If there’s one thing that sets the MCU and DCEU superhero universes apart, it’s that a sense of humor about the whole spandex-swaddled enterprise is a plus. Sure, the upcoming Eternals movie is going to have all the epic battle scenes and over-the-top world-saving audiences expect, but it’s also going to feature perennially charming stand-up comedian and actor Kumail Nanjiani shooting CGI fireballs from his finger-guns. “I shoot shit from my hands,” is how the smiling Nanjiani put it to Jimmy Kimmel concerning his Eternals character Kingo’s signature move in the upcoming inevitable blockbuster.
Sitting with co-star and fellow Marvel super-person Salma Hayek (aka Eternals’ leader Ajak) on Thursday’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, the now action figure-jacked actor told everyone that he was initially worried that Kingo’s cool-guy finger-gun fighting motion would look a little silly. But, as his character (an immortal being created by other immortal beings at the dawn of MCU time) has spent much of his recent, very long life becoming a Bollywood superstar, it’s only natural that Kingo’s belated turn to superheroics would involve a little showmanship. (Plus, Kumail does look pretty damned cool in the Eternals clip he and Hayek brought along, finger-zapping some giant lizard-monsters.)
Still, as Hayek noted, all the transformational Marvel workouts and CGI can’t truly hide who Kumail is. “But you’re a goofball! What happened to you?,” is how Hayek explained her occasional bafflement at the sight of the now appropriately godlike physique of the self-proclaimed Beta Male, Nanjiani. (Okay, Eternals aren’t technically gods in the Marvel mythos, but try telling that to Nanjiani’s abs.) As for Hayek, both she and Nanjiani were effusive in their appreciation that people like the two of them are bringing some seriously belated representation to the, let’s face it, historically white, male, all-youthful superhero genre.
“She does understand, though, the importance of being Latina, middle-aged... and still playing an action hero,” Hayek said of her decidedly not MCU-savvy mother. (Sure, Hayek’s made some missteps when it comes to representation in the past, but it’s still cool.) Nanjiani also spoke of the special resonance his casting has had in his family, noting that his father “can’t bring it up without crying.” Imitating his dad attempting to hold it together while calling from a movie theater lobby where Kumail’s visage stares out from The Eternals’ poster, Nanjiani himself got a little emotional at the thought of his family’s immigrant journey winding up the face of America’s current dominant entertainment artform. “It’s adorable,” confessed Nanjiani, and, if Hayek’s mother initially heard “Marvel movie” and thought it was about marble architecture, well, that’s pretty adorable, too.
With Kimmel whipping out the duo’s Eternals action figures for their perusal (and making the toys make out, because he’s perennially 15 years old), Hayek and Nanjiani gave some notes about that particular, plastic aspect of their representation. Hayek (whose Ajak has two interchangeable heads, for reasons), mocked her figurine self’s cab-forward facial posture, with the giggling Najiani conceding that, indeed, the toy has some serious “E.T. head.” The pair also shared stories of the times they themselves were star-struck in their earlier Hollywood days, with Hayek’s Stevie Wonder anecdote (he almost inadvertently grabbed her breasts during a handshake) barely trumping the time the younger Nanjiani couldn’t stop marveling at fellow moviegoer Keanu Reeves’ “adorable” butt. Is Keanu’s backside more adorable than Kumail’s father’s beaming pride at seeing his son play a big-screen superhero? Nobody can say, but Nanjiani and Hayek’s appearance shows the benefit of having to effusively adorable people in your tentpole superhero franchise.
The Eternals comes out on November 5.