Kumail Nanjiani Reflects on Viral Shirtless Photo: "It Really Got Out of Control"

Kumail Nanjiani on 'Kimmel' — Jan. 23, 2020 — Publicity — H 2020
ABC/Randy Holmes

Kumail Nanjiani is aware that he sparked a frenzy with that photo he posted on his social media. 

The Oscar-nominated screenwriter and star of Little America surprised the internet in December after he posted two shirtless pics on Instagram unveiling his buff new body. Nanjiani's images went viral. When making an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Thursday, Nanjiani addressed the viral photo and the hard work that went into achieving the talked-about physique.

"The biggest problem is once you get that, you don't stop exercising," Nanjiani explained of his fitness routine after Kimmel was quick to comment on how "ripped" the actor was now. "I wish it was like a video game where you hit save," he added. 

Nanjiani went on to explain that he took the photos before Christmas while shooting Marvel's The Eternals so he could have proof that his body looked the way it did. "Who knows what I'm going to look like after Christmas?" he recalled thinking at the time. "As soon as I saw the picture, I was like the world must see this," he quipped.

After the photo "exploded," Nanjiani calls the reception "super weird." "It was a weird couple of days ... It really got out of control," he said. 

Nervous of the reaction, Nanjiani admitted he called his family to get their input, only to be even more surprised. "My brother said, 'Dad already sent your naked pics to both family's Whatsapp groups.' And then it goes in newspapers in Pakistan. So I had all my aunts texting me pictures of myself, like 'so proud of you.' It's weird to have your aunts sending you naked pictures of yourself." 

Kimmel then showed the photos, giving special attention to the visible veins on Nanjiani's arms. "I think I messed up my veins by working out. Those aren't going anywhere. Where are those going? Shouldn't they be going to the heart?" the Little America star joked.

The actor also said that he found it comical to see side-by-side photographs of him spread on the internet, with shocked comments as to how he could have the body he did. 

"Was I like leaving a trail of slime behind me? I was normal-looking," Nanjiani said of his appearance pre-buff body. 

Though getting attention from the internet and his family, Nanjiani said one specific person surprised him the most. 

"Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson said, 'dense muscle is hard to achieve, my brother.' He thinks my muscle is dense," the actor said. "How he could see that? If the Rock says it, who knows better?"

Proud of his achievement, Nanjiani credits a strict workout routine and diet regimen. 

"You work out everyday and you sort of learn to enjoy it. The diet is the hardest thing. I haven't had pizza or a donut in over a year. I've had no refined sugar in a year, almost no carbs at all. You know what my snack has been? I get a bag of sugarsnap peas and I eat them. That's what I've been doing at night." 

To reward the actor for his hard work, Kimmel surprised Nanjiani with a selection of indulgent treats, including a box of pizza. 

"I'm literally going to cry right now. I'm not joking. I'm shaking. Pizza's really good," Nanjiani said. He then proceeded to continue the interview by eating the different treats.