When Kumail Nanjiani shared the since-viral photos of his completely ripped body transformation, the Internet went crazy. Fans had been used to actors bulking up for Marvel roles, as Kumail did for his upcoming Eternals role. But after nerdy roles in The Big Sick and Silicon Valley the chiseled abs seemed surprising.
According to Kumail, the transformation wasn’t mandated for his role as a superhero in Eternals. It was something he’d wanted to do for a long time.
“If he was going to be the first South Asian superhero in a Marvel production,” Vulture described in an exclusive interview, “then he wanted to look like a guy who could stand in a lineup alongside Captain America and Thor and the rest of them.”
He told director Chloe Zhao that he had wanted to look like a body builder since he was a little kid, and that at the age of 43, a Marvel film was probably his last chance to achieve such a body. Working with trainers, nutritionists, and a cardiologist, his 16-month transformation drastically turned him into a Marvel superhero, but his insecurities never waned.
“The way I look has been way too important to me,” Kumail Najiani told Vulture, who described his latest ability to land massive roles in superhero films and Star Wars shows because of his ripped physique, “a perverse indictment of the industry.”
Sharing the photos back in December, Kumail wrote, “I never thought I’d be one of those people who would post a thirsty shirtless, but I’ve worked way too hard for way too long so here we are.”
“I’m glad I look like this,” he said at the time, “but I also understand why I never did before. It would have been impossible without these resources and time.”
Critics have argued that it’s hard to feel pity for someone who makes millions of dollars in Marvel movies. Many also felt a sense of “betrayal,” Kumail’s wife Emily V. Gordon surmised, since fans had latched onto his nerdy character from Silicon Valley and the couple’s video game podcast, The Indoor Kids.
Despite attaining bodybuilder status, Kumail never got the confidence he thought he would gain and reportedly started getting therapy after finding himself standing on the scale every morning.
“I know exactly what I weigh every day, and if I could change something, I would love to not have to think about that,” Kumail said. “It’s very easy to get obsessed with that number on the scale. It’s a tough thing. It’s deceiving.”
“You become obsessed with it,” he continued. “I certainly have, and for me, it’s not great to weigh myself every day. I could tell you what I weigh today.” After being asked, he responds “163.4” pounds.
Kumail Nanjiani has certainly received more criticism than others, which he attributed to long-standing racism and masculinity issues present in the industry.
His wife, Emily, shared that she always felt “bothered” that, as the sole brown-skinned character on Silicon Valley, he was “considered unattractive” as part of the show.
“I’ve been more keyed into this masculinity stuff,” Kumail said, admitted that he’s trying to put his experience on Silicon Valley behind him (especially after co-star T.J. Miller was accused of sexual assault).
“I started following a lot of bodybuilders on Instagram,” Kumail Najiani revealed. “I think about it more, and it has never seemed more pathetic. It’s really like, oh, all of our problems basically come from men not feeling their feelings.”
“This prison has never been tighter,” he said. “What you have to do is somehow figure out how to have self-worth from within yourself. I don’t know how to do that, but I’ll let you know once I find the key.”
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