Exclusive: Kumail Nanjiani on getting in shape for Eternals
ComingSoon.net was able to snag some time with Kumail Nanjiani, who spoke to us about beefing up and preparing for his role in Marvel Studios’ Eternals as Kingo, a cosmic being living on Earth as a muscular Bollywood star. Check out what he said about the role below!
Coming to streaming this week on Netflix is the romantic comedy The Lovebirds, directed by Michael Showalter and starring Issa Rae and Nanjiani.
Directed by Chloé Zhao and written by Kaz and Ryan Firpo, Nanjiani joins an Eternals ensemble that includes Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Lauren Ridloff, Brian Tyree Henry, Kit Harington, Lia McHugh, Don Lee and Barry Keoghan. The film takes place after the events of Avengers: Endgame, in which the Eternals, who have hidden themselves for thousands of years, must re-unite to protect Earth from their enemies, the Deviants.
Back in December 2019, Nanjiani shared on his social media pages photos of his physical transformation for the role. He has stated briefly on other outlets that he gained nearly 30 pounds to play Kingo.
ComingSoon.net: Were you getting in shape for ‘The Eternals’ before or after you did ‘The Lovebirds’?
Kumail Nanjiani: Honestly, I heard that I was going to do ‘The Eternals’ right before I started shooting. So I started doing my regiment a couple weeks before ‘The Lovebirds,’ but then over the course of the movie, I tried to do it but you can only do it on Saturdays and Sundays. I would say from January through February while shooting this movie, I was trying to get warmed up into the real hardcore version of the exercise. But I was doing a very, very basic version of it during this movie.
CS: What goes into saying yes to the projects you take?
Nanjiani: Different things. Sometimes it’s the director you really want to work with, or the co-star you really want to work with. Sometimes you love the script, and sometimes you’re very lucky. All three of those things, but you want at least two of those things. And it’s very hard to know why certain things appeal and why certain things don’t. Sometimes I’ll be like, “Alright, I really like horror movies. I’d love to do a good horror movie,” but honestly, there aren’t that many great scripts out there. So if you see one that has potential and you’re like, “Okay, I think I could rewrite this or rework it enough to do it,” I’ll do it. But honestly, man, good question. I’m still trying to figure that out myself.
CS: When you were told about the ‘The Eternals’ and it’s a Marvel film, what did you first think? Did you feel you needed to read the comics first to get an understanding? Or was the role good enough to say, “Okay, I can get into playing this character?”
Nanjiani: I didn’t think about it at all before saying yes, just as you said. First of all, it’s Marvel and all their movies are great. Even the characters that you don’t know that well, those movies turn out absolutely fantastic so that was a big sell. Another one was Chloé Zhao. She’s an amazing filmmaker, and I love every movie she’s made, so that was easy. And this character I get to play, it is a combination of everything I like playing. Saying yes to ‘The Eternals’ was an absolute no brainer and I actually was obviously not as familiar with him as Spider-Man or Iron Man or anybody but I had read the comics. I didn’t know all these characters but I was aware a little bit.
CS: Did you have to get in shape for this role? Or could you have just done it as you were before the physical change?
Nanjiani: My wife thinks I could have just done it, but this is how I saw the character. This guy is a really great fighter and he’s a Bollywood movie star. If you look at Bollywood movie stars, those guys are jacked. I was like, if I wanted to play this role convincingly I need to get in shape. I felt like it needed to get in shape to really convey the role. When I was shooting ‘The Lovebirds’ I weighed 145 pounds. That guy at 145 pounds is not generally a guy who can kick a lot of butt. That’s why for ‘The Eternals,’ I wanted to change the way I look because I think the character looks different than me. I just want to show a different side of myself.
The Eternals is scheduled for release in the United States on February 12, 2021.
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)