Exclusive: Are Poorna Jagannathan and Richa Moorjani from Netflix’s Never Have I Ever Team Ben or Team Paxton?

Promotional still from Never Have I Ever.
Netflix just released Never Have I Ever Season 2. Pic credit: Netflix

The beloved coming-of-age comedy series Never Have I Ever just dropped its second season on Netflix. Instantly, it began trending on the streaming platform, occupying the number one slot in countries around the world.

The series follows the grieving high school student Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) and the difficulties she faces while coping with her father’s abrupt death. As events play out, she finds herself struggling to maintain her relationship with those around her and her culture.

However, the series isn’t all serious. It’s a straight-up comedy, featuring the writing of the comedic genius Mindy Kaling from The Office and The Mindy Project.

Playing Devi’s mother in the series, Dr. Nalini Vishwakumar, is actor Poorna Jagannathan. And, living with the mother-daughter duo is Devi’s cousin, Kamala Nandiwada, played by Richa Moorjani.

Speaking to the importance of diversity featured in Never Have I Ever, Jagannathan told Monsters & Critics, “We’re always looking for a sense of belonging and it’s very hard to find. And yet the show gave it to some people. And this season just kind of dials that message up a lot more. Like you belong as is.”

Moorjani pitched in, saying, “I completely agree with that.” Adding on to her thoughts about the important messages seen throughout Never Have I Ever, she continued, “We get to push and expand the narrative even further about what a South Asian experience can look like. Obviously, we don’t represent every single experience of the South Asian diaspora, but just getting to dig deeper and see more of it is something that I want to see happening more and more with this show and other shows.”

Echoing her thoughts, Jagannathan added, “Diverse shows with diverse storylines and different people work and they resonate. And it’s what people want. So, make them make more of them.”

Monsters & Critics had the opportunity to speak with both actors about their roles in Never Have I Ever. We also popped the big question: Are you Team Ben or Team Paxton?

Check out our full interview below.

Navigating grief throughout Never Have I Ever

Monsters & Critics: Poorna, my first question is for you. Despite the show being a comedy, it tackles so many serious topics. Were any valuable lessons that you learned through playing your character, especially now in this post-pandemic state where we’re all kind of navigating grief in a different way?

Poorna Jagannathan: I’ll answer around the question. I shot Episode 10 [Season 1], I read the episode, we rehearsed the episode. We shot the episode, all that happened. And then the pandemic hit. And then I watched the episode and it totally broke me, just completely destroyed. I think, at that time, it was because we were in the middle of the pandemic and so anxious. We weren’t mourning yet. We weren’t allowing ourselves to feel any grief for what was happening.

And then this episode comes along, which is about just dealing with grief, dealing with loss, dealing with a life that you knew, saying goodbye to something. And I was like, God, a show can have that effect. It can help you process emotions that you have wanted to.

M&C: Richa, your character, Kamala, has such an amazing storyline this season. It really touched me. And I know so many other women are going to feel the same way. What was your impression after reading the script for the first time?

Richa Moorjani: I was so excited to see that Kamala has moved past the arranged marriage storyline, which is also an important thing that does happen in your life to so many people. But there are so many other things that happen to young women, like moving across the world to get a Ph.D., and what happens there.

What does that look like and who are the people you have to deal with, and what challenges do you have to face? It’s something that’s millions of people experience every day when they move here.

Team Ben or Team Paxton?

Monsters & Critics: So, lightening things up a bit, this season starts off right where we left off, which is with Devi being stuck in this love triangle between Paxton and Ben. So I have to ask, are you Team Ben or Team Paxton?

Richa Moorjani: I think Poorna and I both agree that we are the Team Finish High School and Think About It Later. None of my crushes in high school worked out.

Poorna Jagannathan: No, I’ve changed my opinion. I’m definitely Team Paxton.

Richa Moorjani: Okay, she has a different opinion. For me, it’s just none of these are going to last. So let’s just move on.

Poorna Jagannathan: I’m more like Fabiola, like he’s hot. How many times… You know, you’re going to definitely end up with a Ben. As you grow, you mature and you figure out your worth and all that other stuff. So, it’s just like…

Richa Moorjani: So, basically, it’s just Team Hot One.

Never Have I Ever is currently streaming on Netflix.

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