In Netflix’s “Never Have I Ever,” Darren Barnet stars as Paxton Hall-Yoshida, the popular swimmer who Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) propositions in an effort to boost her reputation in high school. The teen heartthrob character was originally named “Paxton Hall” until creators Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher learned of Barnet’s own Japanese heritage and decided to incorporate his mixed background into the role, hence “Yoshida.”
The 29-year-old tells Variety why he was initially nervous about incorporating his multiethnic background, how his high school experience had little in common with Paxton’s, and why he is also Team Devi.
I’m in L.A., day fifty-something of being totally alone. So, it’s been quite the inner journey, having me, myself and I. I try to stick to a routine as much as possible but certain days, sleeping in until 1 in the afternoon. Doing publicity is one of the only things keeping me with a schedule. It’s nice to just have some things to do every day and get me up. I’m trying to work out and be ready at any point to take my shirt off ‘cause people keep asking me that [laughs]. I wouldn’t say I’m in as great of shape as I was on-camera but, thankfully, if I have to get ready for something, it’s a pretty quick process for me to get it back.
I did not expect it. I did not expect my character to be such a focal point. So, that’s been some pressure, but I’m blown away because a lot of people are saying, “You went past being a heartthrob, and you did things with the character that I think only you could do.” And that was making him human, making him likable. I’m honored that they feel I accomplished that.
It has been the number one thing I’ve seen on breakdowns for auditions since I started this career. It got to the point where I got so close and so close and so close and just kept being denied denied denied, I was like, “I guess I’m just not hitting the mark on this one.”
So, getting this one was cool. Mindy [Kaling] and all of them, I’m sure they saw people better looking than me, in better shape than me, all that, but they took us all aside, saying, “We chose you for this role because of you and what you bring as a person.” That was an honor to know because they wanted Paxton to be more than just abs.
Love it, yeah.
Darren Barnet’s first day on the set of Never Have I Ever as Paxton Hall-Yoshida started off with a splash. Well, sort of. They were filming the scene that introduces him in the new Netflix series as the hottest guy at Sherman Oaks High School, where he climbs out of the gym pool wearing Nike jammers and shakes his wet hair, water dripping off his abs and Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own” blasting in the background.
“[Director] Tristram [Shapeero] was like, all right, ‘Let’s get your hair a little bit wet, rub your hands through your hair, really flex your chest when you get out of the pool, really milk the moment.’ It was kind of hysterical,” Darren tells Teen Vogue. “The set was a very creative space. I have zero complaints, the cast got along so well, every director that we worked with was absolutely incredible. Mindy [Kaling] was so great, open to input from the cast, always telling us if it doesn’t feel right, let me know, we’ll try something else.”
It’s quite the debut, solidifying Paxton as the target of protagonist Devi Vishwakumar‘s thirst. Then it goes from simple thirst to the real shebang when Devi approaches Paxton at the end of the first episode, asking if he’d ever consider having sex with her. The jock obliges, however, Devi’s plan doesn’t go as planned. We end up getting to know Paxton a bit more – beyond peeling off his shirt, Never Have I Ever also peels away his aloof exterior. The actor connected to Paxton in that regard, unable to count the number of times people who thought he was unapproachable before getting to know him during high school.
Entertainment Tonight chatted with ‘Never Have I Ever’ star Darren Barnet about his new found fame and his hopes for Season 2. ‘Never Have I Ever’ is now streaming on Netflix. Make sure to check the interview above!
Darren Barnet knows he’s the designated hottie as Paxton Hall-Yoshida on “Never Have I Ever” — and he’s fine with that.
On the Netflix hit — which follows a first-generation Indian-American teenage girl and was inspired by co-creator Mindy Kaling’s own childhood — Barnet plays a popular swimmer the lead pines over and eventually befriends, albeit with a lot of complications along the way.
“I took the role knowing that they wanted Paxton to be more than that, so I don’t mind that that’s what catches the eye about him,” he told Page Six. “Shamelessly, he’s kind of a thirst trap, but I love that they humanize him and they let me humanize him and you see that there is a lot more to him than that. I just love that they gave me room to play and dig deeper than his abs.”
Barnet said his Instagram following has shot up from around 34,000 to over 600,000 in the short time the show has been out. Not surprisingly, there have been quite a few DMs and some of them are … kinda creepy.
“Every time I refresh them there’s probably like a 100 or 200 more,” he told us. “The ones that are sweet and just admiring the show I try to reply to and tell them thank you from the bottom of my heart. The ones that are asking me to take my shirt off, I usually don’t open. But yeah it’s been a lot.”
And the creepiest?
“I think one of them sending me pictures of my sisters and being like, ‘I wish I was your sister,’” remembered Barnet.
The Los Angeles native is quite a bit older than his 17-year-old character — he’s actually 29 — something he’s initially reticent to discuss, explaining that he wants “a very long career.”
“I’ve looked younger my whole life and it used to really upset me as a kid because I thought it made me less manly but now it’s really started to be a blessing.”
As for a possible Season 2, no news has been announced from Netflix yet but Barnet is hopeful that it will happen.