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Kumail Nanjiani in The Big Sick

One of the perks of playing a superhero on screen is that you are probably going to get into the best physical shape of your life. We’ve seen countless actors transform for the benefit of playing a comic-book character on screen, and it often goes beyond just trying to recreate the finest representation of what fans are used to seeing on the pages of a book. Eternals star Kumail Nanjiani opened up about how being first, and setting a standard, meant a lot to him.

The Silicon Valley star is going to be the first Pakistani actor to play a leading Marvel Studios hero on screen in Eternals. And he made all sorts of headlines last year when photos of him in his Eternals bod surfaced. He looked amazing. But in a Hollywood Reporter interview, he explained that for him, it went beyond just looks, stating:

Yeah, I did it for all my people. I'm ripped for Pakistan. It was very significant because it was something that I really, really wanted to do. Now on top of that, there's this other pressure in that I'm the first. But that stuff is a little harder to negotiate, because I can only represent myself. So, I do feel the pressure, but the only way to relieve it is just to have more people have these opportunities. I, one person, cannot represent a whole group of people because all of our experiences and backgrounds are completely different. That said, when I got that part, I was like, ‘I want to look like someone who could take on the traditional Hollywood-looking superhero — someone who could take on Thor or Captain America.’ To me, that was an important part of getting to play the superhero, and for me it was important because I was the first one.

That aspect of playing a superhero can get overlooked. You are supposed to be playing a superior physical specimen who needs to go toe-to-toe with other powerful beings. The Eternals, also, are actual immortal alien race who have been created by the Celestials to protect our planet. They’ve been around for centuries, and have faced all manner of threats. They can’t look like scrawny pipsqueaks.

Now, not ever hero needs to back on the extra muscle weight, and bulk up to the levels of an Arnold Schwarzenegger or Dwayne Johnson. The Flash is fast, meaning Ezra Miller can stay normal sized. Robert Pattinson can skip a workout routine or two because Batman’s a man, not a god.

This mattered to Kumail Nanjiani, though, and he put in the work to look and feel different. Speaking of looks, I wish Eternals would give us one. The Marvel Studios marketing machine has been on pause for the time being as the film industry rests in limbo. By now, we were supposed to already have seen Black Widow. And attached to Black Widow, we assume we would have seen a teaser trailer for Eternals.

But that movie won’t drop until February 12, 2021 now, so the fan base waits. Know what you can do while waiting? Scan our MCU Portal Page, for all of the latest news from the Marvel Universe.