Maitreyi Ramakrishnan shifted from Devi to My Little Pony

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan’s childhood devotion for My Little Pony became homework for his latest TV project. Ramakrishnan stars in the voice cast of Netflix’s new animated children’s series My Little Pony: Make Your Mark, the exact opposite of his breakout role in the acclaimed coming-of-age comedy never have I ever,

The Canadian actor, 20, remembers growing up with the fourth iteration of the toy line, which she calls “the OG of Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash, my personal favorite.”

Ramakrishnan said playing the next generation character of the miniature Pegasus pony Zip for Princess Zephyrina Storm, “was a chance to fulfill those childhood dreams,” Ramakrishnan said. “If I said to my younger, child-self, ‘Hey, you’re going to be a little pony,’ the obvious answer would be “‘No way.'”

Zipp stands out among his similar friends—and not just because of his bold, two-tone hairstyle. Ramakrishnan described him as smart, inquisitive and determined to fend for himself. A bonus: The actor called it “so cool” that he got to sing on the companion album for the series, which debuted on Netflix this week.

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, whose Tamil parents immigrated from Sri Lanka, spoke to The Associated Press about what his new series offers to children; Her role in the Team Paxton-Team Ben debate on Never Have I Ever, which led to the filming of its fourth and final season (the release date has yet to be announced), and the ongoing struggle for inclusivity in Hollywood.

You described Zipp in positive terms. Is there anything more fascinating about the series, something you think kids might get from watching it?

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It’s actually great because it’s showing the kids that there’s a place for everyone. All the main characters are very different and unique personalities, and they have different interests and likes. I hope the kids just take that they can be themselves and people will love them for it.

You’ve talked about growing up without seeing a TV or movie character who looks like you and who you can relate to.

I think I only had to unpack it when I started Never Have I Ever, and was asked in many interviews, ‘Who was your representation (on screen)?’ I really didn’t have that. And I realized that maybe this is the reason why I always had so much love for animation as a child. You are totally able to relate to a cartoon as much as you are able to relate to teens who expect your beauty to be how you are going to grow up.

Your role as Kishori Devi in ​​the Mindy Kaling-co-produced Never Have I Ever is a rare, a major Southeast Asian character. How has the audience reacted?

Seeing my character makes people feel so uncomfortable with positive feedback, or mixed feelings in the sense of how much they see themselves in the characters. Devi is a hot mess. But it’s not just young brown girls who look at the goddess and think, ‘Yeah, I can relate.’ There are brown people. Or any girl who is facing the struggles of life, or simply any boy who has experienced that he wants to be a part of something. It’s representation, to me, when you’re writing characters whose faces are varied but written so well and realistically that it’s not tokenism. It’s very important, and I’m honestly not satisfied with how much representation there is.

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Studies have shown that TV and movies are recognizing the value of hiring people of color as actors and producers. You are just starting your career, but do you see your role in promoting greater diversity?

With Never Have I Ever and the Squid Games of the World, it’s like, ‘Oh, we’ve taken a step in the right direction.’ And then very quickly, those moves can be forgotten because we don’t give them enough credit, and it’s really hard to continue that momentum. But you have to do the work yourself. It gets frustrating at times, because you might wonder if you’re on top of the world and you’re like, ‘Yeah, I made it. I am being respected. But wait, I’m still being treated like I’m just this little indicative brown girl.’ And he’s useless. But since I love acting, I am not going to give up on it. And I know that if I continue to lead the way, as Mindy Kaling did for girls like me, I’ll take it a little easier for the next one, and then it’ll keep going.

Some Never Have I Ever fans divide themselves into Team Paxton or Team Ben over the question of which partner Devi should be with. You have said that your choice is Team Devi. Why so?

I sometimes get worried when an interviewer is shocked that I call Team Goddess. I’m like, ‘You saw me, heard everything I preached about self-love and embracing who you are, seeing yourself and respecting yourself. And you thought I was going to say anything other than Team Devi?’ The goddess is growing up, she does not yet know who she is, and people do not yet know who she is. Giving them credit too – it’s not like they’re just options. They have a life of their own, they have to live and grow and find out what they want. And the goddess has to do that too.

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