Meet the Mississauga teen who beat out 15,000 actors to star in Mindy Kaling’s new show

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Meet the Mississauga teen who beat out 15,000 actors to star in Mindy Kaling’s new show

Back in April, Mindy Kaling posted an open casting call for her yet-to-be-named Netflix series about growing up as an awkward, first-generation Indian-American teen. The role of young Mindy went to Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, a 17-year-old from Mississauga who beat out 15,000 other actors for the coveted part. We caught up with the rising star to learn more about the upcoming show.

Congratulations! Where were you when you found out you got the part?
I was in my dining room with my immediate family and my agent. I didn’t have an agent when I first auditioned, but after I got the first call back to L.A., my parents thought it was a good idea. The phone rang, and it was Mindy and Lang Fisher [who co-created the series]. I was in total shock. I think part of me is still feeling that way.

How did you first find out about the casting call?
I saw Mindy’s Tweet and decided to audition. They emailed me a script, and I had to send in a video. It was my first time ever doing a self-take. Four days later, they requested another video, and then I was on my way to L.A.

Had you ever been before?
No. It was crazy. When I landed, all I could think about was the video for “Party In the USA” by Miley Cyrus. I felt like I was on a really big movie set. I met Mindy while I was there, too. My heart dropped because I’m a hardcore fan of The Office. I was like, “Oh my god, Kelly Kapoor is standing right in front of me!”

What was she like?
Really friendly and supportive. I don’t remember what we talked about, but she was great.

What kind of acting experience did you have before landing this part?
I have always loved performing, singing and playing piano. I did musicals and plays in school. In Footloose I was the dorky sidekick, Arlene. And then in my senior year, I played Velma Kelly in Chicago.

You beat out 15,000 other young women! Any idea what gave you the edge?
There’s a lot of overlap between the character’s life and my life. I’m also close to her age, so knowing how to be a teenager is something I’m definitely familiar with.

Kaling has talked about how important it is to have South Asian characters in lead roles rather than always playing the sidekick.
I’m really excited about that, too. It’s going to resonate with people not just in Canada and America, but all over the world. That representation is really needed.

As a Tamil-Canadian girl, do you relate to that experience—of not seeing yourself on screen?
Yeah. I don’t see many South Asian people in leading roles. I’m a firm believer that if you don’t see what you want in the media, then you should go out and try to change it yourself.

You’ve spent some time in L.A. now. Any highlights?
I’ve gotta say, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios was pretty awesome. I got totally decked out in a Gryffindor robe.

Any celebrity spottings?
I saw Ted Danson and some other cast members from The Good Place, which was cool because I love that show. It’s surprising at first, but then you realize they’re just normal people.

Oh my god, Maitreyi—you’ve already gone full Hollywood on us!
Ha! It’s true, though.

Five years from now, where do you see yourself?
Honestly, I can see myself doing hardcore action: straight-up fight scenes, busting out some kickboxing gloves, or maybe Taekwondo skills.

Do you have Taekwondo skills?
Nope. But I’m ready to get them.

Paging Marvel Comics!
Right.


This interview has been edited for length and clarity.