Interview with Kumail Nanjiani and Annaleigh Ashford: Welcome to Chippendales
Welcome to Chippendales delves into a story that many may not know; although the eponymous stripper collective is world famous, the violent history behind it is not, but Kumail Nanjiani and Annaleigh Ashford are about to change that. Nanjiani plays Steve Banerjee, an Indian immigrant who founded Chippendales in the 1980s. What begins as a promising business venture, however, soon turns into a pit of betrayal, jealousy and murder. Ashford plays Steve’s future wife Irene, an accountant who helps manage the books.
Welcome to Chippendales it also stars Murray Bartlett, who recently won an Emmy white lotus season 1, Nicola Peltz, Dan Stevens and Andrew Rannells. The show is created by Robert Siegel and based on the book Deadly Dance: The Chippendales Murders by K. Scot Macdonald and Patrick MontesDeOca.
Screen Rant caught up with Nanjiani and Ashford ahead of the premiere of Welcome to Chippendales to discuss the wild true story, Ashford’s wigs and their on-set chemistry.
Kumail Nanjiani and Annaleigh Ashford in Welcome to Chippendales
Screen Rant: Kumail, in addition to the lead role, you are also an executive producer here. How did you find this story?
Kumail Nanjiani: Yeah, Rob Siegel, who’s the creator of the show, came to me and said, “I want to do a miniseries about the making of the Chippendales.” And I said, Well, is there anything interesting that happened there? And then he talked for an hour without interruption. And I said, “Okay, yes. It’s so wild – so many amazing things happen there. A lot.” of big dark stuff. But even the stuff that’s not dark, there’s so many twists and turns and just weird stuff going on. And it’s so period-specific, and Rob’s so smart. He’s a fantastic writer. I’ve been a fan of his for so long that it was one of those things that wasn’t a decision, [it] it was just like, okay, we have to do this. We have no choice.
Annaleigh, when the Welcome to Chippendales The trailer dropped, I saw a meme that said something like, “Babe, wake up a new Annaleigh Ashford in a wig in a series based on true events that just dropped.“What draws you to the series based on true events? Is it an intentional decision? Or did they just fall into your lap?
Annaleigh Ashford: This is the best thing that ever happened. It’s been a godsend of the magical Kismet universe that these incredibly complicated women who also have really good wigs come into my life. But really, honestly, this is just another delightfully awkwardly complicated woman who is tied to a man at a time when you could only find power through the guise of being with a man. And in this case, there is a very beautiful and precious love story that compels her to stay with him. But it’s great to see a woman go when it’s time to go.
I love that first scene with you Kumail when you’re at the bar showing off your financial skills. Your look, Kumail, is funny. So how did you create that relationship and chemistry?
Kumail Nanjiani: It was really quite immediate, wasn’t it?
Annaleigh Ashford: Yes, we are kindred spirits. We also immediately realized that his love language was numbers. And there was something so wonderful and unusual about it that we both thought it was delicious.
Kumail Nanjiani: And it was great because it was one of the first scenes we shot together. And we knew each other a little bit, but watching you work and knock out that long monologue. I saw you figuring out what to do with the props and everything. It was really, really fun. So the look on my face is real. I only see her talking about numbers and math. And it’s like this seduction scene. It is wonderful.
Annaleigh Ashford: There’s also something delightfully awkward about these two characters having to navigate a space of love together, which I think both of us as actors, like, you know, it’s always fun to play, awkward people.
Kumail Nanjiani: They have a long conversation about coke and caffeine. This is their first conversation. In the background, there are naked men and women grinding them. And many different things are happening in this club.
About Welcome To Chippendales
The origin story of Somen “Steve” Banerjee, an Indian-American businessman who founded the stripper group, Chippendales.
Check out our other Welcome to Chippendales interviews here:
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The first two episodes of Welcome to Chippendales now streaming on Hulu, with new episodes premiering on Tuesdays.