Actor Kumail Nanjiani says he wanted to change the way people from India, 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 — Nanjiani had a complete physical transformation, 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 [because] nerdy goes ‘weakling’, and I wanted him to be physically strong. Or we get to be terrorists, and I wanted him to be the opposite of that,” the actor said in an interview, adding, “I wanted him to be this character full of joy. In working with Chloé [Zhao, director], we took every single thing that I haven’t gotten to do and made 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 actor, 43, 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, and Kit Harington. “I was lucky that Chloé was on board with that. Because when you have 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 specific place. I decided going in, I’m going to have fun during this process.”
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