Anirudh Pisharody joins the cast of Never Have I Ever as a junior in this third season on Netflix. He’s been popping up on TV sets as a new face for quite some time now, with roles in later seasons of shows like 9-1-1 and most recently ABC’s Big Sky. He says he was at his most relaxed while filming the third season of Never Have I Ever.
Despite being a newcomer, the 28-year-old actor says he felt the most included and welcomed on this set because of the diversity of the cast and crew. It’s true what they say: “Everyone is a person of color. There are a lot of ladies here. Efforts toward equality and adequate representation appear to be succeeding. For once, I was not suffering from “rep sweats.”
Anirudh is experiencing what Asian American comedy writers Jenny Yang, Phil Yu, and Joanna Lee coined in 2015 as “rep sweats,” a collective anxiety over Hollywood’s promises of representation and the fear that it will fall flat, given a minority group’s lack of visibility and power. “Every time you get the chance to see yourself on TV,” Jenny said, “you hold your breath.” Joining the cast of one of the most popular South Asian American productions could be a welcome change for those who have only ever watched it from the audience.
Des, played by Anirudh, doesn’t seem like a romantic interest at first: he’s a classic Mom’s Friend’s Son type who doesn’t know anyone and is fascinated by sea snails. On the other hand, Devi has a habit of jumping to conclusions, which usually leads to her being publicly exposed as an idiot. He’s going somewhere here, right? He’s hot. Duh. In addition to his attractiveness, he also has friends. For Anirudh, the joke is that “Sea slugs can be sexy,” which he believes is a great message to send to young children. When Devi and Des meet, he is quick to go from jealousy weapon to actual crush on the girl who has just recovered from her usual fare of boy drama.
In every episode of Never Have I Ever, we see the full spectrum of personalities that exist in high-achieving communities. You’ve got Devi, the wild card, Eleanor, the drama queen, Fabiola, the introvert, Ben, the gun nut, and now Des, the ladies’ man.
Anirudh first encountered an intimacy coordinator while filming season 3 of NHIE. This is a designated person on set who helps stage kissing and sex scenes and makes sure actors feel safe. Actors like Sydney Sweeney and Rachel Zegler, both in their twenties, have spoken highly of the role of intimacy coordinators in the film and television industries. According to Anirudh, it should become mandatory throughout the business world.
Awkwardness is all that kissing is, he says. The beauty of the intimacy coordinator, though, is that they allay your apprehensions despite the fact that it feels strange at first. The best part of what she said was, “Don’t think of this as you’re kissing someone. Don’t imagine that you’re in a romantic setting or that you’re about to engage in some naughty behavior. The key is to view the situation as a dance. In that scene, all you need to do to connect with the other person is find a rhythm that works for both of you, so that was a huge help.
“I was very nervous going into it, but Maitreyi was very welcoming, even though she had already done two seasons of the show, and it’s a very big show and all that. She helped me to relax a lot. “Hey, it’s totally cool,” she says.
Both Des and Devi are fighting against the stereotype of the unattractive Asian nerd. Therefore, their relationship is as exciting and enticing to observe as any other teen love story. You, the audience member, are immersed in the love story as if you were a third party participant, experiencing the romance’s high points (its beauty and triumph) and its low points (its devastation) with intense personal relevance. Watching the typical ups and downs of a romance between two young people of color feels very fresh and unique. Anirudh didn’t get it until he saw the finished product. While filming, he “didn’t feel as much what it means to be a love interest,” he says. However, now that I’ve been away from it for a while (I’ve been on leave from it for nearly six months), I feel like I’m beginning to grasp the implications and significance of what happened. The only way I could say “Oh my God” was to take a break and watch these screeners. That makes perfect sense to me now.
Anirudh talks optimistically and lovingly about what shows like Never Have I Ever mean for young audiences, what it means for young audiences to see people of color fall in love, and what it means for young audiences to see academically driven, sea slug appreciating love interests. But what about the rebellious adolescent hidden within him? Meeting Devi’s father was a huge thrill for him. I remember Sendhil Ramamurthy from the show Heroes. My meeting with him on set felt like a full circle, since I believe he may have been the first Indian superhero to appear on American television. He describes the event as “completely unbelievable.” “If you had told me that when I was 12 or 13, when I first started watching the show, I never would have believed you,” said the author.
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