After a 4-season run, Netflix’s Never Have I Ever managed to accomplish a rare feat in the TV world: a perfect series finale. The comedy series ended on a satisfying, hopeful note as Devi, Ben, Paxton, and the rest of the characters turned the page to the next chapter of their lives. One notable aspect of the show’s ending? Devi and Ben finally get together — for real this time — after Ben’s epic cross-country declaration of love.
HollywoodLife spoke EXCLUSIVELY with Jaren Lewison about Ben’s big When Harry Met Sally moment at Pati’s wedding, Ben’s incredible journey since the first season, and those final two words. He revealed that there’s an alternate ending of sorts out there because the “ending that we shot was not the ending that wound up making it to the final cut.” Read our Q&A below and watch the video above for the full interview.
Jaren Lewison and Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Ben and Devi. (Netflix)
How long did you know that it was going to be Ben in the end?
Jaren Lewison: I think I found out during the episode 408 filming block, so pretty much towards the end of season 4. They didn’t tell me at the beginning of shooting that Ben was going to end up with Devi. They were still literally writing scripts as we were shooting. I think it was that 408 block where we got the script, the table read happened, and that’s when everyone was like, this is it. It was a weird feeling because you’re like, wow, this is the last new Never Have I Ever script I’m going to read. It was very weird to think about that, but [I was] obviously very excited when I read it. I thought that the series finale script was just beyond brilliant. I thought that Mindy [Kaling] and Lang [Fisher] and the rest of the writers did just an unbelievable job. Obviously, throughout the whole series, but especially with that episode, because you’re right. It is very hard to sort of tie everything together and have every character end with a punch, end with an oomph. That usually doesn’t happen, so I was just astounded by their brilliance and appreciative of what they came up with.
I am an ’80s movie lover. I love the teen movies of that era. Ben flying across the country, coming to Pati’s wedding, declaring his love for Devi is very much in the vein of like Pretty in Pink and Say Anything. Are you aware of the magnitude of a scene like that?
Jaren Lewison: When Harry Met Sally is one of my favorite movies of all time, and this scene was sort of reminiscent of that I think. Because when you look at the ending of that movie, Billy Crystal’s character, Harry, he sort of runs to Sally, and at New Year’s is like word vomiting how much he loves her. It’s like, I love this about you. I love when you crinkle your nose when you look at me like I’m nuts, and that was a moment where I was like, wow, this is very similar. Harry literally ran across New York, but Ben has flown from New York to LA to finally let it all out there. In typical Ben and Devi fashion, it needs some pulling where he’s like, I like you. And she’s like, you flew all the way here to tell me that you like me? And he’s like, I think I love you. And then she’s like, what? It is just the most powerful scene I think for me as an actor because you’re looking back at 4 years of their relationship being built, and it all sort of culminates in this one massive moment of him finally saying that he loves Devi, and then her receiving it, and then also saying it back to him. The music and, oh my God, the wedding looks so beautiful. The set deck killed it. I just thought that it was one of the most wonderful scenes that I have ever done in my entire career as an actor. It’s probably my favorite because there’s so much behind those words, and I just love that.
When you look back, is there a moment you think that’s when Ben fell in love with Devi?
Jaren Lewison: I don’t know if there is one specific moment where… I don’t even know if in real life I don’t think that I’ve ever been in love before, so I don’t know what that feels like. So it’s hard for me to be like, oh, there’s one moment in life where you look at someone and you’re like, this is it. I don’t know if that’s how that happens because it’s never happened for me. But I think that, in my mind, it would sort of be these small, incremental things that just sort of continue adding up, adding up, adding up. And then maybe there’s one moment where it’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back and, all of a sudden, you’re like, I think that I love this person. Maybe it’s a gradual realization where you’re like, do I love them? Maybe I love them? I do. Yeah, I do. I love them. I don’t know if that’s how that works. But I think that Ben starts falling for Devi all the way back in season 1 in episode 5 with Model UN when they start working together for the first time. He sees how similar they are, and then his heart just kind of inflates and deflates throughout the entire series based off of if they’re with other people, or when it’s good, it’s great. And sometimes when it’s bad, it’s really pretty rough. You see in the series, he’s always pined after her. He’s always sort of finding her when he’s struggling. I just think that they have this magnetism for each other. I don’t know if that’s because it is feelings of love that they’re drawn to each other. I don’t know if that’s what that is. But I guess in his head, the moment that he realizes he loves her is that scene where he’s like, I came here to tell you I like you. Maybe that’s what his brain is like, dude, you don’t like her. You love her.
Jaren Lewison at the ‘Never Have I Ever’ premiere. (Courtesy of Netflix)
It’s like he finally found that last jigsaw piece.
Jaren Lewison: Maybe that’s the answer. Maybe it’s in that literal moment. But you have to know in your subconscious flying from across the country to go and say you like someone. No, he knows he loves her.
Earlier in the season, you got to work alongside Dwight Howard. What was that like, bouncing off of him? Honestly, I think he did a really good job.
Jaren Lewison: He did such a good job. Dwight’s the man. He is the most gentle giant person that you have ever met. He came in immediately shaking everybody’s hands, giving everybody hugs. He came in prepared. He was directable. He wanted to do a great job. I don’t know if his career trajectory includes some kind of a Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, John Cena sort of arc where he’s going to dip his toe more into the acting world, but I thought he was great. He was a fun scene partner to work with. How cool is that to be able to be like, yeah, Dwight Howard gave me terrible relationship advice.
Have you thought about what happens to Ben after that final scene?
Jaren Lewison: It’s hard to predict that because I look back at the person that I was before I started college at 18, and I look at the person that I am now, it’s so vastly different. Obviously, there are a lot of parts of Ben that he will learn to refine and sort of polish up, but also there can be people at both Princeton and Columbia for Ben and Devi both where they really push that person outside of their comfort zone and they challenge them to learn and grow through different worldly perspectives and learning. Maybe they find someone else at their respective colleges. Maybe it drives them closer together. I have no idea. I am not one of the writers, and I tried to predict all the time throughout the entire series what would happen with various characters, and I will tell you firsthand I was never once correct. So whatever I say, who knows? In the writers we trust.
The final words of the show are very interesting. John McEnroe says she’s signing off “for now.” How did you react to that?
Jaren Lewison: I will tell you when I first watched the fourth season because we get the episodes, obviously, a little bit early as well, I did not know that was going to be in there. The ending that we shot was not the ending that wound up making it to the final cut, so I was also surprised. I cannot tell you what that ending was, but it was something different. And I literally had the same reaction you did where I texted Maitreyi [Ramakrishnan]. I was like, “Do you know something I don’t know? Like, is there something else?” And that answer is still no. There’s no plans for a spin-off. There’s no plans for a film or anything like that as of now, but I do like that the doors are sort of open where maybe in 10 to 15 years when Mindy and Lang are ready and maybe they decide that we are going to do some kind of a rom-com movie or something. I have no idea. If they signed on, I would probably come back, but who knows where we’ll be each of us in our careers in 10 to 15 years. But obviously, Ben holds a special place in my heart and so does the show. If Mindy and Lang ever asked me to do anything, I’ll just do it. I don’t even need to read it because it’s going to be amazing.
This other ending… I know you won’t tell me what it is. But was the end result the same?
Jaren Lewison: If someone else tells you we can talk about it. I don’t want to be the one to spill the beans. I want to make sure that my reputation of being a good secret keeper continues.
Four seasons is a long time in this day and age when it comes to shows, especially streaming… How do you feel about Ben’s journey and how he’s evolved from that first season?
Jaren Lewison: I loved it. I’ve talked a lot about the writing today, but I will continue to talk about it because, as an actor, that’s a dream come true where you have the character from the jump who is so complex and such an onion where you’re peeling back layer after layer after layer, and it continues throughout all of the seasons. Each season, he sort of had a different theme, which I thought was just really wonderful in terms of his growth or learning more about him. I think that season 1 was sort of the first crack in Ben’s little castle of maybe he’s a little bit more vulnerable than he let on. Season 2 was about relationships and about moving through pain, and then season 3 is about stress and pressure. Season 4 is about growth and maturation, which I think it’s just so interesting and so much fun to be able to play as an actor. For me, throughout every sort of year of the show and of college, I also feel like I have the theme for every year, whether it was like beating impostor syndrome at the beginning and learning how to really give everything I have to the show and balancing college and then my own confidence sort of increasing as an actor and as a person, learning the person that I want to be as an adult and the people that I surround myself with and how I can be a good mentee and hopefully very soon a mentor as well.
I think that Ben will, in my mind, have a very similar trajectory, where he’s going to meet so many amazing people like I did in college. I met some of my best friends in the entire world that are going to be my friends until I die, and I would hope that that will happen for Ben. I think that for him he sort of needs to continue on the track of vulnerability and opening up to people and showing people that he is really a sweet kid deep down inside. I think that where he finds connection is in those moments, rather than in the moments where he tells people that his dad’s trainer is The Rock. Like, that’s awesome, but that’s not really going to help him make friends as much as he thinks it does. I think that that sort of comes with age and maturation for sure being like, okay, if I just talk to people and I’m not braggy, and I get to know them and I listen, and then I volunteer information when it’s asked of me and warranted, I’ll probably have a better connection than I would doing what I did in high school. I got super lucky, like I said, meeting some unbelievable people that have really kept me grounded and helped me learn and helped me grow and made me the person that I am today, and I’m very hopeful that Ben finds that.
Jaren Lewison, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, and Darren Barnet. (Courtesy of Netflix)
What’s on the horizon for you? Are you going to stick with acting? What’s your plan?
Jaren Lewison: I’m gonna stick with acting. I’m very picky about the projects that I want to be associated with, but I’m a huge sucker for good writing. There’s a couple of directors that I would really love to work with. There’s actually a rising star in the industry right now, Cooper Raiff, who’s from Dallas. He grew up very close to me. He actually went to school that my mom attended when she was younger, and I would love to work with him. He’s a fantastic writer-director. Obviously, there’s so many other talented writer-directors out there. I’m a big White Lotus fan. I just love Mike White.
I would love to do that. Greta Gerwig is obviously still high on my list, but she’s high on everyone’s list because she’s an absolute baller. So many people that I know are so talented that are such fantastic writers. I’m excited to see what the future holds and who says yes to me helping sort of create their vision with them. I love that as an actor you’re sort of like a tool, almost like a paintbrush, for the director or the writer or the artists to use you to really create some magic. I think that every time that’s very special, that you get to be a different brush for every sort of painting and project. The creation of that vision is always really, really exciting. Who knows who that’ll be next, but I’m very excited for whoever it is.
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