By Rob Picheta, CNN
Tennis legend John McEnroe, who earned plaudits for an unlikely turn as narrator of the popular Netflix teen drama “Never Have I Ever,” has credited his voice-over career to his famous 1981 outburst in which he screamed, “You cannot be serious” at an umpire.
McEnroe serves as the narrator of Mindy Kaling’s coming-of-age series, the second season of which was recently released onto the streaming platform.
Asked whether the role would ever have come about were it not for his famous on-court meltdown, the former world number one told CNN: “That’s a question that on the one hand we can’t answer (but) on the other hand… absolutely.”
“That’s why people think of me in the first place,” he added.
The seven-time Grand Slam singles winner — who was renowned for his mid-match antics — is still most widely recognized for the 1981 moment, which came during the first round at the 1981 Wimbledon Championships after McEnroe disagreed with a line call. Despite the outburst, he went on to win the tournament.
He told CNN that people shout the phrase at him almost every day.
“They say it to me before I have a chance to say it to them,” he said. “It’s sort of pathetic in a way, and exhilarating in a way, that people remember.”
McEnroe joined Twitter on Tuesday and told CNN he is looking for more opportunities to do voice work after the success of “Never Have I Ever.” On Thursday he launched a website in a partnership with Squarespace and Netflix, pitching for more voice-over opportunities. Since retiring from tennis McEnroe has become a well-known commentator and pundit of the sport.
In 2019, McEnroe also voiced a Sleep Story for the meditation app Calm.
“There were times over the course of the past decades where people would say, ‘I recognize your voice,'” he said of his career turn. “It’s always something I thought about doing, I just didn’t know whether it would ever end up happening.”
Kaling cast McEnroe, 62, after spontaneously telling him about the role at a red carpet event, and the unexpected career turn has proven popular with fans of the show.
McEnroe agreed, expecting the role to be a cameo. “I didn’t realize that I’d end up being the uncle, the alter-ego of this young Indian-American teenage girl,” he said.
Kaling’s semi-autobiographical show focuses on Devi, a teenager still reeling from the abrupt death of her father, as she navigates high school.
McEnroe did not attend the series’ set and recorded his voice-overs for the second series in a studio during the pandemic. But he said he felt like “a real part of the series,” adding: “I could definitely relate to that feeling that you don’t really fit in.”
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