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Marvel star Kumail Nanjiani claims Hollywood reluctant to cast 'brown people' as villains
January 11 2023, 08:00

"The Eternals" and "Silicon Valley" actor Kumail Nanjiani admitted that Hollywood is limiting the types of roles "brown" actors can play.

In an interview with "Esquire UK," the Marvel action star claimed that though it’s born of "good intentions," Hollywood’s commitment to diversity limits roles for people of color.

For instance, the actor noted that he hasn’t played as many villains in movies as he has wanted to because Hollywood is reluctant "to cast nonwhite people as bad guys."

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Nanjiani, who has been promoting his new Hulu limited series "Welcome to Chippendales," in which he plays someone who has a descent into darkness, exposed the barriers Hollywood still puts in place for minority actors who want to play those types of roles.

He stated, "I think that Hollywood now — even though they’re trying to be more diverse — is still weird."

He added that "good intentions can sometimes lead to misguided solutions: If the bad guy is a brown guy, what message is that sending?" 

Nanjiani claimed he noticed that such a standard puts limits on actors like himself who really want to play villains in movies, for example. He stated, "And that’s just as limiting as anything else. I want to play more bad guys."

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He pointed to fellow Marvel movie actor Sebastian Stan, who plays "The Winter Soldier" in the "Avengers" movies, saying, "He 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 nonwhite people as bad guys."

Though Nanjiani’s role in "Welcome to Chippendales" has him finally sinking his teeth into a somewhat unsavory character, he still claimed he suspects that the role would have gone to white actor if it weren’t based on the true story of a person of color going down a dark path.

In a previous interview with "The Hollywood Reporter" from December, Nanjiani expressed elation over the fact that he would finally have the opportunity to play a "bad guy." He stated, "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."

He also added that the series "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 … To be able to explore that through the eyes of someone who, in some ways, had a similar experience to me is rare."