Poorna Jagannathan loves three-dimensional characters and she got to play one in "Never Have I Ever", a series that the actor says has set the standard for South Asian representation in American shows.
The actor stars as Nalini Vishwakumar, a strict but affectionate mother to the protagonist Devi, played by Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, in the Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher created Netflix series.
Jagannathan, who has also featured in Hindi films such as "Delhi Belly" and "Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani", and her co-star Richa Moorjani spoke to PTI about the show's contribution in pushing the envelope in terms of South Asian representation.
"I would love to always be a part of the show where the character is so three dimensional, but the show itself can start so many conversations... It is a dream as an actor to always be part of stuff that shifts the conversation," Jagannathan, 50, told PTI in an interview.
"And (it) expands how non-South Asians view us," added Moorjani, who plays Devi's cousin Kamala in the series.
Jagannathan said she loved the culture-specific details at the centre of "Never Have I Ever", whose fourth and final season premiered on Thursday.
"(It is) showing us eating with our hands and that we have dosas and idlis... and don't wear shoes in the house and pray to gods... Everything is so specific... To know that it is being seen and conveyed to so many people, it is overwhelming and it's a show that just sets the standard on projects going forward," she said.
"Never Have I Ever" follows Devi (Ramakrishnan), an overachieving Indian-American teenager growing up in Southern California, US, who is mourning the death of her father while navigating life as a high-school student.
On her recent visit to India, Moorjani, 34, said she was surprised to see the show resonate with people in different parts of the country.
"They told me how they feel like this is the first time they've ever felt represented or relatable to a character in an American television show. It's very rare as an actor, especially as a brown actor in this country, to be a part of a show that can be so explosive in so many ways," she added.
With Ranjita Chakravarty's Nirmala 'Pati' (Devi's paternal grandmother), the show also gives a peek into how women don't need to stick to the narratives set by the society, Jagannathan said.
"The fact that Pati is so conservative and disapproving of Kamala's boyfriends but ends up being as horny as Devi, it is hilarious, but also ground-breaking.
"... As South Asian women, our narratives, a lot of times, are dictated... Like, my mother became a widow and her narrative was somehow dictated by society. This show picks up a pen where people usually put the period and starts a whole new chapter for each of our characters of South Asian women," she added.
"Never Have I Ever" also stars Darren Barnet, Jaren Lewison, Ramona Young, and Lee Rodriguez.
Fisher serves as showrunner on the series, which is produced by Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group, and executive produced by 3 Arts Entertainment's Howard Klein and David Miner.