Was Kumail Nanjiani Already Ripped When He Filmed The Lovebirds?

A shot-by-shot investigation.

A man and a woman stand apart from each other in an elevator, looking away from each other.
Nanjiani’s deceiving jackets won’t stop this investigation. Netflix

The Lovebirds, the new romantic comedy Netflix acquired after the coronavirus foiled its theatrical release, stars Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani as a couple on the brink of a breakup who manage to get themselves embroiled in a murder mystery. The whole point of the The Lovebirds is to keep you guessing, but the film is coy with clues to most important question viewers will have: Just how swole was Nanjiani when he shot this movie?

The transformation of Nanjiani’s body as he prepared to film Marvel’s The Eternals is now legend. The comedian-turned-superhero went into great detail in a December 2019 Instagram post that detailed the amount of work and people it takes to sculpt a Marvel-worthy body.

The post says he had been training for the role for a full year prior—a year during which he almost certainly also filmed The Lovebirds. Because, I am sorry to report, there is fewer than 30 seconds of shirtlessness in the film’s 86-minute runtime, I have taken it upon myself to perform a forensic investigation to find out exactly how jacked Nanjiani was during filming. I watched the movie on mute, so I couldn’t spoil it if I tried, but obviously do not continue if you do not want to see screenshots.

For majority of the film, Nanjiani is fully clothed. The last 50 minutes of the movie feature him wearing two different jackets, reproduced below for the sartorially interested.

Nanjiani in a jacket.
Nanjiani in a jacket, round two.

Nanjiani’s hands do look great in that second picture. Perhaps like they’ve seen some weights. But these jackets, unfortunately, mean that for the purposes of this investigation, two-thirds of the movie is barred from visual testimony.

Luckily, in the first half hour of the film, Nanjiani wears a fairly tight sweater that supplies some useful documentation.

Nanjiani from the side.

First, we have this shot of Nanijiani in profile, which is perhaps the least forgiving angle possible. While his chest and back here aren’t at the levels of swoleness they would come to be, they’re definitely pleasantly defined, which suggests he had begun his journey to being absolutely shredded. More evidence below.

Nanjiani from behind.

Again, we have definition in the back and shoulders, though one confounding variable is that Nanjiani has always had pretty nice shoulders. Still, his waist doesn’t quite have that rock-hard, slightly terrifying quality it does now. Instead, here he looks like a man who works out but wouldn’t judge necessarily judge you for eating cookies for dinner, just this once.

Up next is perhaps my most important data.

Nanjiani, partly shirtless.

This scene lasts fewer than 5 seconds, we never see Nanjiani fully shirtless, and his arms are up, but it would seem to support my hypothesis: That he had started his new routine, but he wasn’t Hugh Jackman-as-Wolverine levels of shredded when The Lovebirds filmed.

One fact threw me off throughout my quest: In his Instagram debut of his body, Nanjiani mentioned that while he had hired a set of trainers to get him in fighting shape, he had been working with a different trainer for six years. So is this just his baseline? Has he always been in pretty good shape like this?

As someone who hasn’t set foot in a gym in a solid year, I began to doubt my ability to ascertain just how swole Nanjiani was during filming. I brought in one more bit of outside evidence: Another of Nanjiani’s Instagram posts. The Lovebirds began shooting in January 2019, according to this selfie Nanjiani posted with his costar Rae. That’s corroborated by the Dec. 20, 2018 edition of Production Weekly, which keeps track of what projects are filming at any given time. Now stay with me. In Nanjiani’s swole post in December 2019, he wrote, “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.” That suggests that his punishing superhero regime began in December 2018, which means that he was a month or so into it when he began shooting The Lovebirds. Since his baseline seemed to be relatively fit, I would officially guess that he is mildly-to-moderately swole in The Lovebirds, though still more than nine months from peak swoleness.

For more on The Lovebirds, listen to this Spoiler Special discussion of the movie.