The show follows Devi, a first-generation Indian American teenage girl navigating her sophomore year

By Ally Mauch
May 01, 2020 01:56 PM
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Sixty-one-year-old tennis legend John McEnroe may seem like an unlikely pick for narrating a teenage coming-of-age story, but Mindy Kaling has her reasons.

Kaling chose McEnroe to narrate — and make a brief cameo — in her new Netflix series Never Have I Ever, in part because of the athlete's famous temper.

"One thing that's common for a lot of Indian parents is a love of tennis. It's like an English Anglophile kind of thing," Kaling told USA Today. "When we decided that the character of Devi would have a temper, the McEnroe thing just kept coming back: you know, someone who's high-achieving but is undermined by their own temper."

She continued, "He has really high standards for himself and everyone around him. We kept talking about him and were like, 'Wait, should he be doing the narration?' Devi's dad loved tennis, and it timed out that he would have grown up watching McEnroe."

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan and John McEnroe in Never Have I Ever
Netflix

Never Have I Ever stars Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Devi, a first-generation Indian American teenage girl with a short fuse who has a way of getting herself into trouble.

Kaling, who serves as executive producer for the show, said she reached out to McEnroe about getting him to narrate Devi's adventures through young adulthood before she even had a script ready.

"I went over to his art gallery and it was him and his wife," Kaling said. "We just had coffee; I didn't even have a script at that point. I just said, 'This is the vision,' and they were into it. I think his kids watched The Office and knew me from that, and [told their parents], 'She has a good pedigree' or something. So I was happy about that."

Courtesy Netflix

In the 10th and final episode of Never Have I Ever, McEnroe transitions from his voiceover role to make a cameo, a decision Kaling said was made at the last minute.

"He was actually in Malibu with his wife and we were like, 'Hey, do you want to come do this?' And he was like, 'Yeah, no problem,'" Kaling recalled. "He just showed up in a wetsuit and it was awesome. We shot 15 minutes away from his house, so it was easy."

RELATED VIDEO: The 'Never Have I Ever' Cast Share Their Hopes for a Possible Season 2: 'Bring on the Drama!'

McEnroe, playing himself, runs into Devi, her mom and her cousin on the beach before they scatter her dad's ashes in the ocean. Devi shares that her dad, who loved tennis, is dead, to which the Grand Slam champion responds, "Yeah. A lot of my fans are now."

Prior to filming the scene with him, 18-year-old Ramakrishnan said she had no idea who McEnroe was.

"I definitely had to Google him up before that episode," Ramakrishnan said. "When I read the script for the first episode, me and a couple castmates had to figure out, 'Who is this narrator?' But it was really interesting to film with him. We casually talked to him. He seemed pretty chill."