Kumail Nanjiani opens up about being the first Pakistani actor in the MCU

Updated 04 Jul, 2020 12:42pm

Images Staff

The comedian also spoke up about that one picture and why he hates it now.

Kumail Nanjiani joined the comedy actor round table with Ricky Gervais, Dan Levy, Kenan Thompson and Ramy Youssef and he didn't miss the opportunity to speak out about being the first Pakistani star to play a superhero in the MCU.

"It was very significant because it was something that I really, really wanted to do," shared the Big Sick star. "Now on top of that, there's this other pressure in that I'm the first."

"But that stuff is a little harder to negotiate because I can only represent myself. So, I do feel the pressure, but the only way to relieve it is just to have more people have these opportunities. I, one person, cannot represent a whole group of people because all of our experiences and backgrounds are completely different."

"That said, when I got that part, I was like, 'I want to look like someone who could take on the traditional Hollywood-looking superhero — someone who could take on Thor or Captain America.' To me, that was an important part of getting to play the superhero, and for me it was important because I was the first one.

He threw in the joke that "I'm ripped for Pakistan."

About how he went about his character he said, "I approached him really as the opposite of the opportunities that I had gotten and the opportunities that a lot of other brown men traditionally get in Hollywood. I feel like we're this group where we can be the model minority, so the smart nerds, or the exact opposite, terrorists, depending on what the project is. Those are the two ends of the spectrum that we occupy and very little in between."

"I've gotten to play a nerd, so I wanted this guy to be cool. I've played weaklings, so I wanted this guy to be strong. Brown men have had to play terrorists, so I wanted this guy to be full of joy. So, really, this character for me was defined by what I didn't want him to be."

Kumail did throw in the point that while he did portray the role of a nerd, it was one of the rare instances where it was unproblematic for a brown person to play such a character, considering Silicon Valley is a show about nerds. According to him, " If I was the only brown guy on the show and I was the only nerd, that would be one thing."

Nanjiani also spoke up about the photo that broke the internet... yes, we're talking about that photo.

"Listen, it got so much bigger than I thought it was going to get. If I had known it was going to be like that, I probably wouldn't have done it because, I'll tell you, I have come to hate that picture."

Kumail has gotten buff for the upcoming Marvel's Eternals which boasts a star-studded cast. Why does he hate that picture though?

"You get a weird body dysmorphia when the whole world is concentrating on how you look. And listen, I am very, very grateful and I put those pictures out for a reason, right? I did that because I wanted that reaction, obviously. But then when you get that reaction, it's a little weird."

"You're like, 'People are really judging little bits of your physical being.' And I know a lot of people have it a lot worse than me, but it makes you feel naked and I became shallow. I got obsessed with how I look and then all I would see are what I perceive as flaws."

For the actor, representation and diversity clearly matters as according to him, "Sometimes I feel like there are these two buckets: There's white people, and everyone else is 'people of color,' and there's this idea that there's a monolithic thought in there."