5 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘Never Have I Ever’ Actress & Choreographer Joya Kazi
If you’re like us, you’ve probably already binged Netflix’s new series Never Have I Ever. And if you’re really like us, you took note of that iconic dance scene during episode four (choreographed by Joya Kazi), and specifically the lead dancer, Preeti (played by Kazi herself).
PureWow recently sat down for a virtual interview with Kazi, who opened up about everything from working on the hit series to her life in quarantine. Keep reading for five facts about the L.A.-based Bollywood choreographer.
1. She didn’t have to audition for ‘Never Have I Ever’
Yup, for this project the production team actually reached out to her personally.
“I’ve been working out here in Los Angeles for about nine years,” Kazi said. “I’ve worked on a lot of music videos, TV shows, films and commercials. So, my work’s been out there and I guess production just happened to come across it. I woke up to an email one day asking if I would be interested in a project that was still to be named and was going to be released on Netflix. The only other details they could give me were that Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher were the writers of the show. So, immediately I wrote back and said that I would love to be a part of it.”
2. She wasn’t originally supposed to be on screen
As it turns out, Kazi’s official involvement was supposed to be “casting, choreography and wardrobe.”
“A little into the rehearsal process I ended up getting a call saying that Mindy and production really liked my headshot and they actually wanted me to be in the scene and play the main dancer, Preeti,” she said. “I was so thrilled. I’m more than happy to be doing the work behind the scenes but that’s kind of how I went from behind the camera to on camera.” And by “on camera” she means the star of the entire scene.
3. She got to work closely with Mindy Kaling
We’d imagine with both of their busy schedules it would be kind of hard for Kaling and Kazi to actually meet in person. However, they finally did on the day of the shoot.
“Leading up to it I was in contact with her production assistant and then on shoot day, we all got to actually meet and work together,” she said. “It was so amazing to work alongside someone I’ve been following for such a long time—one of the very few South Asian women to be on television—and to be a part of her work, it was so surreal.”
4. She’s Currently Teaching online classes in the wake of the pandemic
Even Hollywood is not immune to the effects of the coronavirus. Kazi revealed it’s been rough for her dance company including the dancers she employs.
“In the first five days of this, I literally saw my entire year's worth of work get cancelled or at best be postponed. I’ve definitely been lucky as a professional choreographer being able to be financially independent and have work but at the same time, it definitely impacts my dance company and the dancers that I have to pay. So having that conversation with them was difficult,” she said.
However, it’s not all bad. Kazi is still able to teach some classes from the comfort of her own home.
“I’ve been continuing to teach online classes,” she continued. “I’ve actually been teaching online for nine years and still it’s been extra even on those students because there’s a whole new, emotional side to it. So, I’m making sure that I’m servicing my students and clients emotionally as well and it’s been a whole new experience.”
5. She’s recently turned her ‘to do’ list into a ‘to be grateful’ list
Just like the rest of us, Kazi admits she spent about a week sulking in sweatpants and bingeing everything on Netflix.
“After I realized that things were really shutting down and I have no performances left, it was pretty much sweatpants and sweatshirts, which is huge because I do not wear sweatpants. I always go from pajamas straight into workout gear with full hair and makeup for work. I spent all hours of the day bingeing on Netflix and I did that for about a week, and after grieved enough, I decided to try and go back to how things were before,” Kazi said.
Rather than focusing on all the things she would have been doing if it weren’t for the current situation, Kazi now uses her list to write down positive thoughts and wants for the next day.
“The night before, I always make a to do list of what I have to do the next morning and you know, my to do list suddenly got very small. So, instead of doing that, I decided to write down a list of things that I am grateful for and what I hope for for the next day. I kind of took something that I used to do to be really productive and turned it into something a little more turned into myself. When I wake the next morning and look at that to do list, I’m already waking up with a sense of happiness and joy and less anxiety.”
Now that’s something we would totally try.