Kumail Nanjiani ensured his Eternals hero was opposite of brown dude stereotypes: 'We get to be nerdy'
As part of his preparation for the role in Eternals, Kumail Nanjiani went in for a complete physical tranformation, which the actor said was his way of going against the portrayal of nerdy brown guys in American films.
Actor Kumail Nanjiani says he wanted to change the way people from Pakistan and the Middle East are portrayed in the American pop culture by ensuring that his character of a superhero in Eternals was free of 'brown dude' stereotypes.
As part of his preparation for the role of Kingo, a superhero who lives on Earth as a popular Bollywood movie star, Kumail had a complete physical tranformation, which the actor said was his way of going against the portrayal of nerdy brown guys in American films.
“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," the actor told The Los Angeles Times.
"I wanted him to be this character full of joy. In working with Chloé (Zhao, the director), 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 43-year-old actor said he had decided to have fun playing the superhero in the highly-anticipated drama that has some of the biggest Hollywood stars in Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Gemma Chan, Lauren Ridloff, Brian Tyree Henry, Salma Hayek, Lia McHugh, Don Lee and Kit Harington.
“I was very lucky that Chloé was really on board with that. 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 ton 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.”
The movie is about the titular group who has been living on earth for the past 7,000 years. Created by cosmic beings called Celestials, the Eternals have been sent to Earth to safeguard the planet from their evil counterparts Deviants.