creator Mindy Kaling has publicly stated that Season 4 of the show will be the end of the series.
"Four seasons for a high school show felt like it made sense," Kaling told Entertainment Tonight. "They can't be in high school forever. We've seen those shows. Like, you've been in high school for 12 years. What is going on here?”
That also means that the show’s stars have to come to terms with the approaching end of their time with their characters, and this story.
“I hope that they're not in high school for 10 years, so it feels natural,” Ramona Young who plays Devi's friend Eleanor said.
For Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, while she also agrees with the decision to end the series when Devi finishes high school, she said it’s also a scary reality.
“Season 4 is our fourth and final and I'm actually very OK with it,” Ramakrishnan said. “I think all good things come to an end, I'm a firm believer of never pushing and extending the story just for the sake of it, you’ve got to move on and let a chapter close.”
“It's scary, though… I'm not going to pretend like I'm all super confident, because I'm not, but for the sake of what the show is, my fears aside,...I would rather end when the story naturally concludes.”
As Never Have I Ever continues to be championed for showing the authentic imperfections in its teen characters in particular, the show's stars continue to applaud Kaling and all the writers for their take on a high school-based story.
"I felt like we all put a lot of trust in the writers because it's all in the writing," Lee Rodriguez who plays Fabiola said. "Just do it in a way that stays true to the writing and try to bring a little bits and pieces of yourself into the character."