"The romance is obviously so fun and we love those sexy situations and all the awkwardness and all the observations about that," Kaling told ET's Denny Directo over Zoom on Monday. "But ultimately, this show, we wanted it to be about a young woman who has gone through some trauma and have her heal. There’s setbacks and then there’s times when she does a lot of growth. That is the most important to me and that’s why it’s so joyous to have Maitreyi playing this part because she’s so funny in the first episode [of season 3] alone, which I wrote."
"But it is these moments with her dad or with her therapist, played by the wonderful Niecy Nash, where you get what is under the layers of... trying to be cool. She’s gonna be okay, so that’s the most important part of the show for me," she noted. "It's definitely a Team Devi season."
Never Have I Ever follows the complicated life of a modern-day first-generation Indian American teenage girl, Devi (Ramakrishnan), an overachieving high schooler with a short fuse that gets her into difficult situations. Last season ended on a romantic cliffhanger, with Devi -- who had been toggling between Ben (Jaren Lewison) and Paxton (Darren Barnet) -- ultimately choosing to test the waters with the popular swim jock.
Though the duo assure fans season 3 is all about Devi, they couldn't help but credit the outspoken teenager for having major moves in the romance department. While Devi and Paxton are testing their compatibility as official girlfriend and boyfriend, Ben is still lingering in the wings and a new love interest, Des (Anirudh Pisharody), potentially shakes things up.
"This season it’s very, very vicarious," Kaling agreed.
Ramakrishnan joked that she doesn't have the most difficult job, trying to juggle three suitable matches for Devi: "It is actually a really tough gig for Ani and Darren and Jaren to not fall in love with me."
Kaling admitted having a tendency to keep things spicy for Devi, which is where Pisharody comes into play. "I'm short attention, so I always like like a new love interest. To me, Anirudh was pretty exciting," she said, teasing the arrival of Pisharody's character, Des, which is short for Nirdesh.
Ramakrishnan added that there's an excitement to having a new boy in Devi's orbit that she didn't quite expect: "I'm all about just, 'Keep it going. Let's see what happens next.'"
Though the 20-year-old actress tries to stay objective when it comes to Devi's love life, her friends and immediate family members are a different story.
"I do like to egg on my friends, specifically my grandmother and my brother, when they debate Team Paxton or Team Ben," Ramakrishnan shared. "I like to like give them defensive arguments for both to let them debate. I do like to see all the discourse online. [My grandmother] is intense, she is diehard Team Ben. My brother is diehard Team Paxton. It's intense."
"Reese had told me that he was interested in performing... and I only had this role that seemed really good for him," Kaling said. "He's so super talented, obviously really handsome, but here's this kid who's been raised by two very successful actors and he wanted to learn. He came to set, he really wanted to learn from our cast and I just love that energy. He's just such a great kid and... incredibly grateful and a really nice energy to be around."
Added Ramakrishnan: "He was really cool to hang out with on set, and really kind and chill. Totally blended in with the rest of the cast, which was awesome."
Season 3 of Never Have I Ever drops Friday on Netflix.