Kumail Nanjiani Wanted His 'Eternals' Character to Be 'Opposite' of What 'Brown Dudes' Get Cast As

"I've been in this industry for about a decade and I looked at the usual opportunities that the brown dudes get," Nanjiani told the Los Angeles Times

Kumail Nanjiani Says He Wanted His Eternals Character Disrupt Middle Eastern Stereotypes
Photo: Marvel Studios

Kumail Nanjiani has been acting long enough to know what kind of roles are typically offered to Middle Eastern actors in Hollywood. When Marvel's Eternals came along, he knew it was an exciting chance to break down cultural stereotypes.

The Pakistani-American actor, 43, stars in the upcoming Marvel movie as Kingo, an Eternal who's "been here thousands of years" and has embedded himself into human society, the actor told the Los Angeles Times in a new interview.

"He has these super powers and he's become a Bollywood movie star," Nanjiani revealed. "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. He loves being famous. He loves being an Eternal."

This rich characterization presented the former Silicon Valley star with a new opportunity.

"I've been in this industry for about a decade and I looked at the usual opportunities that the brown dudes get," Nanjiani explained. "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."

"Or we get to be terrorists, and I wanted him to be the opposite of that," he continued. "I wanted him to be this character full of joy. In working with [director Chloé Zhao], 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 see people from Pakistan or the Middle East."

The Eternals
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty

Nanjiani went on to praise Zhao, who recently won the Best Director Oscar for Nomadland, and her willingness to let him make his character stand out in his own way.

"I was very lucky that Chloé was really on board with that. Because when you have like 10 characters, you're trying to set yourself apart from the other characters and find your own shadings," he said. "You're not going to get a ton of real estate. So you want it to come from a very specific place. I decided going in, I'm going to have fun during this process."

The final trailer for Eternals was released earlier this month, explaining just who the all-powerful Eternals are and where they've been as the Marvel Cinematic Universe raged on.

In a voiceover in the trailer, Gemma Chang's Sersi explains how the Eternals first came to Earth 7,000 years ago to protect humans from the deviants, huge animal-like ravaging creatures.

salma hayek
Eternals. marvel entertainment/ youtube

"Why didn't you guys help fight Thanos, or any war, all the other terrible things throughout history?" asks Kit Harington's Dane Whitman, a human.

"We were instructed not to interfere in any human things unless deviants were involved," Sersi replies.

The rest of the cast includes Salma Hayek, Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Barry Keoghan, Brian Tyree Henry, Ma Dong-seok, Lauren Ridloff and Lia McHugh.

Eternals arrives in theaters November 5.

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