Why ‘Eternals’ Star Kumail Nanjiani Refused to Make His Character ‘Nerdy’

Kumail Nanjiani will make his long-awaited debut as Kingo in the upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe film, Eternals. The role is far different than anything the actor has done before. And noting how often Asians are typecast as nerds, Nanjiani said he made sure to make the superhero as cool as possible.

Kumail Nanjiani is a MCU superhero in ‘Eternals’

Kumail Nanjiani at Avengers headquarters
Kumail Nanjiani | Christian Thompson/Disneyland Resort via Getty Images

Based on Marvel Comics of the same name, Eternals brings a new race of superheroes into the MCU. The film follows a group of immortal cosmic beings called Eternals who have been laying low on Earth for several years. 

In the movie, Nanjiani plays Kingo, an Eternal with unbeatable sword skills. Enamored by fame, the superhero lives the life of a Bollywood celebrity. 

“He’s an Eternal, so he’s been here for thousands of years,” Nanjiani told the Los Angeles Times. “He has these superpowers, and he’s become a Bollywood movie star. All the Eternals have been in human society to different degrees, but he’s the one who really immersed himself and falls in love with the trappings of modernity.”

“And he loves being rich,” the actor added. “He loves being famous. He loves being an Eternal.”

Kumail Nanjiani wanted to make his character as cool as possible

Nanjiani is an Academy Award-nominated writer and Emmy-nominated actor who has been in several popular projects over the years. But when talking to the Los Angeles Times, he noted that his South Asian heritage often led to him being cast in certain roles. And pointing out how nerdy some of his past roles have been, the actor suggested he tried to make his Eternals character as cool as possible. 

“I’ve been in this industry for about a decade, and I looked at the usual opportunities that the brown dudes get,” Nanjiani said. “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.”

Nanjiani also talked about how South Asian and Arab men are often typecast as terrorists. So, while developing Kingo with Eternals director Chloé Zhao, he insisted the character be light and fun. 

“I wanted him to be the opposite of that,” Nanjiani explained. “I wanted him to be this character full of joy. In working with Chloé, 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 sees people from Pakistan or the Middle East.”

What is ‘Eternals’ release date?

Fans have been waiting to see Nanjiani and the rest of the star-studded cast of Eternals for quite some time. The film was initially set to premiere in November 2020. But the date was pushed back a year due to the pandemic.

Eternals will now hit theaters on Nov. 5, 2021. Marvel has yet to release any updates on when the movie will come to Disney+ and whether or not it will be available for digital purchase. 

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