The young stars of Netflix breakout comedy Never Have I Ever are seeking rich new deals for season three of the Netflix comedy from producers Universal Television.
Stars Maitreyi Ramakrishnan (Devi), Darren Barnet (Paxton), Jaren Lewison (Ben), Richa Moorjani (Kamala), Lee Rodriguez (Fabiola) and Ramona Young (Eleanor) are among those seeking pay increases ahead of season three of the comedy inspired by the adolescent years of exec producer Mindy Kaling.
The first table read of season three is scheduled for Monday afternoon. A source close to the production notes that many cast members are still expected to attend the virtual table read despite none having reached new deals as negotiations have been going back and forth for the past two weeks.
Sources say Ramakrishnan — a Toronto newcomer when she landed the lead role in July 2019 following an open casting call that drew 15,000 responses — is negotiating solo and seeking an increase that separates her from the rest of her co-stars and on-screen classmates. Ramakrishnan earned $21,000 per episode in season one — less than her young castmates who all came in with more experience. She was bumped to $26,250 per episode for season two and given a $100,000 bonus ahead of its return last summer.
Barnet and Lewison — the male leads who form a love triangle with Ramakrishnan’s Devi — were on the same salary tier for seasons one and two, earning $25,000 and $26,250 per episode, respectively. (Neither were given a bonus.)
Netflix, which does not release specific viewership data, boasted that Never Have I Ever season one was watched by more than 40 million member accounts worldwide (when using the streamer’s former 2 minutes as a view metric).
Poorna Jagannathan, who plays Devi’s mother, Nalini, is the highest paid member of the cast given her vast experience. She counts HBO’s The Night Of and Big Little Lies among her credits and created, produced and starred in the play Nirbhaya, which won an Amnesty International Award in 2013 and is considered one of the most impactful moments in India’s history of women’s empowerment.
Sources say Ramakrishnan is seeking salary in line with Jagannathan. Barnet, who is one of the three central stars of Netflix romcom Love Hard — currently No. 1 on the streamer — is seeing salary parity with Ramakrishnan — as he had in season two — and is also negotiating separately. Lewison, Moorjani, Rodriguez and Young — who are all negotiating together — were initially seeking $150,000 per episode of the series for season three.
Producers Universal Television — where Kaling used to be based before leaving for an overall deal with Warner Bros. TV — is leading the negotiations. Never Have I Ever was licensed to Netflix on a “cost-plus” deal, meaning Netflix will be required to pay additional costs to produce the series once a new deal with the cast is completed.
Sources say Universal TV is negotiating with Jagannathan and Ramakrishnan on the top tier and the rest of the cast — Barnet, Lewison, Moorjani, Rodriguez and Young — on a second tier, with offers to the latter five coming in Friday at $65,000 an episode.
Salary renegotiations have increasingly been taking place after season two for breakout streaming series as the shelf life for many originals rarely stretches to season four or beyond as the built-in increases for the creative teams soar ahead of season five.
The cast of Netflix’s On My Block, for example, went head to head with the streamer for pay increases ahead of season three. The previously unknown cast shot to stardom thanks to the breakout success of the young adult comedy. Central stars Sierra Capri, Jason Genao, Brett Gray and Diego Tinoco negotiated together in mid-2019 and, alongside Jessica Marie Garcia, received bumps from their $20,000 per episode pay from seasons one and to $65,000 for season three. (Season three’s episode order was reduced from 10 to eight episodes, meaning their salaries clocked in north of $80,000 per episode.) The deal included bumps from $65,000 per episode to $85,000 for seasons four and the fifth season that never was. Netflix wrapped the flagship series after season four and instead greenlit a spinoff, Freeridge, that will feature an entirely new cast.
The stars of Apple’s Emmy-winning comedy Ted Lasso also recently inked rich new deals for season three of the series. The cast of Netflix hit Stranger Things also cashed in ahead of season three with the young stars earning $250,000 per episode and breakout Millie Bobby Brown collecting north of that.
Never Have I Ever has a 95 percent and 88 percent rating among critics and audiences, respectively, on RottenTomatoes.com. The cast has become favorites on social media. Ramakrishnan has more than 3 million followers on Instagram and Twitter combined; Barnet has 2.3 million followers; Lewison has about a million; Moorjani clocks in with 800,000; Rodriguez counts about 700,000; and Young about 500,000, with all the totals jumping up when including TikTok tallies.
Reps for Netflix, Universal Television and the cast declined comment.
Never Have I Ever was renewed for season three in August, a month after its sophomore frame launched. Lang Fisher and Kaling co-created the series; 3 Arts’ Howard Klein and David Miner also exec produce. Showrunner Fisher, in an interview in July with THR podcast TV’s Top 5, said she has no endgame in sight for Never Have I Ever but noted that the Ben-Devi-Paxton love triangle would always be central to the comedy.
“I don’t know how long it will go. I’m happy to work on it as long as they’ll pay me. I love making it. I do think [Devi’s] got very different relationships with these two guys and you could see her going in either direction,” Fisher said. “So much of it depends on what the rest of the stories are that we want to tell. With teen shows, everyone is 45 and you have to graduate from high school. I do think the love triangle will be significant for the run of the show.” (Listen to Fisher’s full interview here.)