Dino Petrera can currently be seen starring as Jonah Sharpe on the fan-favorite Netflix series Never Have I Ever. The hit comedy series from Mindy Kaling also stars Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Jaren Lewison, Darren Barnet, and Poorna Jagannathan. Now streaming its second season, the new episodes of Never Have I Ever continue to feature hilarious narration from professional tennis player John McEnroe.
We spoke with Dino Petrera about what viewers can expect from season 2 of Never Have I Ever, Dino’s advocacy to spread awareness for the LGBTQIA+ and deaf communities, and the importance of a contribution to support social change.
Read on for our exclusive interview with Dino Petrera below:
Can you talk a little about what initially inspired you to pursue acting as a career?
Initially, my mom was determined to help me find a way to connect with other kids. She signed me up for some local plays and musicals without realizing that having the words scripted for me would be a perfect solution for some of the language/communication struggles that stemmed from my hearing loss. This sort of interpersonal connection eventually expanded into my passion for storytelling on a larger scale.
You will be returning as Jonah Sharpe on season 2 of the hit Netflix series Never Have I Ever. For those that may be unfamiliar, can you share a little about Jonah and what originally attracted you to the role?
Jonah is introduced as a closeted popular kid who is initially targeted by the main character, Devi, as an opportunity to elevate her social status. Her plan really backfires when he starts bonding with her closest friends, Eleanor and Fabiola, while he and Fabiola both navigate their way out of the closet. Playing him has kind of offered me a do-over since I didn’t personally feel comfortable coming out until after high school.
Would you say you and Jonah are alike at all?
I definitely think Jonah has a much greater sense of self-confidence than I regularly exhibit. I suppose that’s because I wouldn’t have exactly described myself as popular in high school. I do love that we both seem to be the therapist in our friend groups. Jonah oftentimes more reluctantly so.
You are an amazing advocate for both the LGBTQIA+ and deaf communities. Can you talk a little about why you need to spread awareness and advocate for social equality?
Authenticity is one of the most radical and effective ways to support social change. This is especially important to me as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community given how late in life I came out to my family. We all have a finite amount of time in this life and I can only hope that my efforts might inspire queer youth not to waste another second on suppressing their identity.
The same principles have even more recently come to apply to my identity within the deaf community as well. When I was allowed to keep my hearing aids in during a particularly visible shot on my first day of shooting for Never Have I Ever, I realized how much I had been trying to overcompensate for and disguise my hearing loss up to that point. In doing so, I had been denying representation to my own inner child who could have greatly benefited from the reassurance that this one trait about me would only limit me to the extent that I allowed it to.
I absolutely loved the first season of Never Have I Ever and thought the new episodes were fantastic as well. Jonah’s character has a hand in guiding some of the other characters like Devi and Fabiola. Would you say your personal experience as an advocate was something you could draw from for your episodes?
For sure. Earlier this year, my nephew came out to me as trans. While his coming out experience is and will be uniquely different from my own, I think as members of the queer community we have a common understanding of both the risk and reward that comes with living in our truth. One of the most beautiful things about this show is that it shows multiple perspectives of the LGBTQIA+ narrative and allows us to present the universal truth in how showing up for one another will only move the needle closer to reward and further away from risk.
What can you tease about what viewers can expect from season 2 of Never Have I Ever? What would you say to people thinking of tuning in?
Season 1 ended with our lead Devi finding herself in a rather intense love triangle. Season 2 turns up the intensity and spreads the love around.
More specifically, what’s ahead for your character Jonah? What would you say you’re most excited for them to see?
I’m most excited that we get to dive right into Jonah embracing who he is on a different level after coming out closer to the end of Season 1. He’s always been bold in both action and apparel, but he definitely pushes the envelope this season.
Thank you so much to Dino Petrera for taking the time to speak with us!
Tune in to Never Have I Ever now streaming on Netflix.