Kumail Nanjiani and the Twilight of the Schlubs

Kumail Nanjiani and the Twilight of the Schlubs

On Monday, with a single Instagram post, another beloved schlub disappeared behind a set of muscles.

Kumail Nanjiani, best known for playing the most endearing of the nerds on “Silicon Valley” and the romantic lead in the film “The Big Sick,” shared an image of himself in which he looked significantly, well, stronger, than he did when he appeared in those roles.

He joined a select crew that includes John Krasinski and Chris Pratt. Those two actors were introduced to America as men of average musculature through office sitcoms; they are now covered in all kind of inflated ’ceps. Superhero franchises and the like have sucked in all three schlubs and many more besides, and made them mighty. Even everymen are now supermen.

“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,” Mr. Nanjiani wrote in the photos’ caption. “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

The photos of Mr. Nanjiani were taken by Mark Upson, a photographer and videographer in London who said that the shoot occurred toward the end of last week in the gym where Mr. Nanjiani works out. They were taken to appear on the actor’s Instagram account, Mr. Upson said, because Mr. Nanjiani was proud of what he had achieved.

Mr. Upson said that the photo had been color edited, the darkness of the background altered and some of the more unsightly items dropped out, but that nothing had been airbrushed.

“The body and everything you see of him really is him,” Mr. Upson said. “He’s super-confident. It’s good to see.”

Mr. Nanjiani did add a cautionary note to his big reveal. “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.” He thanked various trainers, a catering company and his wife, Emily V. Gordon, who wrote “The Big Sick” with Mr. Nanjiani.

Ms. Gordon tweeted, saying “My husband works hard for every role he takes, but he’s worked hard in many new ways for this one. I’m so proud of him. I always have been. Also, we spent the majority of this past weekend playing Borderlands 3 so don’t think he’s changed too much.”

Mr. Nanjiani wrote on Instagram that he had undertaken the transformation for his role in “The Eternals,” an upcoming Marvel film. (His publicist said he was not available to comment.) Similarly, Mr. Pratt and Mr. Krasinski both became visibly stronger before their first high-profile appearances in action films.

At this rate, and with superhero movies and television shows continuing to rake in money at the box office, it feels as if no schlub will be left untouched by Hollywood’s thirst for stars who look believable when doing superpowered things.

Given the dominance of action franchises available in Hollywood now, the stakes have become even higher for actors to become noticeably fit, according to Gunnar Peterson, a Los Angeles trainer whose gym is visited by actors including Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck.

“There are huge franchise movies, there are big paychecks,” Mr. Peterson said. “You put yourself in a position to work more if you’re in better shape, I think.”

He added that he had seen a change in what his male clients were after in the past decade or so.

“Guys used to want to be lean,” he said. “And now they talk about full body and performance. They want to be athletic. It’s evolving. I started training people in ’85. Its different — it’s evolved through the ’90s and I think it’s on an uptick back to size and lean mass.”

Alison Field, the chair of epidemiology at Brown University whose research focuses on identifying the causes and correlates of eating disorders, said in an interview Monday that, over the past decade, the body images with which young men were presented had changed quite a bit.

“I think people in general associate weight concerns with females, but I think they happen as often in males,” Dr. Field said. “There’s so much targeting of messages and images to males. In females, there’s sort of this belief that you can never be too small. Males get the message that they can be too small, so you have pressure about stature, about physique and having very unrealistic body images portrayed to them and really marketed to them.”

Dr. Field said that the more extreme and unrealistic versions of images of male physiques may also encourage the use of workout supplements, which she said were thoroughly under-regulated and a “huge concern.”

For actors of all genders, dramatic physical transformations are part of the job.

“For your average person to achieve a similar physique would not be worth the time and effort,” Dr. Field said. “Having that much preoccupation with their body shape would not be healthy.”

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