Why Kumail Nanjiani is 'uncomfortable' with talking about his transformed body

Actor has spoken up against the toxic masculinity that comes with appearing jacked.

Entertainment Desk October 09, 2021

Kumail Nanjiani says after getting bulked up for his role in the upcoming Marvel film The Eternals, other men have started reacting to him more aggressively. In an interview with GQ, the actor spoke about how his life has changed since December 2019, when he posted an image of his changed physique for the superhero film.

It was a decision he made on his own and one that has him feeling better than he ever has. Eternals director Chloé Zhao told the magazine that she felt Nanjiani already had the right personality mix to play his character, Kingo, and just “wanted to make sure he didn’t feel like he had to do it for me.”

So, while the change wasn’t driven by any directive from Zhao, the actor did admit the appearance of other Marvel heroes influenced how he physically prepared for the role. “If I’m playing the first South Asian superhero, I want to look like someone who can take on Thor or Captain America, or any of those people,” he said.

Nanjiani continued, “I’ve found out over the last year and a half, since I did that picture, that I am very uncomfortable talking about my body — and it’s become less and less and less comfortable.”

Part of that, Nanjiani said, is driven by the kind of toxically masculine messages that can come with having a body like 80s action stars Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. “It is aggression. It is anger. A lot of times, we are taught to be useful by using physical strength or our brain in an aggressive, competitive way. Not in an empathetic way. Not in an open, collaborative way,” he said. “It’s the same thing when you have all these guys, like, asking people to debate them on Twitter. That’s the same as arm wrestling. It’s about defeating. And that’s what the male ideal has been: Dominating. Defeating. Crushing. Killing. Destroying. That’s what being jacked is.”

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