Netflix’s Never Have I Ever is back for a third season of high school love and life lessons, with this year also exploring some more adult struggles and of course, a new heartthrob.
“What I thought was interesting in this season is this idea of when my parents immigrated here, my mom didn’t have female friends. This idea that Nalini [played by Poorna Jagannathan] is a lonely woman who is an immigrant whose husband died and her having a female Indian friend was really fun to write and important to see,” co-creator Mindy Kaling told The Hollywood Reporter at the show’s Los Angeles premiere on Thursday. “I’d never seen that on TV and I wanted to see that.”
And after the show has already divided its audience into Team Paxton (played by Darren Barnet) and Team Ben (played by Jaren Lewison), Kaling added a new boy into Devi’s (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) life this season with the addition of actor Anirudh Pisharody, after seeking “a handsome, young, Indian love interest.”
“We saw Crazy Rich Asians three or four years ago and it was like, ‘Oh my god, Henry Golding is to be lusted after.’ It’s just inspiring. It’s like, ‘Oh we can do that too,’” Kaling said of casting young men for the show. “They’re out there, and if I can help showcase some handsome love interests and help some heartthrobs along the way, I feel good about it.”
Kaling also discussed how adult she and co-creator Lang Fisher decide to take the show, especially in contrast to much more R-rated high school content like that in Euphoria.
“I love Euphoria and I think Kirsten Chuba Sam [Levinson] is like a genius. I think he has a lot to say about things like sex and drug use and addiction and those are incredibly interesting, but we don’t have a ton of experience in that,” Kaling said of she and Fisher. “I watch that show on the edge of my seat, vicariously, but I feel like nerds lusting over guys is more what we feel comfortable writing about so that’s why we do this. We write about strivers and dorks and people who are underestimated.”
Added Fisher, “Mindy and I are not cool enough to write Euphoria. I can’t imagine us ever like, ‘Alright now she goes and does heroin.’ We operate pretty succinctly and safely in the TV-14 space, and also we weren’t like Euphoria teens. Mindy and I were goody-goodies who were dorks and maybe each had like half a boyfriend.”
Fisher teased that this season, which opens with Devi in a relationship with her dream guy Paxton, focuses on “self-confidence and self-love,” after Devi gets the boy but doesn’t feel like she’s worthy of him.
“In the first couple seasons we definitely have seen Devi be a person who is like, ‘I need to check these boxes to be happy and have the life I want,’” said the co-creator, and this season “she starts to realize ‘Maybe I’m not the dorky loser that I thought I was and I do have the life I always wanted, right now.’”
Thursday night’s premiere comes just days after the cast and crew wrapped shooting on the series’ fourth season, which will be its last. Ramakrishnan said she’s “very happy with how it ended but I’m very sad it’s over.”
“It’s wild because I know we have this [season] of course to enjoy, more interviews to come, we have season four premiere to enjoy, but for me honestly I get to keep talking about Devi but I never get to be Devi again. There’s a difference,” the star said. “For me, the magic truly exists on set, I’ve never ever in my life been happier than when I’ve walked on set. Thinking about it just makes me emotional.”
The cast also revealed that they lobbied Kaling to appear onscreen in one of the final episodes, with Richa Moorjani saying, “I think everyone was hoping for that, but she didn’t, sadly.” Jagannathan chimed in, “I really thought it would happen, I’m really surprised it didn’t happen. Every time I got a script and there’d be a new character that she could kind of play she’d say, ‘I can’t play that!’ I always thought she would until the last script when they cast a man. M. Night Shyamalan always puts himself in!”
Never Have I Ever season three is now streaming on Netflix.