Pop Culture

Never Have I Ever’s Ramona Young Was “Over the Moon” Recreating J.Lo’s Hustlers Monologue

Spoilers for Never Have I Ever season 3 ahead.

Eleanor Wong, one third of the central friend group in Netflix’s Never Have I Ever, has mastered the art of stealing focus. There are the outfits—platform crocs, strangely-shaped statement earrings, and all of the pattern mixing. The accents—this season, she’s preparing to play Keeley in the school’s production of Ted Lasso. And the quips—mentioning to Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) mid-pep-talk that she signs into her friend’s Instagram “when you forget to like my posts.”

According to Ramona Young, who has brought the theatrical character to life for three seasons, one of Eleanor’s best one-liners arrived via her own ad-lib. It’s when Eleanor is describing a drama-club-sponsored charity event: “We’re raising money to help climate refugees learn improv. Yes, and…the ocean’s dying.”

As Eleanor muscles her way toward a career in Hollywood, Never Have I Ever’s recently released third season is a showcase for Young’s broad comedic talents. In one episode, Eleanor appears as a “salty sea wench” for her first professional acting gig, a pirate-themed Captain Joe’s Blinds commercial. Another sees Eleanor reenact a Jennifer Lopez monologue from Hustlers (strip pole included!) to secure a talent agent. “Jennifer Lopez played a character named Ramona in Hustlers, and I’m Ramona playing Ramona from Hustlers,” Young explains with Eleanor-like excitement during a recent Zoom. “It was incredibly meta.”

To nail the two-minute-long scene, Young committed the way her ambitious character might. “Oh, I was thrilled. I was over the moon. I did so much research,” she says. “I went to pole dancing classes, I watched J.Lo’s behavior and physicality and the way she inflected her words. I tried to act like I was from the Bronx, and that take was not used. However, it was fun doing the research. That’s my favorite part.”

Playing Eleanor on the Mindy Kaling– and Lang Fisher–created coming-of-age series has also required the 24-year-old to reflect upon her own high school memories. “I feel like maybe inside my own brain, my high school life was more dramatic and cool,” she says. “But from an exterior perspective, it was probably more nerdy and silly…. Internally: Euphoria. Externally: Never Have I Ever.

She plays the artsy counterpart to Lee Rodriguez’s robotics-obsessed Fabiola, but in reality, Young says, Rodriguez attended drama school while Young was enrolled in a science-focused school. Young made that decision in part to appease her parents, who had a difficult time accepting their daughter’s decision to pursue acting. “I was always a creative, artistic person,” Young says, “but I was also very shy and hesitant about it. So I just continued doing what my parents really encouraged me to do.”

In time, she was able to carve her own path, booking recurring roles on shows including Santa Clarita Diet and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. “Eventually [I had] to find the courage and just tell my parents, ‘Hey, I want to be an actor,’ and face their reaction, which was so hard because I want my parents to be happy and proud of me,” Young says. “After many, many years, they are so happy for me. And that just warms my heart.”

Eleanor’s most heartwarming development in season three comes courtesy of her love story with a fellow student, the surprisingly sweet stoner Trent. “I’m a second away from bursting into either song or tears at every moment of the day,” Eleanor says of their unlikely attraction early in the season. “Shouldn’t I be with another artist, or at least another Sagittarius?”

But Young insists that the couple’s charm lies in their mismatched nature. “The best part about their relationship is you don’t expect it,” she says. “That’s the best kind of love, when you fall in love and you don’t see it coming. They’re so different from each other, but somehow when you put them together, there’s a lot of chemistry. It’s cute and it works and it’s funny to watch.”

Young as Eleanor and Norris as Trent in ‘Never Have I Ever’ season 3.COURTESY OF NETFLIX

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