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Kumail Nanjiani Says The Reason He Packed On Muscle For Eternals Had Nothing To Do With The Marvel Movie

Kumail Nanjiani Marvel's Eternals trailer screenshot
(Image credit: Marvel)

Plenty of stars have seen their career prospects change after joining the MCU. The careers of the Chrises – Evans, Hemsworth and Pratt – are perfect examples of the cache a superhero outfit has in Hollywood. What also comes with the territory is getting shredded to save the world. That seemed to be the case for Eternals’ Kingo Kumail Nanjiani. He understood the assignment and immediately began transforming his body. But the Eternals star had another motive to get ripped other than joining the Marvel ensemble film.

Kumail Nanjiani grew up influenced by 1990s Hollywood action blockbusters and Bollywood films. So playing a being disguised as a Bollywood star in a Marvel film meant pressure to obtain a certain physique. But packing on muscle for Nanjiani was about more than looking good in Eternals. For the Eternals star, bulking up was more about his Hollywood future after the Marvel film hits theaters. As he had explained:

I wanted different types of opportunities. I wanted the industry to see me differently. With brown people, there are very specific roles that we used to get. Either we’re terrified or we’re causing terror. Those are the only two options we had. Either I’m fixing your computer, or I’m, like, planning something at the stock exchange.

GQ

In shifting Hollywood’s perception of him, Kumail Nanjiani took what someone would consider an extreme measure. In 2019, the Silicon Valley alum broke the internet by posting his now-infamous shirtless photos. It led to multiple reactions and interesting developments. Dinesh’s sculpted appearance on the HBO series’ final season didn’t help matters either. But Nanjiani revealed to GQ those photos were more of a signal to the entertainment industry rather than showing off his physique.

I shared [the pics] specifically to be like, Hey, I needed to change how people saw me so I could have the type of opportunities I was excited about. And those did happen!

Going against type in Hollywood is something every actor faces when it comes to diversifying their acting resume. Of course, that was no different for Kumail Nanjiani. Oftentimes Black, brown and Asian performers face certain barriers when it comes to the range of roles they’re offered. These barriers can limit the number of roles they are offered or audition for. This is where cultural and ethnic perceptions and stereotypes can lead to typecasting.

As Kumail Nanjiani pointed out, he was limited to either computer nerds or terrorist suspects. Of course, everyone loved him as Dinesh on Silicon Valley, but even that played into the stereotype. Instead of accepting his fate, The Big Sick star took matters into his hands. It seemed to have worked out so far.

While Kumail Nanjiani is starting to reap the fruits of his labor, not everyone was on board at first. Eternals director Chloe Zhao was taken aback when she first saw The Lovebirds star’s physical change on location. She had cast the actor for his ability to pull off Kingo. While she was upset at first, the Oscar winner revealed to GQ what was behind her reservations over Nanijani’s transformation.

I wanted to make sure he didn’t feel like he had to do it for me.

Thankfully, Kumail Nanjiani reassured Chloe Zhao his physical transformation had nothing to do with her or the film. As with any actor, Nanjiani wanted to change the trajectory of his career but on his terms. Hopefully the more roles the Stuber star gets, the more barriers he will break down for other South Asian actors in Hollywood. In the meantime, Marvel fans will have to wait until November 5 to see if the actor’s physical training paid off in Eternals.

Adreon Patterson

A boy from Greenwood, South Carolina. CinemaBlend Contributor. An animation enthusiast (anime, US and international films, television). Freelance writer, designer and artist. Lover of music (US and international).