Kumail Nanjiani is clearly taking his role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe very seriously, looking at how the comedian got insanely ripped to play Kingo in Chloé Zhao’s Eternals. It was a shocking transformation for the Academy Award nominated writer, who was best known for playing mild-mannered regular dudes in film and television.
In the comic books, Kingo’s appearance is based on a samurai, but in the modern day he’s masquerading as an action star in Japan. Once Nanjiani was cast in Eternals, he and Zhao refitted the character as a Bollywood superstar who abandons his comfortable existence to assist his superpowered cohorts in their hour of need, and we’re even getting a full-blown musical number out of the bargain.
In a new interview, the Pakistani-born Nanjiani explained how he wanted to use his debut in the big budget superhero genre as a means to actively avoid the usual outdated depictions of South Asian and Middle Eastern natives that tend to be found in action-driven cinema.
“He’s an Eternal so he’s been here for thousands of years. He has these super powers and he’s become a Bollywood movie star. All the Eternals have been in human society to different degrees, but he’s the one who really immersed himself and falls in love with the trappings of modernity. And he loves being rich. He loves being famous. He loves being an Eternal. 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. 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 Chloé, 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.”
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Nanjiani has been steadily rising up the Hollywood ranks for a while now, with Eternals poised to take his career to the next level. Very few people would have bought into the idea of him as an action hero until he posted those viral shirtless pictures, but he’s now got the look that the industry favors in its leading men to go with his innate likeability, understated charisma and natural comic timing.