- Warning: There are spoilers for the fourth and final season of the Netflix series Never Have I Ever.
- Insider had a spoiler-filled discussion with actor Jaren Lewison, who portrays Ben Gross.
- Reacting to the winner of the Team Ben vs. Team Paxton debate, Lewison shared how NHIE changed his life.
Jaren Lewison vividly remembers the day he felt the ripple effects of Never Have I Ever’s popularity.
“On April 27, 2020, the first season was released,” recalls the 22-year-old actor. “I woke up the next morning and I think I had an increase of 100,000 followers on my Instagram.”
With the world in lockdown for a month, 40 million homes around the world found solace in Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher’s refreshing Netflix teen dramedy about a first-generation Indian-American teenager named Devi Vishwakumar (played by Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), coping with trauma in high school, and everything in between.
Viewers were drawn into the life of the heroine and her two love interests: Ben Gross (Lewison), her longtime academic rival, and Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnet), the popular athlete at Sherman Oaks High School. Fancams popped up on Twitter, people defended the lovable but spirited protagonist, and viewers passionately took sides in the debate between Team Ben and Team Paxton.
Lewison was admittedly never particularly savvy with social media, but suddenly an insane amount of fans watching “NHIE” were commenting on his posts and slipping into his DMs, eager to connect with him online.
“It changed my whole life,” said the actor. “I get goosebumps just saying that. I think as a kid you dream of a show like this. One dreams that it would mean so much to so many people. You dream that so many people would identify with your character and that it would mean something to them.
“Writing has facilitated not only my professional growth but also my personal growth,” added Lewison.
As his character graduates into exciting and uncharted territory in the fourth and final season of NHIE, so does Lewison.
For three years, “NHIE” kept fans wondering who Devi would end up with
Even Lewison wasn’t sure about the outcome of season four, but the series finale finally gave viewers a definitive answer.
“Obviously it feels great to be a winner,” Lewison said. “That’s a quote from Ben Gross.”
However, Lewison knows that not everyone will be happy with this result: “I’m sure there will be a lot of triumph and celebration, but also a lot of despair and tears.”
But it makes “a lot of sense” to him that Ben ultimately wins Devi’s heart.
“They just understand each other,” Lewison said. “You’ve been through a lot. They have an attraction to each other and when things get tough they just find each other. And I think you see that obviously throughout the series and especially in season four as they get ready for the next stages of their life with college.”
“They always had this very strong love for each other, this very strong caring,” he added. “You have a fantastic foundation.”
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thrilled that I won,” Lewison said.
Devi and Ben’s enemy-to-lover dynamic is cemented by a moment in the series finale when Ben boards a plane from NYC to California and works up the courage to confess to Devi that he loves her.
Lewison said that the aforementioned scene, written and directed by showrunner Fisher, “is the proudest thing I’ve ever been of in my entire career.”
“I just thought it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read,” he said.
“And then when we were able to do it with Maitreyi, who’s one of my best friends in real life and one of the most talented actresses I know, we knew there was a lot of pressure in that scene,” Lewison continued. “But I didn’t really feel that pressure. I think we were both caught up in a situation where we just let Lang guide us and push us exactly where we needed to be.”
“I don’t like to use the word ‘perfect’ but I think it was so wonderful and it was everything I ever hoped Ben and Devi would do on their journey,” he said.
Lewison’s last day on set was filled with gratitude and maybe a few tears too
The actor didn’t just say goodbye to a character he’d played in recent years. He left behind people who had worked with him since the beginning of the series and whom he considers more than just his peers – people to whom he turned in moments of self-doubt and other difficulties.
“I made relationships and friendships there that I think will last me a lifetime,” he said.
To celebrate the conclusion, the cast and crew threw a big wrap party, the editors put together a montage paying tribute to all four seasons, and Fisher gave a heartfelt speech. There was crying, hugging and photography, but Lewison was not saddened because he felt a “happiness and an appreciation for the work we had done, for what we had built and for the part I had in it “. .”
Lewison, who was also filming NHIE while also being a student at the University of Southern California, said he was putting a lot of pressure on himself. The quest for perfection is a struggle the actor’s character is all too familiar with.
But as Ben learned on the show, he’s been able to get through tough times with the help of a support system from his college friends and co-workers.
“I have some of the best friends in the whole world,” he said. “When I was at work, Maitreyi was like my confidant. We often leaned on each other.”
“The cast and crew are so genuine and so kind and so willing to help others and they are so selfless or altruistic and while it makes you sad that the show is over, it also makes you feel so lucky to see them “Having had that experience,” Lewison said. “It doesn’t happen every time. There’s not always this incredible sense of love and creation on every single set.”
The last moment of the series, with Devi and Ben hanging out in their dorm and finally happy to be eye-to-eye as a couple, was also the last scene to be filmed.
“We didn’t even speak,” Lewison recalled. “We just soaked it all up.”
“I’ve been smiling all day and I think it will probably be remembered as one of my best moments at work,” he said, “because the first moment is always very special. And that was a very special series for me.”
“NHIE” is difficult to follow, but Lewison is up for the challenge of figuring out what his next fulfilling role will be while his 1.4 million Instagram fans watch from the sidelines.
While Ben already has his future planned for when he graduates from high school, Lewison is more open-minded than his edgy character as long as he continues to play complex, three-dimensional roles.
“I know whatever comes next, I’m going to get a chance to learn from and work with really incredible people, and that’s incredibly exciting for me,” he said. “I’m just going to relax, enjoy the ride and see what happens.”