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Film and TV

Never Have I Ever star says lack of ‘token gay’ send ‘powerful message’ to queer kids

Lily Wakefield July 20, 2021
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Dino Petrera Jonah Sharpe Mindy Kaling gay Never Have I Ever Netflix

Dino Petrera plays Jonah Sharpe in Mindy Kaling's Never Have I Ever. (Netflix)

Never Have I Ever star Dino Petrera has explained why the lack a of “token gay” character send a “powerful message” to queer kids.

The Mindy Kaling-created series was one of Netflix’s biggest-ever hits when it was released in April 2020 and returned this month for its second season.

It follows 15-year-old Devi Vishwakumar, an Indian-American Tamil teenager living in Los Angeles who is desperate to elevate her social status, and must juggle her friendships, family and romantic interests.

The show has been praised for its diversity and LGBT-inclusion, including by Dino Petrera, who plays Devi’s flamboyant and gossip-mongering gay classmate Jonah.

Jonah is pursued by Devi in the first season of Never Have I Ever, even though she knows he’s gay, but later becomes the confidante of one of Devi’s best friends, Fabiola, after she comes out as a lesbian.

Petrera told told Advocate: “My nephew just came out as trans a few months ago, so for him to see that there’s just not a token gay character in the series sends a very powerful message.

“He’s at the other end of the country, so sometimes it’s hard for us to stay in touch as much as we’d like.

“But having him see me and others on-screen gives him great insight and is allowing us to have much stronger conversations.”

Although Petrera’s character Jonah is fairly limited when it comes to storylines, the show’s most prominent queer character, Fabiola, explores many issues experienced by LGBT+ teens during the second season.

Struggling through her first same-sex relationship, introducing her new girlfriend to her family, and feeling totally out of place in queer spaces, Fabiola is representative of many teens discovering their sexual orientation or gender identity for the first time.

Petrera continued: “The show is a perfect catalyst for opening up dialogue and for exhibiting that you can create support systems for someone so that they can make the most out of their time on this planet.

“I think those are some of the most important messages of this remarkable series.”

The second season of Never Have I Ever has also introduced a new LGBT+ cast member – Transparent Alexandra Billings as college counsellor Jennifer Warner.

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, who plays the lead character of Devi, also praised the show’s queer representation, adding: “It’s awesome that the series shows multiple different characters who belong to the LGBT+ community because the community cannot be truly represented with just one character.”

“Since the show is all about diversity, it just makes sense that we have diverse LGBT+ characters, and that includes Dino’s great portrayal of Jonah.”

Related topics: mindy kaling, netflix

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