In Elite Daily’s I Can Explain… series, we’re asking celebrities to revisit their most memorable photos and tell us what really went down behind the scenes. In this piece, we chat with Never Have I Ever star Jaren Lewison about his life philosophy and three of his favorite Instagrams.
There’s busy, and then there’s “young actor on a Netflix hit” busy. Take, for example, Never Have I Ever’s Jaren Lewison. In addition to playing Ben, the class nemesis-turned-love interest of main character Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), he’s also a full-time student at the University of Southern California, where he studies psychology. Oh, and he runs a baking show on Instagram — you know, as a hobby. With such a packed schedule, it would be easy to let the days fly by in a blur. But to Lewison, appreciating the here and now is key. His life motto, “remember the feeling,” captures this ethos perfectly.
“It’s been a motto on my dad’s side [of the family] for as long as I can remember. Basically, it means to remember to cherish each and every moment — whether you’re eating an ice cream you love, or filming the [Never Have I Ever] Season 2 finale and feeling an unbelievable amount of gratitude and joy,” Lewison tells Elite Daily. “Because sometimes we’re moving so quickly that we don’t stop and remember how lucky we are.”
It’s a lesson Lewison’s character will hopefully continue learning throughout Never Have I Ever Season 2, which hit Netflix on July 15. Although Ben and Devi started off as super competitive enemies, they eventually learned they had more in common than they thought and even shared a steamy makeout sesh after Ben helped Devi out of a family crisis in the Season 1 finale. But dreamy jock Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnet) is also into Devi, and this newfound love triangle is bound to create some major teen drama... and maybe even result in a new and improved Ben.
“I hope Ben continues breaking out of his shell and really showing people who he really is,” Lewison says. “It’s just awesome as an actor to be able to have people get so excited about your character’s journey.”
While Ben is still focused on winning at every aspect in life, Lewison’s Instagram reflects a guy who is enjoying the ride. Below, he shares the backstories behind some of his most meaningful pics.
Jaren’s Bake Shop
Elite Daily: What’s going on here?
Jaren Lewison: That’s at Universal [Studios], in our base camp. I am a huge baker. I baked some Oreo cookie brownie bars for some of the cast and crew, just because when I get bored, I bake.
And that apron right there says “Jaren’s Bake Shop.” That was actually given to me as a [Never Have I Ever Season 2] wrap gift by Maitreyi Ramakrishnan. On my Instagram story, I post videos of me baking for my fans so they can bake alongside me. And I was using a sweatshirt every time I baked. [Maitreyi] decided that I needed to look professional, so she gave me that.
ED: What’s your relationship with Maitreyi like in real life? Your characters’ enemies-to-lovers dynamic feels so authentic.
JL: What’s wild is that pretty much from the first time we met, we were so close. She’s one of my best friends in the world. Sometimes when Ben and Devi get after each other, those are our harder scenes, because we are so close in real life. Whenever Ben is saying some really mean things, or Devi does, you gotta keep a straight face. But it does help being so comfortable with each other [during] really difficult scenes, whether it’s them pushing each other’s buttons or having some really intimate moments. Like in the Season 1 finale, making out in the car. When you are so comfortable with someone and you know them so well, it really helps bring authenticity and honesty to those scenes.
ED: How has your relationship to baking changed over the past year, especially during quarantine?
JL: During quarantine, my baking skyrocketed. I think like a lot of people, I was looking for a positive vice and also wanted to learn some new skills. And then I realized that I enjoy it so much and I wanted to try to share that joy with some of my fans.
That’s how “Jaren’s Bake Shop” came to be. It’s a little series that I do on Instagram where I create funny little videos with music, and each of them are different. I post the recipes and we bake together. It’s just another way that I can connect with fans, friends, family, all through food.
Out With Never Have I Ever Co-Stars
ED: I recognize these people! What are you doing?
JL: That picture was taken on the last night of filming for Season 1 in 2019. We all decided to dress up as the Scooby-Doo gang [for Halloween Horror Nights], and you can see Darren and I tried really hard. [Laughs] The girls [Ramakrishnan, Lee Rodriguez, and Ramona Young] definitely upstaged us.
At the time, nobody had seen our show and nobody really knew about it. That was funny, because people actually asked to take pictures with us because we were dressed like the Scooby-Doo gang. They had no idea we were about to be on this really incredible show. We’ve been waiting to see if there are fans that have these pictures at home, but we still haven’t found any. So if they’re out there, I want to see some videos people took with us. That would be hilarious.
ED: How else did you all bond as a cast throughout filming?
JL: I love hanging out with the cast. We really are a family, and it sounds cheesy, cliché. These people are some of my best friends, because you go through a lot together. You really share some difficult emotions and long hours, and they do become your family.
And then through COVID, when we were shooting [Season 2] together, it was a higher stakes environment. We all got so much closer. They’re friends for life.
ED You call Maitreyi “David” and “Dave” in a bunch of your Instagram captions. Where did that nickname come from?
JL: She calls me Texas, because I’m originally from Dallas. Occasionally, if I get sleepy or tired, I tend to twang a little bit. I was trying to find a nickname for her, and nothing was really feeling right. Then we did a couple of scenes where I would call her David, and it just stuck. Anything of that variety just felt right, and now she will forever be known as David or Dave.
Game Day With Dad
ED: Tell me about this picture.
JL: That was parents’ weekend for [the University of Southern California], where I am a full-time student. I go to school and shoot at the same time, and I love school spirit; football is a staple of USC. As you can see in the photo, we’ve got great seats. And you can see by my huge smiling face [that my dad] is one of the most important people [to me].
ED: What’s your relationship with your dad like?
JL: I always tell people that if I am half the man that he is, I am set for life. He inspires me to be a great person, to treat people with kindness and respect, to work hard. All of my joyous energy, that comes from my dad. I’m really close to my mom and sister as well. But when you look at male role models, it’s great to have my dad to look up to.
ED: How do you balance being a student and also working on a popular show?
JL: I’ve always been a big learner. When I booked Never Have I Ever, I was committed to go to USC, my dream school. Everybody told me it was probably going to be impossible because of the demanding work hours that shooting takes as a series regular, but I’ve been able to balance it.
I’m actually a psychology major, because I felt like the first thing an actor has to do in order to create a character is to understand [that character’s] feelings, thoughts, and actions. For example, in Season 1, you really understand the reason behind [Ben’s] thoughts and actions, and the relationships he cultivates because of the absent parenting he’s endured. It really helps me bring authenticity to that character.
ED: Do you ever encounter fans at school?
JL: Unfortunately, because of COVID, we haven’t been back on campus; we’ve been online. But I have had some private Zoom messages. Or if I get thrown into a breakout room, people will say “You look a lot like this guy from this Netflix show.”
Every fan interaction that I’ve had literally ever has happened at random places at random times, [and they’ve] always been so positive. It just shows how diverse and incredible our show is that so many people of different backgrounds, different communities, different identities, and even globally can relate to our show and be so passionate about it.
Never Have I Ever Season 2 is on Netflix now.