Kumail Nanjiani was determined for his character in Marvel’s The Eternals to be “full of joy”.
The Big Sick star recently sat down with The Los Angeles Times to talk about his character, Kingo, and how he collaborated with director Chloé Zhao to work against stereotypes about South Asian and Middle Eastern characters.
“I’ve been in this industry for about a decade and I looked at the usual opportunities that the brown dudes get,” the 43-year-old explained. “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.”
In preparation for the film, the actor made headlines in 2019 when he showcased a stunning physical transformation for the role, where he undertook an intense fitness regime.
“I wanted him to be this character full of joy,” Nanjiani continued. “In working with 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.”
He added that other parts for brown actors are usually “terrorists” and as a superhero, Kingo can counter that narrative. They also decided to make the cosmic-energy shooting hero into a Bollywood star.
“I was very lucky that Chloé was really on board with that,” the actor said of the decision. “Because when you have like 10 characters, you’re trying to set yourself apart from the other characters and find your own shadings. You’re not going to get a tonne of real estate. So you want it to come from a very specific place. I decided going in, I’m going to have fun during this process.”
– Cover Media