Maitreyi Ramakrishnan became a Hollywood star in Mississauga lockdown
Your show became an overnight hit in April 2020. What was it like to have your dreams come true while the world fell into a global pandemic?
It was weird and almost felt fake. The hype was online only. The cast didn’t get together or do a red carpet. I was at home in Mississauga for the premiere, which was at 3 a.m. I remember feeling like something big was supposed to happen, but then nothing did. That was a blessing and a curse—I’ve retained some normalcy in my life, which is nice.
How well did you manage lockdown life?
I was with my whole family—my parents and grandparents. At first, I was dying to go out and do things, see friends. I was extremely bored and thinking, Okay, well at least it’s just a couple of weeks—ha! But then I got used to the routine and found things to keep me busy.
Were you a bread baker?
I’m no baker, but I did learn new songs on the piano, I picked up a new instrument, played some new video games. I was on the cautious side in terms of Covid protocols. I was the one making sure everyone had their mask when we went out. I had hand sanitizer in every corner of the house and the car.
You brought attention to last summer’s BLM protests on your social media. Did you stress about the risks of speaking out given your suddenly vast audience?
No. Speaking up about injustice is something my parents raised me to do, so it just felt really normal. I wasn’t able to attend any of the protests for safety reasons—I live with my grandparents. What I could do was encourage my followers from all around the world to educate themselves. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been glued to our phones and social media, so that was an opportunity to start important conversations. I was careful to make sure what I said was well researched and not just performative.
This was not your first foray into protest culture. You were part of a group of students who protested Doug Ford’s education cuts in 2019.
We had more than 400 kids walk out, which was pretty dope. I remember learning about the cuts and thinking, This really sucks. I was graduating, but I have little cousins who are still in school. If I hadn’t had extracurriculars growing up—doing plays, especially—I would never have discovered my love for acting or landed Never Have I Ever.
You attended your prom and graduation before you started work on the show in 2019. Do you feel bad for the grads who missed out this year?
Some of my friends are in that situation. I told them these things are generally overhyped. My memory of grad is a lot of sitting in silence, and prom is not what you see in the movies. But I guess people have the right to experience that letdown for themselves.
Have fame and success lived up to your expectations? I guess your fantasy didn’t involve Covid.
Yeah, definitely not. My original dream job was to be an animator for Pixar. Then I played Velma Kelly in Chicago, high school edition, and realized that I love acting. I thought maybe I could work at a theatre company in Toronto. I never thought, Okay, you’re going to play the lead on a hit Netflix show.
Now that you have, how has life changed?
Well, I got my first iPad. I remember as a kid when iPads first dropped, I really wanted one, but I never got one. I also bought a new phone. It’s the first one I’ve ever had that wasn’t shared or a hand-me-down.
You filmed season two in L.A. What was life like there?
I haven’t spent that much time there because of travel restrictions. Filming was a very contained situation, protocol-wise. I got tested every day before work. I will say that it was great to see all the billboards change from “Stay Home” to “Let’s All Get Vaccinated.” It’s hard to believe how fast everything moved in terms of being able to get vaccinated in Canada and the U.S. That’s been a huge privilege.
While your many, many fans watch the season two debut on July 15, what will you be doing?
I’ll be watching the reactions online. And then maybe I’ll go to Canada’s Wonderland.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.