Benjamin Norris never considered becoming an actor until he began attending Temple University’s School of Theatre, Film and Media Arts in 2008, he said.
“I always had dreams of doing this and to be a part of something that means so much to so many, especially young people around the world, is just a really cool thing,” Norris said.
After years of studying writing and acting, he graduated from Temple 2012 and was cast last year as Trent Harrison in the Netflix series, “Never Have I Ever.”
“Never Have I Ever,” co-written by Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher, debuted April 27, 2020, on Netflix, with the second season released on July 15.
The show centers on Devi, an Indian-American teenager in high school, as she navigates her way through crushes and the loss of her father.
Norris appears in both seasons as Trent, the best friend of Devi’s crush, Paxton. Trent‘s character is laid back and serves as a source of comedic relief, a role that Norris has always wanted to play, he said.
“I’ve always wanted to do comedies,” Norris said. “I’ve also always wanted to do an outlandish character. I never really had the vision for myself of being a leading man.”
Although “Never Have I Ever” is a comedy-drama series, the presence of diversity and representation that many shows often lack, Norris said.
“Not only is it a huge show, but it also seems to be a very important show,” Norris said. “It’s very cool to be a part of something that has cultural significance, especially with the Indian-American culture and the Indian culture.”
By his junior year of college, Norris decided he wanted to pursue acting after attending a Theater, Film and Media Arts study away program in Los Angeles with 2012 film and media arts alumnus Adam Segal, who is now Norris’s manager, Norris said.
Norris began getting more involved in student film projects when he returned from the program for their fall semester in 2011, Segal said. Segal began meeting with him as a potential client post-graduation after seeing how talented he was at acting.
“He just lit up on camera,” Segal said. “It just was so clear to me that he was a special performer.”
Norris gained inspiration from his Temple peers and professors, like Keir Politz, former film professor at the TFMA who taught him Screenwriting II, he said.
Politz helped Norris strengthen his writing skills and better understand film, he said.
“He taught me how to tell a story,” Norris said. “He taught us not to be afraid of throwing wrenches in our stories and sending our hero on a journey we never considered.”
Norris was always eager to expand his horizons to become a more versatile actor, Politz said.
“He had that enthusiasm, which, to me, is a sign that this is somebody that is going to go out and whatever they pursue, and whatever their interests and, you know, the shape that it takes, he’s gonna find traction,” Politz said.
Norris credits his career to his friends and professors from Temple, as they helped shape him into the actor he is today, he said.
Landing this role was a dream, Norris said.
“I’ve always wanted to be that other guy in a show that people tend to gravitate towards, and I seem to have found that,” Norris said.