Mid-2019, Kumail Nanjiani was filming the last episode of his hit HBO comedy, Silicon Valley. The show followed a group of nerdy app creators navigating the cutthroat world of big tech. Not much changed over the course of six seasons except, by the finale, Nanjiani’s character, the insecure coder Dinesh, had become an absolute unit—his biceps suddenly bulging out of polos.
The bulk-up wasn’t the producer’s idea, nor a studio directive for Eternals (in theaters Nov. 5), in which Nanjiani plays Kingo, a cocky, cosmic-powered warrior living undercover as a Bollywood star. The only green light Nanjiani needed to get in shape was from himself.
The transformation took place at Granite Gym in Beverly Hills, a dimly lit basement that Grant Roberts, the trainer behind Nanjiani’s incredible transformation, had quietly built into one of Hollywood’s most exclusive training facilities.
Even though Eternals is about a group of immortal beings with superhuman powers, Marvel was perfectly happy with Kingo being the more “normal looking” one, says Roberts. But for Nanjiani, who grew up obsessed with comic books, the gig was a massive opportunity to portray a South Asian superhero in a Marvel franchise. He wanted a physicality that could stack up to Superman or Thor.
Breaking the Mold—and Internet
Nanjiani endured punishing sessions five days a week in the year leading up to Eternals. “Instead of worrying about how to keep him lean throughout, we concentrated on adding mass before doing a proper cut.” On first analysis, Roberts says Nanjiani had solid biceps and a strong back, but, uh, some major room for improvement. “I don’t want to be insulting, but he probably had the softest core I had ever seen,” Roberts says, laughing. “I have no idea how he was even able to stand up straight!”
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