Kumail Nanjiani's Trainer on the Actor's Transformation: "He Drank the Kool-Aid and Was All In"

Grant Roberts of Granite Gym talks to The Hollywood Reporter about the actor's big and buff reveal, opening up on what went into prepping Nanjiani for 'The Eternals.'
Jesse Grant/Getty Images for THR
Kumail Nanjiani

Attention Hollywood: There’s a new beefcake in town.

Kumail Nanjiani surprised the internet on Monday (and was rewarded by going viral) after he posted two shirtless pics on Instagram unveiling his uber-buff new body. The Oscar-nominated screenwriter and star of The Big Sick and Silicon Valley detailed how, after being cast in Marvel’s The Eternals alongside Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek, he went to work with a team of trainers to transform for the superhero film directed by Chloé Zhao.

“I would not have been able to do this if I didn’t have a full year with the best trainers and nutritionists paid for by the biggest studio [Walt Disney Co.] in the world,” Nanjiani shared with his 500,000-plus followers. “I’m glad I look like this, but I also understand why I never did before. It would have been impossible without these resources and time.”

One crucial member of that team was personal trainer to the stars Grant Roberts, someone Nanjiani wrote “made me understand true physical pain for months and months.” The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Roberts on Monday afternoon after the surprise reveal.

“Kumail walked through my doors in January, and he was pretty green to the idea of training. He had a concept in his mind, but we introduced him to something more dramatic and even traumatic,” said Roberts, who added that he takes clients on a full 360-degree plan at his Beverly Hills-based Granite Gym that includes exercise, nutrition, recovery and electric stimulation therapy. “There’s no one dimension to success. You’re constantly shocking the system, and that’s how growth and change occurs. The time in the gym is very intense, even if you’re training an hour or an hour and 15 minutes per day. The rest of the time outside the gym is just as important.”

Roberts said Nanjiani trained, on average, four to five days per week, including some two-a-days. “We had a significant time period, close to a year,” Roberts noted of their plan to get Nanjiani into shape before the actor set off to London for filming. “We sent him away in peak physical condition, but he’s had to maintain that. I give him kudos for being able to do that, especially when he was working.”

Nanjiani credited celebrity trainer and nutritionist David Higgins, celebrity personal trainer Ellis Patridge, trainer and nutritionist Gavin Eivers, trainer Tom Cheeseman, trainer Lance Callahan and wife Emily V. Gordon for helping him on his journey. Roberts, whose client list also includes Eva Longoria, Hilary Swank, America Ferrera, Scott Eastwood and Zachary Levi (whom he helped with the actor's own stunning transformation for Shazam!), called Nanjiani “fantastic” to work with.

“I’m so impressed by him," said the trainer. "I can only do so much. He’s the one who has to push through, and it’s definitely painful and there are sacrifices. Kumail drank the Kool-Aid and was all in. I'm very proud of him.”

As for Roberts, he knows what it takes to step in front of cameras. He moonlights as an actor, having appeared in a handful of films for client Clint Eastwood, including Million Dollar Baby, Invictus, Sully, The Mule and, most recently, Richard Jewell (playing the officer Will Jones). “I’m so disappointed,” Roberts said of the poor box office debut of the latter pic. “It’s a really great movie. I think it just went out at the wrong time of year.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

I never thought I’d be one of those people who would post a thirsty shirtless, but I’ve worked way too hard for way too long so here we are. You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain. I found out a year ago I was going to be in Marvel’s Eternals and decided I wanted to transform how I looked. I would not have been able to do this if I didn’t have a full year with the best trainers and nutritionists paid for by the biggest studio in the world. I’m glad I look like this, but I also understand why I never did before. It would have been impossible without these resources and time. So big thanks to @grantrobertsfit who started working with me at the beginning of the year and made me understand true physical pain for months and months. Then, once we started shooting, a massive thanks to @davidhigginslondon and his team (@ellispartridge, @thebeardypt, @tomcheesemanfitness) for training me almost every day and making me strong, limber and injury free. I can almost touch my toes now. (And thank you for forcing me to do cheat meals David.) Matthews Street Catering for their delicious and healthy meals. And finally, the biggest thanks goes to @emilyvgordon for putting up with me complaining and talking about only working out and dieting for the last year. I promise I’ll be interesting again some day. #thirstyshirtless (Photo by @markupson.) (edit: I left off one very important person: @lancecallahan who trained me for 6 years and helped me build the foundation I could use to do this. Thank you!)

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My character description is a beastly gunman who fights samurais at this incredibly cool post apocalyptic movie set in Japan :)

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A version of this story first appeared in the Dec. 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.