Comedian Kumail Nanjiani has made a name for himself in “Silicon Valley” and “The Big Sick,” but when he won the role of a Marvel superhero, he decided to go all in for a major makeover.
After a year of intense training and a strict diet, Nanjiani showed off the results this week — along with a note of thanks to his personal trainer, Grant Roberts, a former bodybuilding champ who was born in Toronto.
So who is this celebrity trainer, or as his Instagram bio says, “professional superhero builder?”
Roberts’s interest in fitness began as a football player in high school. He entered his first bodybuilding competition at age 17 and later owned gyms in Saskatoon and Pitt Meadows, B.C.
At 26, he was involved in a serious car crash that led to several major surgeries, reported VoyageLA. He was on life support for three months, Roberts told TV host Vicki Gabereau in an interview.
“It took about five years to rebuild myself. I secluded myself in Costa Rica ... and spent my time there just rebuilding myself and trying to get back into life,” he said on Urban Rush, sharing that his injuries included two punctured lungs and a broken back after the crash.
A friend in Vancouver gave his name to Clint Eastwood, who was directing “Million Dollar Baby” and looking for a trainer for actress Hilary Swank. Roberts said Swank gained 20 pounds of lean muscle mass in nine weeks through physical training and a regimented diet to portray a boxer.
Roberts had her pushing SUVs across a parking lot, and waking up in the middle of the night to drink protein shakes.
In 2005, Swank won her second Oscar for best actress — and thanked Roberts in her acceptance speech.
After acknowledging her husband, the movie’s screenwriter, producers, and casting director, Swank said: “My trainers, Grant Roberts and Héctor Roca, you pushed me further than I ever thought I could push myself, up to that last pound, actually to that last ounce. I thank you.”
In 2006, Roberts helped create a program called Healthy Student Bodies, providing treadmills and exercise bikes at a Saskatoon school. Teachers quickly saw how physical exercise breaks in the classroom led to better behavioural and academic focus among students, reported the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. The program was also featured by CBC News.
Today, Roberts runs Granite Gym in Beverly Hills, Calif.
For Nanjiani’s role in “The Eternals” — alongside Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, and “Game of Thrones” stars Kit Harrington and Richard Madden — he and Roberts had a goal of adding 20 pounds to the actor’s 150-pound frame.
Men’s Health chronicled their workout routine which included electric stimulation to target muscles.
Roberts was one of the trainers who helped the actor Zachary Levi transform into a superhero for “Shazam!,” which was shot in Toronto. Levi packed on 25 pounds, working out five to six days a week, reported Men’s Health.
Roberts trains other kinds of superheroes too. Actress Eva Longoria, 44, has been working with him after giving birth to her son last year.
“I wanted to get back in shape for my son. It’s hard. It’s a lot of work with children. I’m exhausted. But just to stay in shape and be the healthiest me I can for him,” Longoria told Us Weekly.
Roberts is also an actor himself, with a recent appearance as a police officer in “Richard Jewel.” He had a cameo in “Million Dollar Baby” as the corner man for one of Swank’s opponents in the movie, and a role as a rugby player in “Invictus” starring Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman.
But with all the astonishing celebrity transformations, especially after Nanjiani’s photos went viral, Roberts is busy fielding a lot of interest on social media.
“I’d be happy to answer any questions you all may have but let me start by saying the key element before beginning any transformation is establishing a realistic goal,” he wrote.
“It’s called a lifestyle for a reason - something you can, will and want to continue for the rest of your life. It does not require starving yourself or working out for hours upon hours every day but it does take discipline and the ability to push yourself and continue to find new limits. Working out and nutrition should empower and energize you — if it doesn’t, you are doing it wrong.”