Anyone peripherally acquainted with the My Little Pony franchise knows that the series focuses on girl power and individuality. Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, the Canadian star of Netflix's upcoming My Little Pony: Make Your Mark, evokes both with assurance and humor.
"As a kid, I would tell people, 'Hi, my name is My-tray,'" says Ramakrishnan. "I would Anglicize it myself." But now everyone's learning to pronounce it right: "My-tray-yee Ra-ma-krish-nin."
Transitioning to Hollywood in her teen years allowed Ramakrishnan a fresh opportunity to stand in her the power of her South Asian culture by embracing her name. "The first day I landed in Hollywood, I had someone ask me, 'How do you pronounce your name?'" says Ramakrishnan. "That was the first time in a long while somebody asked me that," says Ramakrishnan, "I had this moment where I almost said, 'My-tray.' But then I was like, 'wait, this is sort of a second shot.' It's a slight change, but it matters. It matters to me."
The 20-year-old actress now looks to gain a slew of younger fans with her role as Zipp Storm, the protagonist of Netflix's upcoming My Little Pony: Make Your Mark, which debuts on May 26th.
My Little Pony: Make Your Mark is the fifth generation series in Hasbro's legendary franchise. The new Netflix iteration of the series aims to expand on the rich lore of Equestria popularized by My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Aside from establishing the mythology that My Little Pony: Mark Your Mark draws from, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic also helped spark Ramakrishnan's love for entertainment and animation. "My Little Pony was my childhood," says Ramakrishnan. "Rainbow Dash was, like, my childhood hero."
Growing Up Maitreyi
When the script for My Little Pony: Mark Your Mark came across Ramakrishnan's desk, she jumped at the opportunity. "First of all, just knowing it was My Little Pony was already enough," says Ramakrishnan. "I was already on board." Even though working on My Little Pony: Make Your Mark can be viewed as the fulfillment of a dream, Ramakrishnan is no stranger to fulfilling childhood aspirations.
Before her desire to be an actress fully blossomed, Ramakrishnan had her eyes on animation. "I love animation to death. Long ago, I wanted to be an animator," says Ramakrishnan. After some self-evaluation, Ramakrishnan realized she was better suited to life in front of the camera. "I can not sit down for a long period of time and not move around," says Ramakrishnan. "I do not have the patience, hence why I didn't become an animator."
Patience wasn't required for Ramakrishnan to secure her first role in Netflix's Never Have I Ever. Standing as a testimony to her talent, Ramakrishnan captured the lead role of Devi Vishwakumar in the teen dramedy within a year of embarking on a career in showbiz.
Ramakrishnan realized her dream of working in animation in 2022. In addition to voicing Zipp Storm, Ramakrishnan also starred in Pixar's smash hit Turning Red as Priya Mangal. Ramakrishnan appreciates how fortunate she is. "I grew up on Pixar movies and My Little Pony," says Ramakrishnan, "that was my focus."
In the My Little Pony: Make Your Mark special, Ramakrishnan's character, Zipp Storm, is a reluctant pegasus princess that craves the spontaneity of ordinary life. "She's not, like, totally opposed to [being a princess]. She wants to do other things, too," says Ramakrishnan. "She can't go [and] run around being the detective she loves to be when she has royal duties."
In addition to Zipp Storm being a pegasus pony like her childhood favorite Rainbow Dash, Ramakrishnan also enjoys the prominence that the writers placed on Zipp's intelligence throughout the special. "Zipp has so much to her personality that makes her so strong," says Ramakrishnan. "She's ready to be a detective at any moment; she's super curious. So, yeah, she's like a little superhero."
Ramakrishnan believes that Zipp's attempt to balance regal and regular life will help a generation of little girls reevaluate the concept of being a princess. "What I love so much about Zipp," says Ramakrishnan, "is that she's making it her own. She's defining what princess means to her, and I think, yeah, that's really relatable."
One of the central themes in the My Little Pony franchise is friendship and sorority. In addition to weaving friendship into the show's DNA, Ramakrishnan says that Make Your Mark explores the theme through the core cast's chemistry. "The writers do such a great job of putting all the different ponies together," says Ramakrishnan. "I would say there's no [pairing of ponies] that are more close than the others. Pretty evenly, they all interact with each other."
For Ramakrishnan, the concept of friendship in My Little Pony extends well beyond the screen. Through a stroke of serendipity, the Canadian-born Ramakrishnan finds herself surrounded by her fellow citizens in the recording booth, as several cast members of My Little Pony: Make Your Mark call the Great White North home. "It's just nice because we're all this little Canadian family—of ponies," says Ramakrishnan. "When we get to record together, there's way more of a flow."
Regarding her castmates, Ramakrishnan has a solid rule of thumb. "I always like to say, every good cast has at least one Canadian on it," says Ramakrishnan. "And, by the looks of My Little Pony, we must be real good."
Even though she's grateful for the Canadian solidarity, Ramakrishnan hopes that the broader themes of sorority and representation that My Little Pony: Make Your Mark espouses can make little girls worldwide feel equally connected. "The show [tackles] these very real issues," says Ramakrishnan, "they do it in such a seamless way that anyone can understand."
Ramakrishnan attests that shows like My Little Pony: Make Your Mark might be the most effective way to teach younger viewers about representation and equality. "It's not using fancy colorful language that isn't accessible," says Ramakrishnan. "It's explaining these very complicated ideas that are very prevalent in our society today, but in such an accessible way, and that's awesome."
Following in the tradition of Friendship is Magic, My Little Pony: Make Your Mark treats its young audience with respect by crafting intricate storylines. "I feel like a lot of children's television can be very [focused on]one-off, spontaneous adventures [with] no cohesive plot," says Ramakrishnan. "But [My Little Pony: Make Your Mark] definitely has a very cool plot."
The attention to detail that the writers of My Little Pony: Make Your Mark give to the show's narrative isn't lost on the lifelong fan in Ramakrishnan. "I just love when children's TV actually have, like, and [overarching] plot on top of the spontaneous adventures and different settings."
Making her mark
Although thoughts teem behind her eyes, Ramakrishnan possesses an easy demeanor. In between her roles, she finds time to lay the smackdown on Super Smash Brothers, a game she's been playing since she was five years old: "I am a Kirby main. And I know a lot of people are like, 'oh, okay, you down b all the time.' That's really funny [because] I don't need to down b to destroy you."
Competitive fire aside, Ramakrishnan's energy was so calming that it felt like chatting with an old friend. Before I knew it, we were delving into the world of Equestria and our mutual appreciation of it. Even though I tried to pry a spoiler or two from Ramakrishnan, she remained tight-lipped about future events in My Little Pony: Make Your Mark. "I'm so good at not saying spoilers," says Ramakrishnan, "that's one thing I pride myself on. You will never get a spoiler out of me."
My Little Pony: Make Your Mark premieres on May 26th, exclusively on Netflix.