Kumail Nanjiani rose to prominence due to his hilarious performance in HBO’s Silicon Valley where he played Dinesh, a software expert who embarks on the new American Dream of starting a billion-dollar tech company from a tiny garage. Nanjiani is set to break out of the stereotype of playing the nerdy guy by starring as a superhuman in the latest Marvel project Eternals.
In an interview, Nanjiani explained: “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.”
Adding, “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.”
Scheduled for a November release this year, Eternals will revolve around the eponymous fictional race of immortal aliens who have disguised themselves in plain sight on Earth. They are engaged in a larger battle against their ancient enemies who are called Deviants, the antithesis to their intentions of protecting innocent people.
“It’s just been such an incredible experience working with the team at Marvel,” director Chloé Zhao commented. “I want to be careful saying ‘my vision,’ even though I do want people to know they did support what I wanted to do. I want people to know that. But I also want to make sure they know that I got the support of this incredibly talented team, some of the most talented artists in the world. And it really is a village to make this film, but they did let me lead.”
Continuing, “Props to Marvel — from early on, they knew the way I wanted to make this film, how I wanted to shoot. It can’t be hundreds of people standing around. So they very much adapted how to run the set the way that I wanted to work. I’m still surrounded by 25 people. They just have armies, and each of them knew they needed to keep the army away.”