Maitreyi Ramakrishnan and Mindy Kaling
Source: Getty Images

There's More Truth Behind 'Never Have I Ever' Than You Might Expect

Jamie Lerner - Author
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Aug. 23 2022, Published 10:03 a.m. ET

Now that Season 3 of Never Have I Ever is finally streaming on Netflix, many of us are wondering what its basis in reality is. Is the Mindy Kaling-created series based on a true story? Centered on Devi, a Tamil Indian girl navigating high school as she deals with the grief of losing her father, Never Have I Ever is a hilarious yet moving coming-of-age story.

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As we dive deeper into who Devi is and how she interacts with the world, many of us are wondering if it’s actually based on Mindy Kaling’s childhood. Like Devi, Mindy Kaling is Southeast Asian; plus, Mindy is a self-professed nerd. But are the events of Never Have I Ever actually true?

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan in 'Never Have I Ever'
Source: Netflix
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‘Never Have I Ever’ is partially based on Mindy Kaling’s childhood, but it’s not a true story.

While the story of Devi is actually not Mindy’s story at all, the two personalities do have some similarities. During a Netflix TV brunch, Mindy explained how she and Devi are similar: “I felt lucky to be able to do a show about an Indian nerd who’s also badly behaved, to show that because I’m deeply familiar with it.” Not only that, but Mindy and Devi have similar backgrounds.

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Both of them are first-generation American daughters of Indian immigrants, and while Devi is Indian Tamil, Mindy is half-Tamil. Not only that, but Devi’s mom is a dermatologist, and Mindy’s mom was an OB-GYN, although she died of pancreatic cancer in 2012. Although this isn’t the same thing as losing a parent as a child, Mindy also based much of Devi’s grief over losing her father on her experience with losing her mother.

“[Never Have I Ever] is similar to my other work because [Devi] is a big comedy character with an unusual personality,” Mindy said to Decider in 2019, “but also deals with the emotional fallout of death and trauma. [Co-creator Lang Fisher] and I have both dealt with that personally and wondered why we hadn’t seen that in shows before.”

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Mindy Kaling
Source: Getty Images

Of course those experiences are different for every person that goes through losing a parent, but it is a central part of Devi’s experience in Never Have I Ever. And while that wasn’t necessarily part of Mindy’s childhood, her experience with her mother did shape who she was when writing the series.

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Funnily enough, one of the biggest similarities between Devi and Mindy is their dads’ favorite tennis star: John McEnroe. John revealed in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, “I hear things at times where someone will come up to me and Mindy was sort of the same way: ‘My parents were big tennis fans and they watched you.’” Throughout Never Have I Ever, we see glimpses into the life of Devi’s dad, who also loved watching John McEnroe. That’s why it’s so fitting for him to narrate her life.

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Devi, Sarayu Blue as Rhyah in episode 309 of Never Have I Ever
Source: Netflix
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But in the end, while there may be some similarities between Devi and Mindy, she’s made it very clear that the series is not autobiographical. “A lot of descriptions of the show have been that it’s based on my childhood or is autobiographical,” she explained to The Hindu Times, “but I think it’s definitely not based on my childhood but it is in the spirit of my childhood, because I grew up in the '80s and the '90s, and the show is based in 2019.”

Not only that, but although both Devi and Mindy are/were “nerds,” their nerdiness is different. “But one of the things about me as a kid is that I was a shy nerd, but did not have the confidence Devi has; I think to be the star of the show and to hold down an entire production like this, the character has to have a lot of confidence,” Mindy revealed.

“Even though she has all these problems with how she looks and her social life and everything, we wanted her to have an underlying cheerfulness and a resilience I don’t think I had as a kid.”

Never Have I Ever Season 3 is now available to stream on Netflix.

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