Kumail Nanjiani has built a strong career in Hollywood, but it's not difficult to say that the comedian and actor has played a lot of very similar roles. He generally is found in comedies playing meek and nerdy characters in everything from Silicon Valley to the comedy Stuber. His next big screen appearance will be in Eternals where he will play one member of a group of immortal super beings. It's about as far from where we normally see Nanjiani as possible, which was very much part of his decision to take the role.
In Eternals Kumail Nanjianji will play Kingo, who isn't just an immortal super being, he's an immortal super being who is also a Bollywood movie star. Kingo is cool, strong and rich. These are all qualities that we don't see in the characters usually played by the actor, and so he explains to People that he wanted his Eternals character to be all the things that he had never had a chance to play, and that actors like him rarely get the chance to play. Nanjiani explains...
I've been in this industry for about a decade and I looked at the usual opportunities that the brown dudes get. We get to be nerdy. I wanted him to be the opposite of that — I wanted him to be cool. With nerdy goes 'weakling,' and I wanted him to be the opposite of that and to be strong physically.
And Kumail Nanjiani certainly pulled off the "strong physically" part. Images were published that showed the actor looking quite sculpted as part of his workout to get into Eternals shape. A lot of people were blown away at just how good he looked.
Kumail Nanjiani has played the nerd a lot in his career, and the role has often endeared him to audiences. He's funny and usually plays nice characters that people like. Of course, that may be because the other sort of role that is available to him, and actors like him, is far less endearing. He continues...
Or we get to be terrorists, and I wanted him to be the opposite of that. I wanted him to be this character full of joy. In working with [director Chloé Zhao], we were like, let's take every single thing that I haven't gotten to do and make a character who's the exact opposite of the way a lot of American pop culture see people from Pakistan or the Middle East.
The trailers for Eternals have shown us images of what looks to be a full Bollywood-style dance number, so certainly there looks to be a lot of joy in the character of Kingo. It's maybe no surprise that he enjoys living on earth as much as he does. It will be something new for Kumail Nanjiani as a role, but perhaps it will lead to greater diversity of roles both for him, and other actors of colors. Eternals opens in November.