Kumail Nanjiani, best known for his roles in Eternals, Silicon Valley and some pretend Jedi dude in the awful Obi-Wan Kenobi series, recently discussed how filmmakers don’t want non-white people as bad guys.

Currently promoting his new series Welcome to Chippendales, Kumail said in a recent interview with Esquire that filmmakers are hesitant to cast non-white actors in villainous roles.

Nanjiani Eternals
Kumail Nanjiani as Kingo in Eternals.

“I think that Hollywood now, even though they’re trying to be more diverse, is still weird.”

He believes that the problem is that studios are in fear of portraying a race in a negative light (except white people obviously):

“Good intentions can sometimes lead to misguided solutions: If the bad guy is a brown guy, what message is that sending?”

Nanjiani Obi-Wan
Kumail in Obi-Wan as a pretend Jedi grifter turned good guy.

Kumail is not saying this is a positive thing. In fact, he finds it restricting which roles are open to him. Nanjiani recently watched Fresh, in which Sebastian Stan plays a charming, organ-harvesting cannibal. He continues:

“I want to play more bad guys. Sebastian Stan does these big Marvel movies, and then he’ll play a psychopath. I was told that’s going to be hard because people don’t want to cast non-white people as bad guys.”

Welcome to Chippendales

Welcome to Chippendales is by the creator of Pam & Tommy and tells the tale of Steve Banerjee, an Indian immigrant seeking the American dream. In this true crime series, laced with murder and sex, he builds the largest and first male strip joint, Chippendales.

Nanjiani does indeed plays the bad guy. He 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.

The Story – Spoilers

Warning, if you are going to watch the show then skip this bit. If not and you just want to know what happened, fill your boots.

Indian immigrant Somen “Steve” Banerjee, the company’s founder, purchased a struggling Los Angeles bar in 1975 and in 1979 introduced exotic dance nights aimed at the female audience. He renamed the bar Chippendales, and soon the club’s popularity grew to the point that Banerjee opened several more clubs across the country. He also had a touring production that travelled across the US and Europe, delighting female audiences everywhere. 

Kumail Nanjiani as Steve
Kumail as Steve Banerjee.

The company’s success was rooted in scandal, as Banerjee used arson as a tool to stop the growth of other clubs trying to use his formula for themselves. In 1987, Banerjee hired a hitman to kill his business partner. 

He was arrested in 1993 and eventually sentenced to 26 years in prison for a variety of charges that included attempted murder and arson. He hanged himself in his prison cell a year after his sentencing. 

Steve Banerjee
The real Steve Banerjee

The American Dream

Nanjiani had previously spoken to THR about the role: 

“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.”

I’m beginning to like this Kumail dude, he seems like a rarity in Hollywood. Someone who is not only prepared to discuss Hollywood’s insane wokeness and casting, but his appreciation of the life he has thanks to the American Dream. Good for him.

Kumail Nanjiani is living the American Dream

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