Never Have I Ever is back, and so is the Netflix hit’s secret MVP, Richa Moorjani. As the PhD student Kamala, Richa battles sexism and her own inner doubts while guiding her teen cousin Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) through first loves and many (many…) pairs of great heels.
We called Richa in her native California to talk about her life on the NHIE set, her favorite hidden restaurant, and the healing power of cows.
Being part of Never Have I Ever seems like so much fun.It is even more fun than you think, I swear.
There are a lot of family dinner scenes in the show. What’s that like for you, as an actress who’s also vegan?It can get a bit crazy. When you’re filming a dinner scene on television, you actually do eat the food. So we eat a lot on Never Have I Ever! And I will say that they’re really wonderful and conscious about the fact that I'm vegan. A couple of the other actors are vegetarian or vegan, too. So when we shoot these huge dinner scenes, they always make sure everything on my plate is vegan. And that’s very important to me, because it cuts down on food waste too.
I love that Never Have I Ever is conscious of food waste!
We shoot the scene from multiple camera angles, so we have to start with a full plate of food for every new take for “continuity” purposes. But if it’s plant-based food, at least I know we’re not unnecessarily wasting meat. I try to always take home leftovers if they let me!
How about off-camera food?Honestly, that’s when it gets harder. For so long, Hollywood has been an extremely wasteful industry. It wasn’t built on sustainable practices. So now, trying to live and work consciously in this existing system takes a lot more work. Quite often, I have to bring my own food to set, because catering doesn’t always have enough vegan options. That’s unfortunate, because eating plant-based is a huge way to reduce our impact on the planet, which Hollywood urgently needs to work on. By asking for more sustainable options on set, I often see those changes implemented, which makes me feel good knowing my voice and actions do make some difference in this industry.
What else have you made more sustainable on-set?All my hair and makeup products are vegan, obviously, and a lot of them are also brands that are made with post-consumer recycled packaging and organic or sustainably farmed ingredients… I really like True Botanicals, Biossance, Ilia, Hourglass and others. For costumes, I don’t wear leather, wool or any animal “products” unless they are upcycled or vintage. And I turn all the lights and AC off when I'm not in my trailer (which most actors, I’ve noticed, don’t do)!
What about your hair? It’s so shiny!Thank you! I think the reason many of us South Asian women have thick and strong hair is because for generations we have practiced oiling our hair. It’s a cultural tradition that has now been adopted in the West as well. What I traditionally use is just regular fair-trade coconut oil from the supermarket. You don’t need the expensive fancy oils out there!
What’s your favorite vegan swap?
So normally, I don’t love fake meat. I prefer fresh and unprocessed foods. But there’s an exception! There’s this vegan sushi place in the valley here in LA called Ma-Kin that makes the best sushi rolls with vegan spicy tuna, vegan salmon etc., and it is amazing. When I first became vegan, I was scared that I’d miss having sushi, but now I never do!
When you’re not on set, how does nature play into your life?My mom told me that going for a walk or just being outside every day for at least 20 minutes can actually alter your consciousness.
Do you have a favorite animal?Besides my dog, Teddy, it’s cows. I think cows are so incredible, and they are so emotional and intelligent. They have real family units, and it’s so beautiful to see mama cows looking after their babies even well after they’re calves. The bonds they share are no different from the bonds humans share. It was after learning more about cows that I became inspired to give up dairy and become fully vegan.
At Wild Elements, our motto is “Let Good Grow Wild.” What does that mean to you?Well, you know, I think that when you do anything good, whether it's for yourself or for another person or for the planet, you inspire the people around you to also do good. I really believe that individual actions matter. I’ve seen it in my own life. When I talk about veganism or sustainability, I’ve had friends and family—even people online—message me and say, “I’m going vegan for the animals/planet because of what you shared.” So I think that when you do good, you inspire other people to do good, and they in turn will inspire other people to do good. Bad things happening around us in the world can feel overwhelming; believe me, I know. But individual actions do matter. They have a real ripple effect. And that’s letting good grow wild.
WATCH RICHA IN NEVER HAVE I EVER ON NETFLIX NOW.