Kumail Nanjiani suggests that Hollywood is still limiting the kinds of roles that actors of color can play.
The Eternals, The Big Sick and Silicon Valley actor, who is promoting his recent Hulu limited series Welcome to Chippendales, says in a new interview that decision-makers are reluctant to cast non-white actors in villain roles.
“I think that Hollywood now — even though they’re trying to be more diverse — is still weird,” the actor told Esquire UK. The article notes Nanjiani believes that the problem is “good intentions can sometimes lead to misguided solutions: If the bad guy is a brown guy, what message is that sending?”
“And that’s just as limiting as anything else,” Nanjiani said. “I want to play more bad guys.” He pointed to actor Sebastian Stan who plays Marvel superhero Winter Solider as well as a cannibal in the 2022 movie Fresh. “He does these big Marvel movies, and then he’ll play a psychopath,” he says. “I was told that’s going to be hard because people don’t want to cast non-white people as bad guys.”
In Welcome to Chippendales, Nanjiani plays the iconic strip club’s Indian founder, Somen “Steve” Banerjee, as he goes from an up-and-coming businessman in the 1980s to a vilified accessory to murder in the early ’90s. Nanjiani added that he suspects such a role would have gone to a white actor if the project wasn’t based on a true story.
Previously, Nanjiani told THR about the role: “I’ve never gotten the opportunity to play a character like this, who has such a big arc and a descent into darkness. I’ve always [wanted to play] the bad guy — I don’t mean just guys who were kind of shitty; I mean a bad bad guy. The story itself was so exciting and unexpected. There are, like, 20 unbelievable things that happen in the course of our show, and that all happened in real life. And it had interesting stuff to say about the American Dream and how accessible it is to different kinds of people, and to see that through the lens of an immigrant. I’m an immigrant, and I had a certain idea of the American Dream before coming here. And now, obviously, that’s evolved. To be able to explore that through the eyes of someone who, in some ways, had a similar experience to me is rare.”
Welcome to Chippendales just finished premiering its eight episodes on Hulu.