Based on the real-life courtship between Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, THE BIG SICK tells the story of Pakistan-born aspiring comedian Kumail (Nanjiani), who connects with grad student Emily (Zoe Kazan) after one of his standup sets.
However, what they thought would be just a one-night stand blossoms into the real thing, which complicates the life that is expected of Kumail by his traditional Muslim parents.
This morning, star of THE BIG SICK Kumail Nanjiani and his wife, Emily V. Gordon called Q104 to chat with Aly about the film (below).
Aly: Hey it’s Aly from Cleveland’s Q104 and I have on the line with me, Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, the subjects of the new film The Big Sick! I unfortunately have not been able to see it yet, it’s been out in theaters for five days now and, basically, the gist I got from it from reading reviews and kind of a little synopsis is, it’s kind of like a Romeo and Juliet story only actually real.
Emily V. Gordon: We would say it’s like a funny Romeo and Juliet with less poisoning.
A: Would you elaborate on that Emily?
EVG: Yeah, the story is basically a story of how Kumail and I met and fell in love ten years ago. And we both kind of had complications in our relationships. One of them was that Kumail was supposed to be arranged married to someone else – a Pakistani woman – and the other is that I became incredibly sick and had to be put into a medically induced coma, and Kumail had to then hang out with my parents while I was in the hospital.
A: Kumail, how was that dude?
Kumail Nanjiani: Awkward. I was not ready for it. You know that thing when you have like – friends of friends – who you kind of know? That you always hang out with your connector friends? It’s sort of like that but the connector (Emily) is gone, so you’re just kind of like waiting in a hospital not knowing what to say you know. It’s very stressful.
A: It’s like when that connector friend gets up to go to the bathroom and you kind of have to just look at each other for about thirty seconds. But that thirty seconds was when you were in a coma.
EVG: Exactly. That thirty seconds is like many days. And also there’s someone in a coma.
KN: That connector friend went to the bathroom and fell into a coma for eight days.
A: Oh my gosh. OK, so Kumail you star in the in the film and then Emily you were actually not … You were portrayed by an actress. I’m going to mess up her name if you could pronounce that for me?
EVG: Zoe Kazan.
A: Was that your choice, Kumail, to be in the film? Or Emily’s for yours to not be?
EVG: It was definitely my choice to not be in the film. I could really mess this whole thing up you guys – I am not an actress and if you know me – just because you’ve been through something doesn’t mean that you can actually act it out on screen. So Kumail had been acting for a while, so he auditioned and he just beat out the other guy.
A: Wow, you had to audition to play yourself?
KN: No she’s joking. Her sarcasm tone is off. It’s very early in the morning.
A: I would love for you to kind of maybe, together, just give like a little tiny pitch here. What can pull people in to go see Big Sick? I guess I didn’t understand maybe that it was … is it funny kind of? Because you know it kind of doesn’t sound funny.
KN: Yes, I know that’s the thing. It is – it really is a comedy. You know that’s the hardest thing. It sounds like it’s so serious, but I will say it’s the funniest movie you’ll see about a Pakistani guy falling in love with an American woman while she’s in a coma this year. The funniest from the genre this year.
A: That’s the funniest movie you’re ever going to see about this woman in a coma.
KN: I think so.
EVG: This specific woman.
KN: Yeah, but it’s also, you know, it’s moving and it’s exciting and it’s sad…
EVG: It’s romantic.
KN: It’s romantic. And it’s sort of everything. But, really, primarily it’s a comedy.
A: So now your family I imagine has seen it, Kumail, how have they warmed up to Emily? Or had they you know prior to the movie being released?
KN: Oh yeah they love the movie. They love Emily more than they love me. Which is sort of true for everyone who has met the both of us. She is much more lovable than I am and yeah they love her. Oh, another thing!
This is how I’ll say it’s a comedy. All comedies are about people dealing with situations that they can’t handle. So Shaun Of The Dead they’re dealing with zombies. This is not so different from Shaun of the Dead except instead of zombies it’s the girl in the coma.
A: Hey you know what I love to say you laugh so you don’t cry, so I agree with that one hundred percent.
A: Emily now that the film is out and your portrayal by Zoe, do you think she did a great job? How did your family respond to the film?
EVG: She did an amazing job. She’s just a really great actress and, she kind of, we all agreed that she was like the best person to play the role and she really really killed it. And my family you know they love the movie and they were very excited to have these like legendary actors playing them in a movie and they could not have been more excited. So, everybody really loved it.
KN: Tell them about what your mom said.
EVG: My mom said that … she said that Holly Hunter is prettier than her, but that my father is more handsome than Ray Romano. Which Kumail immediately told Ray Romano that. And now I will never live it down.
A: Now Ray Romano hates you.
A: I was going to say – you mentioned legendary actors and those are the two I was going to pull out. Holly Hunter (and) Ray Romano are also in this film.
The Big Sick is now in theaters and you have me convinced. I’m off work at three… I think I’m going to go right to the movie theater! This sounds great you guys.
KN: Please! I hope you like it.
A: hey you guys thank you so much for joining me today that was awesome interview like the most fun four minutes I’ve had in a while.
EVG and KN: Thank you!
When Emily is beset with a mystery illness, it forces Kumail to navigate the medical crisis with her parents, Beth and Terry (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) who he’s never met, while dealing with the emotional tug-ofwar between his family and his heart.
THE BIG SICK is directed by Michael Showalter (Hello My Name Is Doris) and produced by Judd Apatow (Trainwreck, This Is 40) and Barry Mendel (Trainwreck, The Royal Tenenbaums).
THE BIG SICK is in theaters now! Go see it!