"I realized before Never Have I Ever, I became used to the idea of not seeing myself or girls who look like me onscreen and it only hit me after I finished filming and after the show came out and I could watch it on Netflix and see my face in the catalogue," Ramakrishnan said. "I realized, damn, it really sucks to not be seen! It really, really sucks to live your life from the shadows. Because when you don't see yourself, it's basically somebody saying, 'You don't matter. We don't need your face. We don't need people like you.'"
The 18-year-old added that representing "girls like her" is her guiding light going forward.
"I want to make sure that I tackle more projects outside Never Have I Ever and I continue to take on characters that would probably get into a fight with Devi 'cause they're totally different," Maitreyi said. "That's what I want—to keep pushing the boundaries of Hollywood to make them realize, 'Hey, we do matter. All these stories are important. They are great stories and they deserve to be told.'"
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Maitreyi teased that while comedy is "home" (filming on Never Have I Ever season two will start as soon as it's safe), she also wants to take over other genres and pursue roles in fantasy and dark, psychological thrillers. Don't get it twisted though, she's very much about hyping her fellow up-and-comers in the biz. She's beside herself at the casting of fellow Canadian Iman Vellani who was just announced as Ms. Marvel, the MCU's first onscreen Muslim superhero.
"I'm so excited for Iman Vellani," Ramakrishnan said. "It's awesome they got a Canadian too because, you know, she's a Canadian and that's dope. I have to get hype! I can't even hide that. I just hope that everyone embraces her, both on the audience side—we're all rooting for her—and the celebrity side, all the rest of the actors in the community, we gotta make sure that, 'Hey, here's this newcomer, let's just embrace her, arms open and she's going to kill it.'"
Ya hear that, everyone? If anyone comes for Iman, you're going to have Maitreyi Ramakrishnan (and a whole team of others) to answer to. It seems that goes for anyone online, since Maitreyi also told Liz she's devoted to ending cyberbullying, especially when it comes to young girls. And she doesn't mean teaching kids to let hate roll off their backs—she means actually stopping the hate in the first place.
"With this whole topic of online harassment, we can easily say, 'Just take a social media break, delete your account, just go,' but that shouldn't be the solution," she said. "We shouldn't be telling the victims of harassment, 'Just leave,' when we can also address the people who are causing such harassment and the social media platforms that are helping perpetuate it... We have to have a real conversation about online harassment rather than brushing it off saying, 'Oh, haters gonna hate, whatever.'"
It's no wonder Maitreyi was just named a Plan International Canada global ambassador. The star said this has been nearly a decade in the making. "When I was 10 I remember clearly seeing [Plan] in a mall giving out pamphlets and seeing them talk about child marriage and I was so shocked," she said. "I didn't realize that was something that happened and my 10-year-old self was like, 'Whoa, girls my age around the world are just being married.' So from that day on I kept educating myself about what's going on in the world in all these other countries and how I can help."
"I'm very passionate about gender equality, especially empowering girls all around the world," she continued. "And, of course, education—I am so blessed to have such an amazing education system that helped me get to where I am so that one really hits home. I believe that everybody's right to education is so important. Really, all human rights."
While she's changing the world on a concrete level through advocacy, Maitreyi also wants to lead by example through her onscreen work. She hasn't seen a single Never Have I Ever season two script yet, but she knows what she would write for Devi if given the chance.
"If I could ask for anything it would be that Devi truly goes on this journey of self love and actually appreciates who she is as a person," Ramakrishnan said. "Because I think that's something people can learn from. Not enough people love themselves and that should change."