Kumail Nanjiani believes that it’s harder to be cast as a villain if you’re not white.
The Pakistani-American actor, who made his MCU debut as Kingo in 2021’s Eternals, did secure a nefarious role in the Hulu miniseries Welcome to Chippendales.
But according to him, he’s less likely to be cast as a villain than his white Marvel counterparts.
Why Marvel Star Believes Studios Prefer White Villains
In an interview with Esquire, Kumail Nanjiani explained why executives are uncomfortable casting non-white villains, saying, “I think that Hollywood now – even though they’re trying to be more diverse – is still weird.”
It seems that efforts for diversity and representation have led studios to steer clear of casting people of color in antagonistic roles, fearing how that may be perceived.
But according to Nanjiani, not casting non-white actors in villainous roles is “just as limiting as anything else. I want to play more bad guys.”
The actor went on to discuss how his fellow MCU star, Sebastian Stan, has easily been able to play both heroes and villains in his career.
In referencing The Falcon and Winter Soldier star’s recent serial killer role in Fresh, Nanjiani claimed:
“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 non-white people as bad guys.”
How Marvel Can Help Fix This Industry Issue
Kumail Nanjiani’s point is one that needs to be revisited and discussed on an industry-wide scale.
While studios appear to have good intentions, the efforts are leaving actors of color with the same problem they had before – limits due to skin color.
But the Eternals star isn’t the first Marvel actor to discuss both the progress and problems of studio diversity. Captain America: New World Order‘s Anthony Mackie shared his opinion in the past, encouraging the studio to “hire the best person for the job.”
Since both actors feel that some problems remain while others have emerged, this won’t be the last time audiences hear about this topic from an MCU star. However, it’s worth noting that Marvel Studios has cast non-white villains in the past and is continuing to do so in Phase 5.
In addition to Tony Leung’s Wenwu in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger in Black Panther, Jonathon Majors has been positioned as the MCU’s next big bad, Kang the Conqueror.
Given Marvel Studios’ influence with audiences and the box office, perhaps Majors as Kang will lead to broader casting at other studios and those “bad guy” roles for Nanjiani.