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John McEnroe is taking on his first recurring acting role.

Temper Tone: Why Netflix Needed McEnroe

In plot twist, former ATP World No. 1 plays the inner voice of a troubled 15-year-old girl

John McEnroe announced his arrival to tennis fans in 1977 as a brash 18-year-old whose temperamental outbursts made him the face of teen angst. Nearly 45 years later, he’s reprising that role for a new Netflix series.

The former No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings has a recurring voice-over role in Never Have I Ever and makes a cameo appearance in the season finale. The show is created by Mindy Kaling, best known for her role as Kelly Kapoor in the American version of The Office. McEnroe is the narrator for the inner voice and life of 15-year-old girl Devi Vishwakumar, played by Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, who struggles with the recent death of her father.

”I don’t know why it works,” McEnroe said to The New York Times. “At first, people are like, ‘What?’ I’m not the normal voice-over sound.”

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Although it might seem odd to have McEnroe narrating a teenage girl’s obsession with an attractive male swimmer, as he does in one episode, the tennis legend was specifically sought for the role. Kaling cited Vishwakumar’s temperamental moments throughout the series, such as shattering her bedroom window with a textbook, as areas that he would be suited to analyse.

"When we decided that the character of Devi would have a temper, the McEnroe thing just kept coming back,” Kaling told USA Today. “Someone who's high-achieving but is undermined by their own temper. 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." 

But the age gap between McEnroe and 18-year-old Ramakrishnan was evident in other ways. The actress admitted having to Google who McEnroe was before they began filming.

The entire first season of Never Have I Ever is currently available to stream on Netflix.

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