Never Have I Ever’s Lee Rodriguez Celebrates Fab’s “Awkward,” “Explosive” Queer Journey

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Fabiola Torres (Lee Rodriguez) closed Never Have I Ever season 1 on a high note. She came out to her supportive mum Elise (Tembi Locke). She got the girl and started a relationship with hip classmate Eve (Christina Kartchner). And Fab did it all without alienating her loved ones like poor, tormented best friend Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan). With such a resoundingly settled ending — traditionally the kiss of narrative death for a YA series — Never season 2 easily could have forgotten about Fab and allowed her to quietly coast into her new chapter as an out, queer Afro-Latina nerd. 
That doesn’t happen. At all. 
“That's realistic. You're constantly growing and constantly figuring yourself out, figuring out how to be in a relationship, and how to fit in — especially as a teenager,” Fab’s portrayer Lee Rodriguez tells Refinery29 over Zoom ahead of season 2’s debut. “You don't just come out and it's like, ‘Okay, I know everything about myself. Life is great. The end.’ You start to have more questions.”
Fab is plagued by those mysteries as she settles into coupledom with Eve, a girl who can write a thesis on the nuances of queer touchstones like The L Word and singer King Princess in her sleep. Fab, on the other hand, believes King Princess is a play. Fab’s journey towards finding her place in the queer community is funny, emotional, and complicated — something lesser teen shows are sorely lacking, particularly for someone Black and Latinx, like Fab. 
“She is Afro-Latina. I love who I am. I love embracing who I am and standing up for Afro-Latinas … Viewers watching, hopefully, can see themselves in my character and also with Sasha, too,” Rodriguez, who is Black and Mexican-American, says. “Having another woman of colour to play off of is just so important.” 
While Sasha — played by Never Have I Ever newcomer Donielle Mikel Nash (daughter of co-star Niecy Nash) — is also a Black girl at Sherman Oaks, she and Fabiola pointedly have little in common. Fab wants to perfect her robotics skills and avoid pop culture (“She's so oblivious. It's just cute. It's just like, ‘Fabiola, you clueless, girl,’” Rodriguez quips); Sasha wants to hit up East L.A. bars and is unapologetically vexed by Fab’s techy obsessions. Rodriguez laughs when the possibility of Sasha harbouring a crush on Eve is raised, adding, “Wait, that's such a good conspiracy!”  
Whatever Sasha’s reasoning for being less than enthused by Fab’s quirks, she, Fab, and Eve spend the second half of Never Have I Ever season 2 campaigning to bring Sherman Oaks High into the modern age. Fab and Eve run for Cricket Court — Never’s take on homecoming royalty — which has only ever had heterosexual nominees and winners. The further into the race Fab gets, the more she loses herself to the expectation of who she “should” be as a popularity-chasing queer girl in suburban L.A. Fab stops going to robotics club meetings, starts adopting Eve’s style, and even forgets about her beloved robot, Gears Brosnan (the first being she ever came out to). 
“After coming out, she feels like she has to fit in this mould. She gets a little carried away and she forgets who she is,” Rodriguez says. “It's important to also stay true to who you are and it's okay to have different interests. That's you, do you. You don't have to switch that up for anyone.” 
In the finale, “... Been a Perfect Girl,” Fab finally learns that lesson for herself. She arrives at the winter dance in an Eve-approved look including Instagram-trendy makeup, a velvet suit, and a curly mohawk (Rodriguez admits she felt “weird” in the unfamiliar costuming, like her character). “Even with the queer girls, I feel like I’m constantly trying to fit in,” Fab cries. At the urging of her friends, Fab embraces her honest aesthetics. She accepts her historic Cricket Queen crown in a robotics club polo, escorted by Gears. During her dance with Eve, Fab unloads all of her anxieties, admitting ripped jeans make her feel “unsafe.” 
“She just lets it build and build and build and really avoids a lot up until she just explodes,” Rodriguez explains. “It was really fun playing those scenes, a lot of very awkward moments, a lot of very intense moments of avoidance.” 
Although Rodriguez says she too was “a lot more avoidant” at Fab’s tender age, she has grown past those self-imposed limitations. “If I have an issue, I really try to figure it out. It feels better, especially for your mental health,” she continues. That’s why Rodriguez “loved” creating Fab and Eve’s final “really sentimental, wholesome scene” together at the dance. Fab gets all of her feelings out, including her love for Eve, which is reciprocated. 
With Eve and Fab on the same page about the latter’s loves (family, friends, robots, and Eve), Never Have I Ever’s best engineer is free to return to her true passions. “I think she's going to continue to do robotics and probably never ditch robotics club again,” Rodriguez hypothesises for a prospective season 3. 
More robotics means more of Never Have I Ever’s best artificial intelligence. As Rodriguez gushes, “Gears! I love that guy.” 

More from TV

R29 Original Series