“OK,” says BUST photographer Ramona Rosales to actor/comedian Kumail Nanjiani halfway through their shoot at a bar near his home in L.A. “Now it’s time to bring the sexy.” Raising his extremely expressive eyebrows, the 37-year-old replies, “I thought I was bringing the sexy. That was my 11.” Sexy might not be an adjective typically associated with Nanjiani, mainly because he is best known for playing the incredibly smart but socially hapless developer Dinesh on HBO’s Silicon Valley, which is wrapping up its second season.
But there is something quite appealing about the Pakistan-born funnyman. Perhaps it’s that he calls some of comedy’s coolest women—Jenny Slate, Kristen Schaal, Amy Schumer—friends; or that he’s obviously smitten with his wife, writer and producer Emily V. Gordon, who works on his weekly-standup-show-turned-Comedy-Central-series The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail. Or maybe it’s the way he takes on gender stereotypes in his standup—he’s a poster boy for non-macho-ness—or that his illustrious guest spot career has put him opposite a number of former BUST cover girls, including Gillian Jacobs on Community, Carrie Brownstein on Portlandia, and Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer.
“That was a great day,” he says of the Broad City shoot. “It was the first day that season that Amy Poehler was on set, and she was pitching me jokes, like, ‘Hey, I don’t know if you want to try this, but….’ I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s genius, you’re Amy Poehler.’”
Taking direction from women is something Nanjiani truly appreciates. “Most of the mentors in my life have been women,” he says. “If I’m ever in a big movie where I’m the star, I would really like it if it had, obviously a good director, but also a female director.”
Maybe that big movie could be one he and Gordon write together about the high stakes beginning of their relationship—she fell into a coma just months after they started dating, due to a rare condition called Adult-Onset Still’s disease. (She regained consciousness eight days later.) And he had to break it to his parents—who were hoping to arrange his marriage—that he had fallen in love with a white girl.
In the meantime, he’ll continue his feminist-friendly work, which is just an extension of his life. “I just bought a book, 80 Cakes from Around the World,” he says with a smile. “I’ve decided I’m going to get into baking. I’m very, very excited.” –Lisa Butterworth
PHOTOGRAPHED BY Ramona Rosales
Groomer: Anna Bernabe for Exclusive Artists mgmt using Cover FX. Location: BIGFOOT LODGE Los Feliz / 1933 GROUP
This interview was originally published in the print edition of BUST Magazine, June/July 2015. You like it? You should subscribe here and get this awesomeness mailed to your door, on paper, it looks pretty damn good that way.