Turns out, not everybody at Marvel was happy about Kumail Nanjiani’s transformation either, with the actor telling GQ that his “Eternals” director had an unexpected reaction, “Chloé [Zhao] got a little upset at me for getting in shape.” For his part, Nanjiani conveyed the transformation was initially more about cultural pride than vanity, saying, “If I’m playing the first South Asian superhero, I want to look like someone who can take on Thor or Captain America, or any of those people.”
Still, he freely admits the change was at least partially inspired by the brutish physicality of the action icons he grew up admiring, “We saw these guys who were like Adonises and gods and we were like, ‘Oh, that’s what strong men look like. Not that they can access their feelings, or cry, or say when they’re sad, or say when they’re scared. They have a six-pack up to their necks.”
That very fact also has Najiani worried his new physique might inadvertently perpetuate certain tropes of toxic masculinity, “It is aggression. It is anger. A lot of times we are taught to be useful by using physical strength or our brain in an aggressive, competitive way.” Nanjiani continued, “It’s about defeating. And that’s what the male ideal has been. Dominating. Defeating. Crushing. Killing. Destroying. That’s what being jacked is.”
Worries aside, Nanjiani will undoubtedly undercut any toxicity with a performance full of the warmth, empathy, and signature snark we’ve come to expect of him. And yeah, he’ll likely kick a bit of ass too.