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Gal Gadot and Kumail Nanjiani Riff on Their Parents’ Expectations and Name Mispronunciations

Gal Gadot (“Wonder Woman”) and Kumail Nanjiani (“The Big Sick”) sat down for a chat for Variety’s “Actors on Actors” presented by Google Home, which airs from Jan. 2 to Jan. 4 on PBS SoCal KOCE.

Kumail Nanjiani: So how did you end up playing “Wonder Woman”? How did that happen?

Gal Gadot: It’s kind of one thing led to the other. I never planned on becoming an actress, and then I had this opportunity where this casting director flew to Israel; she was looking for a new Bond girl. I did the audition, didn’t get the part, but through this experience I was like, “This is so much more interesting than going to law school.”

Nanjiani: You were in law school?

Gadot: Yeah, I know. Thank goodness life interrupts and comes in the way. It was weird because I didn’t know they were auditioning me for “Wonder Woman.” I knew I was auditioning for this secret project.

Nanjiani: And they were like, “And she has a magic lasso”?

Gadot: No, nothing. I read scenes from “Pulp Fiction” for the auditions. And then they told me they wanted me to fly into L.A. to do the camera test. I was like, “Great. I will. But what is it?” And then Zack Snyder, our director, called me and said it was for “Wonder Woman.” But wait, I read that you didn’t want to be an actor either. What are you doing here?

Nanjiani: I don’t know what happened. Huge mistake. My parents wanted me to be a doctor.

Gadot: They wanted me to be a lawyer. We have so much in common.

Nanjiani: We’re both immigrants. We play immigrants in our movies.

Gadot: We both get asked all the time, “How do I pronounce your name?”

Nanjiani: So I decided pretty early on I didn’t want to be a doctor because the stakes are so high. Like if we mess up, we get another take. With a doctor, the worst-case scenario is much worse, right? And I sort of fell in love with comedy. From the stand-up, it went into writing and then into acting. The first thing I acted in that I wrote for was a show called “Michael and Michael Have Issues.” I was like, “Oh, my God, this is going to be my life. This is going to be great” — it lasted six episodes. Really, I’ve been in the right place at the right time over and over.

Gadot: I can relate to being at the right place at the right time. I think that this movie, these type of movies, are overdue. They needed to make more a long time ago. The opportunity came and I was just ready, and I was there when it happened, and I got lucky.

Nanjiani: I feel very privileged to get to play, as a brown man, a kind of part that we haven’t really seen in American pop culture too much. I think the answer is that we have to show that there’s no one real image of brown people. We wanted to just tell our story, but it’s been interesting that you see a brown guy in a rom-com. I think seeing brown people in different contexts in America is just going to show people … they’re just people. My wife wanted to have a website called Muslims Having Fun, and it’s just pictures of Muslim people eating popsicles or riding roller coasters. You don’t see that so much. Like, you got to play this powerful, awesome female superhero. You must have such an interesting and exciting fan base.

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ACTORS ON ACTORS
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Jennifer Lawrence/Adam Sandler, Jake Gyllenhaal/Margot Robbie,
Gal Gadot/Kumail Nanjiani and more…

Gadot: I get really emotional and excited when it’s little kids. To them, I’m not Gal. To them, I’m Diana. I’m Wonder Woman. It’s funny how this movie was so broad, touched different people, different ages, different cultures. I got photos from people that I work with or friends that their grandparents went to see it with their wheelchair and everything. It’s been really overwhelming. Right now, in the eye of the storm, I enjoy it and I appreciate the amazing feedback. But I think that it’s going to take me time to really digest and realize what’s happening.

Nanjiani: The picture of you with the little girl dressed as Wonder Woman — how she got to see that scene of all these powerful women on horses and this epic superhero battle, but they’re all powerful women. And to her that’s going to be normal, which is really stunning.

Gadot: Which I love. Having two girls, I can only hope that this is not just a trend. Now, because we did well at the box office, I hope that there’s going to be more female-led stories that everyone can enjoy because at the end of the day, I enjoyed so many male-led stories. We’re talking about representation, so on Earth there’s 50-50 men and women, and it should be the same on film, on TV, on everywhere.

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