At 44, the comic and actor Kumail Nanjiani is best known for playing different versions of himself. His 2017 breakthrough in the Oscar-nominated romcom The Big Sick saw him act out his early romance with his wife, Emily Gordon, as she became seriously ill, while his wry, self-effacing routines made him a recognisable name on the US standup circuit through referencing his upbringing in Pakistan and reckoning with his identity as a Muslim American. Even his debut TV role as the coder Dinesh in six seasons of the comedy series Silicon Valley saw him draw on his early 20s experiences of working in IT.
On screen, Nanjiani is wise-cracking, nerdy and prone to fits of fast-talking awkwardness. He is Hugh Grant from Four Weddings and a Funeral – one of Nanjiani’s favourite films – repackaged with an American accent, a plaid shirt and a pair of jeans. In real life, though, he seems to be none of that. Speaking over a video call from his LA home, Nanjiani is chisel-jawed and self-assured, taking his time to respond with a considered seriousness. It all points to a recent change – on and off camera – resulting in a new role that takes him far from his own life and into the seedy world of 80s nightlife, playing the founder of the male stripping franchise the Chippendales.
Read the interview in the Guardian.
[This piece was published on 07/01/23]