The mystery surrounding who might replace narrator Chrissy Teigen in Season 2 of ‘Never Have I Ever’ was answered Thursday when 10 new episodes of the young-adult comedy about an Indian American teen premiered on Netflix. Episode 3, ‘Never have I ever ... opened a textbook,’ now features the voice of yet another supermodel-activist with name-brand recognition and millions of followers: Gigi Hadid.
Teigen’s narration was abruptly scrapped in June, one month after reality TV personality Courtney Stodden claimed to have been repeatedly cyberbullies by Teigen as a teen. (Teigen has apologised for her online behaviour, toward Stodden and in general.) “Chrissy Teigen has decided to step away from a guest voice-over role in one episode of the upcoming second season of Never Have I Ever,” a spokesperson for the series said at the time. “The role is expected to be recast.”
Advance screeners of the original episode with Teigen’s narration had already been released to select members of the media for review last month, including The Times, before it was yanked. (Hadid’s version of the episode was not screened in advance for press.)
So how different are the two versions? Not very.
Teigen and subsequently Hadid were tasked with narrating an episode focused on hottie Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnet), playing off one of the series’ trademarks: ‘Never Have I Ever,’ created by Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher, has tapped several unlikely celebrities to voice the sharp-witted high school dramedy, including notorious hothead John McEnroe, narrator for the series’ feisty protagonist, Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), and Andy Samberg, who stepped in for a Season 1 episode about Devi’s nerdy enemy-love interest Ben Gross (Jaren Lewison).
But Teigen and Hadid’s dialogue is almost exactly the same throughout — fitting, perhaps, given the decision to assign Paxton real-life models to narrate his life.
“You may be asking yourself, ‘Why is old Gig-ers taking time out of her busy skedge to narrate the story of a 16-year-old boy?” Hadid says to open the episode. “Believe it or not, I relate to this kid. We’re both constantly underestimated because people only see us as sex symbols. When scientists declare your face to be perfectly symmetrical, that’s all everyone thinks you have to offer the world. But we’ve got brains too, and feelings, and —” Cut to shot of the chiselled, shirtless Paxton dribbling water down his perfectly sculpted chest and abs as he drinks from a bottle in his parents’ kitchen. “Paxton, dude, put a shirt on! I’m trying to make a point here!” says Hadid.
Except for Teigen’s mention of her Asian ethnicity, another commonality between her and Paxton, the voice-over remains almost exactly the same. (The episode, written by Erica Oyama and directed by Kim Nguyen, partly focuses on Paxton’s new interest in his Japanese heritage, a storyline that continues in a later episode.) And ultimately, the narrator swap does not take away from the story of the episode, much less change Paxton’s arc.
The biggest different is tonal: Teigen’s voice was animated and playful, Hadid’s is cool and low-key. But even this transformation isn’t jarring within the context of the series — Teigen and Hadid both were, after all, playing themselves.