Comedian/Movie Star and now model Kumail Nanjiani fronts Luxe Retail The Saks Man Fall 2021 Menswear Campaign
The comedian-turned-actor-turned-bonafide movie star is poised for us to welcome him in his next role: superhero.
Kumail Nanjiani is going to miss his mask. As the U.S. heads toward a return to some sense of normalcy, the actor-comedian-screenwriter can’t help but think even further ahead. “I like to think that 30 years from now we’ll come across these masks and be like, ‘Oh, my god. This was my favorite at a point where I had a favorite mask that would stop me from getting a deadly disease.’” That sweetly optimistic view undercut with an edge of darkness is signature Nanjiani humor. It earned him and his wife Emily V. Gordon a Best Screenplay Oscar nomination for their 2017 rom-com The Big Sick. Now he’s taking the next great leap in his career: global superhero. In November, Nanjiani will star in Marvel Studios’ Eternals. We caught up with Nanjiani as he’s looking forward to the movie’s release and the year ahead.
He’s Looking Back
AT WHAT HE MISSED MOST DURING THE PANDEMIC
It’s a nebulous thing, but the normalcy of not having to worry about something that is so completely out of your control. We all have different things we individually worry about: family issues, personal issues, personal health things. For all of us to worry about one thing at one time for an entire year—very glad that that’s sort of on the way out. Having a thing that the entire world is afraid of at the same time—man—an experience that is not recommended.
AND LOOKING FORWARD
It’s exciting to see Eternals finally come out. We shot the movie last year, and for a big movie like this it was a pretty quick turnaround. We wrapped in February; the movie was gonna come out in November of 2020. Obviously that didn’t happen. As time went on, the world got so small that you sort of think, Is this movie real? The idea of people going to theaters to see this big global movie feels very right to me. Superhero movies generally have been set in America. It seems fitting that after such a big global catastrophe that we have this big global superhero movie that hopefully leads to a less myopic version of the world. This movie certainly has a very global view of humanity.
BY CELEBRATING THE MOVIES HE GREW UP WITH
I could be quizzed on any Bollywood movie before 1998. I feel like the American sense of Bollywood is a little flattened, so for me, it was important to do a Bollywood dance sequence for Eternals. [Nanjiani’s character, Klingo, moonlights as a Bollywood star.] Chloe Zhao, the director, and I talked about it a lot: There needs to be a sense of joy in this scene. This is our tribute. We had this group of 51 amazing dancers and me. So there were 52 people dancing, and 51 of them were very good at it. We were all South Asian people, and I said before we shot the scene, ‘Listen, we know Bollywood better than anybody else here. This is our chance to show people how joyful it is, how fantastic it is.’ We used reference points from actual movies that I love like Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham….
˝Hopefully the movie leads to a less myopic version of the world. It has a very global view of humanity.˝Kumail Nanjiani
His Counting on His Partner
TO RETHINK HIS WARDROBE AFTER GAINING MUSCLE FOR HIS ROLE
I had to get bigger T-shirts, but I haven’t really been out in the world. I haven’t had a chance to see how differently I would dress. I was talking to my wife Emily about it. I was like, ‘I think we have to figure out how we’re going to dress now.’ I don’t know. I think there’ll be more layers. That’s good. That’s a starting point.
AND HELP HIM TAKE STYLE SWINGS
Our collaboration certainly extends to my wardrobe. Thank God. When we met 15 years ago, I really had zero sense of style. I had moved from Pakistan with a bunch of clothes I wore all the time until I met Em. She’s always trying to get me to take little swings. She’ll get me a dress shirt that’s a little bit brighter than what I’d usually wear. And I’m like, wow, I would not have thought that I would be wearing salmon. For a long time I didn’t think clothes were important at all, but you feel differently based on how you’re dressed. You can feel more confident when you’re taking a swing and feel like you’re nailing it.
ALL WHILE KEEPING WORK AND HOME SEPARATE
We have very specific rules. We can’t just bring up a work thing. I have to ask her permission. Same with her. So we really shift to different gears. This morning, we had breakfast together, and that was us hanging out. And then I was like, ‘Alright, do you want to work?’ She said yes. And then we shift into that other mode and we started writing together. The trick is trying to set those boundaries.
˝You can feel more confident when you’re taking a swing with your style and feel like you’re nailing it.˝Kumail Nanjiani
He’s Ready for What’s Next
WITH IMMIGRANT, A MINISERIES ABOUT THE FOUNDER OF CHIPPENDALES
[Immigrant series writer and producer] Robert Siegel approached us with this. It’s a crazy, real life story about the dark side of the American Dream. It really gets at a lot of stuff that I think American pop culture hasn’t gotten to when it comes to immigrants coming here to try and pursue this ideal that’s been promised them and realizing, Oh, the streets are not paved with gold. This is a lot harder than what it was advertised to be.
AND CHANGING WHAT STORIES GET TOLD
I feel like immigrant stories in American pop culture have been told in a very narrow way. Obviously, it’s a very political topic but no matter what side of that political situation you’re on, what we see generally in immigrant stories in America is very familiar. That’s why Emily and I also do the show Little America on Apple TV, an anthology show based on true stories of immigrants to America. All of those stories are completely different and hopefully very different from what you generally see. That’s what’s really exciting and challenging and scary about Immigrant. It’s an immigrant story that people might be a little bit nervous about, but it’s a true story.
Watch Kumail Nanjiani define the menswear lexicon in fall’s best looks: