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'Never Have I Ever's' Richa Moorjani on Kamala Taking Charge in Season 2

'Never Have I Ever's' Richa Moorjani on Kamala Taking Charge in Season 2

After the success of Season 1, beloved coming-of-age series Never Have I Ever launched its highly anticipated sophomore outing on July 15. To celebrate the series’ return and the effortlessly funny but emotionally resonant stories at the heart of the show, we chatted with star Richa Moorjani — who portrays Devi’s (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) brilliant cousin Kamala — about the show’s success, the importance of advocating for oneself, and who she would choose to narrate a Kamala-centric episode. 

This was your first series regular role. The show came out right at the beginning of the pandemic. What has this experience been like for you?

It's been a whirlwind. Sometimes it still feels unreal. This is definitely the biggest role I've ever done. It's been a dream type of show that I've always wanted to do as an actor: a story about a South Asian family where women are the lead characters and specifically showing an Indian-American family. It's just something that we've never seen on TV before. And something that I, as a South Asian American, have always wanted to see on TV. So it's been a dream come true.

Before Season 1 came out, I knew it was special, but I don't think any of us knew that it was going to be such a massive global hit instantly. And when we saw the response that we were getting from all over the world, we were all so thrilled and it motivated all of us to just keep doing what we're doing and to make sure that we went into Season 2 keeping in mind how important the show is to so many people.

Your character feels really relatable in so many ways. What has the fan reaction been like?

Some of the most meaningful and amazing messages that I've gotten from fans all over the world are just about how they've been able to relate so much to Kamala and how they feel like it's a character that they've always wanted to see and never have. That in turn made people who relate to her feel seen. So, I'm just really honored and grateful to be able to do a character like that. And I think that whether somebody is South Asian or not, Kamala is relatable for so many different reasons. I relate to the aspect of her that I think we both put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be perfect in so many ways. I think some of that has to do with our culture and societal and family expectations, but I think it's also just being a young woman and not knowing how to use our voice sometimes. I think that through Kamala's journey through Season 1 and Season 2 I feel like I've grown a lot too. 

In Season 2, Kamala is forced into a situation where she has to prove herself to her male colleagues and advocate for herself. A lot of women have probably found themselves in that situation. What was it like to take on that storyline, and have you ever been in a position like that?

I was so excited for Season 2 that they had the idea of going into Kamala's lab storyline and the challenges that she faces there. When I was doing Season 2, I was actually doing some research into women, and specifically women of color, who work in STEM, whether they're in school or after school. It's such a common experience for women in all different scientific and mathematical fields to have been discriminated against for their gender and the color of their skin and not given credit for their work and left out of papers and not given awards. It's something that's happened historically, all over the world. I think it's so important to show stories like this. 

Also, we don't really have any representation of women in science in the media. I mean very rarely ever do we see those types of roles — and see them in a very nuanced way and dealing with the discrimination that they face. I think it's something that's going to be so relatable, not just for women in science, but women in every field. I’ve definitely felt something similar even in my industry. I still struggle with knowing how and when I should allow myself to use my voice. I think that's something that so many women can relate to.

Kamala’s always fighting against other people's expectations and what they think she should be doing, whether it is at work or the pressure to get engaged. What is that pressure like?

She really likes Prashant, but at the same time, there’s pressure that she feels from everybody around her. That's something I've personally had an experience of in my life. It can be suffocating and actually distort your own perceptions and feelings of what you really want. I think that throughout Season 1 and Season 2, the pressure is increasing to the point where she just doesn't know what she wants, but she does know that she wants to be able to make a decision for herself and not because of what anybody expects of her. 

Does she actually like Mr. K or is that just her way of dealing with some of those expectations?

When it comes to Mr. K, she's charmed by him for sure, but she doesn't know him at all. At that dinner where everybody was literally staring at Prashant's jacket pocket with a ring in it, she just felt like she needed to get out of there. It was one of those moments where you're not really thinking, it's kind of fight or flight, and she just ran out of the house and probably thought to herself, “I don't know where to go but I do know that Devi's at the dance. Oh, I think Mr. K invited me to go there, so I'll just go join them.” So I don't think it's because she wants to necessarily suddenly be in a relationship with a new person. It's just she was literally in fight or flight in that moment and having a panic attack.

Ben and Paxton have now both had episodes where they've gotten their own narrator. Do you think Kamala should get one in Season 3? And if so, who would you like to see take on her narrator role?

Oh my god, I really hope so! It would be so fun for me as an actor, but also it'd be so fun to see Kamala have her own episode and to get inside her head because she has a very interesting way of thinking. And I've thought about this before — and it’s not just because she's the creator — Mindy Kaling would be the best narrator for Kamala.

Speaking of Mindy, you were also on The Mindy Project. What has it been like working with her? Has she given you any advice that's really stuck with you?

Working with her is a dream come true. I started on The Mindy Project — that was my first TV role ever. So, because of Mindy I got my first TV job and I also got my first series regular job, so I'm forever indebted to her and have so much admiration and respect for her. I don't know if she's ever said anything specifically that stuck with me, but what does stick with me is just how I have so much admiration for how much she does and how prolific she is in so many different ways. She wears so many different hats but she still has so much time and space for her personal life and makes time for the cast. She's working on multiple projects at once but she is constantly involved. We always feel like she has our backs, and that's something that is so inspiring for me and something I will carry with me throughout my career.

Did you have a favorite moment from Season 2?

I think my favorite moment is the moment when we see Kamala dressed in cosplay. I think it's gonna be hilarious when everyone sees that.

What was it like putting on that costume?

Oh my god, we had so much fun. And as soon as I had the costume on everyone was like, you look like Britney Spears in “Toxic.” So we made a whole music video to that song with me in that outfit.

Are you going to release that?

I’ll probably put it on Instagram after the show comes out. 

What do you hope to see in a potential third season? Where would you like to see Kamala go?

I want to see Kamala killing it out of her lab and continuing to be the powerful woman she is. I think she gets a little taste of it when she puts her lab mates in their place and knocks over that beaker. I want to see more of that badass in her in Season 3. And I'd love to see an episode with Kamala's narrator and getting inside her head. And I want to see her deciding for herself what she wants in a relationship and not have to feel like she has to make anybody else happy, whether it's Prashant or Mr K or her family. Even if it means just being single for a while, I just want her to love herself.

Never Have I Ever season 2 is now streaming on Netflix.