Last time we saw Kamala Nandiawada, she had ditched an important family (and life determining) dinner to go sing karaoke with the teachers at cousin Devi’s high school, particularly Manish Kulkarni, A.K.A. Mr. K. We’ll see what comes next on Aug. 12 when Netflix releases season 3 of Never Have I Ever.
Ahead of the premiere, Richa Moorjani, who plays Kamala, spoke with LA Confidential about the excitement of the new season.
You make playlists to get into character. What music do you listen to to prep for Kamala?
I made a playlist of all Tamil music, which is the part of India that she comes from. And that was helpful for me because I was also, in my own time, taking private Tamil lessons with a teacher who lives in India to get more acquainted with the accent and with the language because for me language is such a big part of building a character, especially for somebody who's not from here. And so listening to the music was also helpful and I also just fell in love with that type of music as I was working on this character.
What did you enjoy about Kamala’s story arc in Season 3? We pick up after she sort of runs away from a proposal.
Coming off of season 2, she ran from her proposal and she also stood up for herself at her lab against her misogynistic lab supervisor. So season 3 you can look forward to seeing Kamala continuing to channel her inner Devi and be a rebel and stand up for herself and come into her own.
Season 3 Episode 4
Speaking of Devi, to what degree do you think Devi influences Kamala?
It's really beautiful the way they've written these characters and the storylines because originally, in season 1, when you see Kamala, you think she's this perfect, older cousin to Devi who is flawless and does everything by the books and what her parents want her to do. And Devi hates her for that because she feels like she has to be just like her cousin in order to get her mom's approval. And I think we've all been compared to somebody like that in our lives. It's relatable for so many people. But then you see that Kamala is not perfect and she's flawed and she's messy and she makes mistakes and she has things she needs to work on. And one of those things being— kind of the opposite of Devi— that she is a people pleaser and it's hard for her to say no to things or to take no for an answer. She literally says to Devi in season 2 something along the lines of, “You never take no for an answer, do you?” and that really inspires her because she grew up in India and probably always did what she was told to do. And now she's here and learning about what it means to be independent in a whole new country by herself. I think that another aspect of her inner Devi is her rage that she is exploring and actually letting herself to feel.
How has going on this three-season journey with Kamala so far been creatively fulfilling as an actor? Even with Devi as the center story, she has her own series of ups and downs.
It's been a huge learning process and it's been fun. And I feel like I, alongside my character, have grown as a person and as an actor and learned a lot from playing Kamala and from her. I think she's grown a lot since season 1, and that's why we love her. She's not exactly what you think she is when you first meet her and in season three, she has grown even more since season 2. She’s dealing with standing up for herself in her family, which is a lot more difficult for her, and I would say for most people, than standing up for yourself at work or with your friends.
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How has playing Kamala personally influenced you?
Just like Kamala, it can be difficult for me as a person to say no to things or to do things my way without feeling like I'm upsetting people. I hate to upset people just like she does and I think that is a cultural thing for sure. But many people also relate to that, especially women. In season 2, when she goes off on her lab supervisor and smashes a beaker, it was actually very cathartic for me. First of all, it's not often that we see women of color or South Asian women getting to channel their rage like that and to stand up to other nonwhite characters in the story. So that was actually fun for me as an actor and I remember I just felt so inspired even in my own personal life. Not that I went and started smashing beakers everywhere— I kind of felt like I got that out of my system.
You’ve said that the best advice you received was to make your work be about something bigger than yourself. Does being part of Never Have I Ever feel like that for you?
Yes, absolutely. It can feel like a bubble when we go to work and we're with the same group of people, especially during a pandemic and we're going home and not really seeing anybody else because we can't risk getting sick while we're shooting. And then when the show comes out and we just see the response or when we go out into the world and we get recognized and our fans tell us how much the show means to them. I will speak for the South Asian community on how much it's meant to me personally and to the community as a whole and from the feedback that I've gotten and from the people that I've met and the stories they've told me of how much this show has impacted them. That's a dream for me as an artist and as an actor and storyteller to be a part of something that is not only funny and makes people laugh, but also says something and also changes perspectives and broadens understandings. That's always my goal with any role that I take on or any scripts that I say yes to. Does this A: inspire me and challenge me and B: does this do something that I can feel proud of in the world?
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Photography by: Cibelle Levi; Lara Solanki/Netflix