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Mindy Kaling Show Star Maitreyi Ramakrishnan Talks Tamil-Canadian Identity In First Interview

“If you can say the character names in Game Of Thrones, you can say my Tamil name.”

Canadians rejoiced in July when Toronto-area teenager Maitreyi Ramakrishnan was announced as the lead on an upcoming Netflix sitcom by comedy juggernaut Mindy Kaling.

Now, there’s a new reason to feel proud: her first interview since landing the breakout role proves Ramakrishnan is ready to make the spotlight on her meaningful for Tamils everywhere.

In conversation with film critic Radheyan Simonpillai for Now Magazine — a Toronto newspaper (points for hometown love) — the 17-year-old actor made it clear: her identity isn’t something she’ll compromise on. Starting with her name.

“If you can say the character names in “Game Of Thrones,” you can say my Tamil name,” she told Now.

That show brought us Daenerys Targaryen and someone apparently named Kraznys mo Nakloz, so it sounds like a fair request.

If you’re tripping up on the pronunciation, here’s how you say her name, courtesy of HuffPost Canada reporter Maija Kappler who previously asked the question.

She also used the interview as an opportunity to explain why she identifies herself specifically as Tamil Canadian.

“I made it very clear to my agent and publicist that Tamil Canadian is very, very important to me ... my identity isn’t being Sri Lankan,” she said. “That’s not my country. My country is Canada. But my culture is definitely Tamil.”

Ramakrishnan is a second-generation Canadian. Born and raised in the immigrant-majority city of Mississauga, Ont., she’s the child of Tamil refugees who fled unrest in Sri Lanka. Canada is home to almost 141,000 Tamil residents, making it one of the largest Tamil diaspora populations.

“If you can say the character names in Game Of Thrones, you can say my Tamil name.”

- Maitreyi Ramakrishnan

The journalist who interviewed her, also a first-generation Tamil Canadian, explains that the violence their people faced in the South Asian country is why many wouldn’t want to be aligned with it. By emphasizing why that distinction is necessary, it’s clear that the writer was the right person to contextualize where the teenager’s perspective was coming from.

Tamil readers especially appreciated the nuanced attention paid to her identity.

Ramakrishnan is set to make her onscreen debut on Kaling’s semi-autobiographical comedy, after beating out thousands of candidates who applied to Kaling’s international casting call.

WATCH: Mindy Kaling’s Netflix Show Nabs Canadian Newcomer Maitreyi Ramakrishnan As Lead. Story continues below.

She’ll be playing Dev, a teenage girl loosely based on Kaling’s experiences growing up Indian-American.

Ramakrishnan’s portrayal is highly anticipated, even by her fellow cast member and current “Big Little Lies” star, Poorna Jagannathan. The veteran actor, who plays Dev’s mom, describes the teen as “smart, unaffected, and ridiculously funny,” even dishing on an endearing trait she saw in her co-star’s audition to Refinery29.

“She literally dabbed after every take – I love her,” Jagannathan said.

More on-brand facts to love about the teen: like many Gen Zers, she’s a Disney and Marvel fanatic, even comparing her family to the Avengers when she delves into the whirlwind journey leading up to Kaling congratulating her on getting the role.

As someone who describes herself with the hashtag #browngirlcomeup on her social media profiles, we’re all for this second-generation Canadian teenager’s continued come-up. At 17, she’s already aware of what that means for her community.

“I want other Tamils all over the world to feel pride that Tamil people are making it,” she told NOW.

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