On Wednesday morning, Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon led a virtual discussion in partnership with global biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to educate the immunocompromised community about medical options, like a long-acting monoclonal antibody, that offer added protection against COVID-19.
Academy Award-nominated writer and producer Gordon, who was diagnosed with adult-onset Still’s disease while dating her now-husband, actor, producer and Academy Award-nominated writer Nanjiani (who recently starred as Kingo in The Eternals), inspired their breakout hit The Big Sick, says that “immunocompromised people have been very much sidelined in this conversation,” but that this initiative, produced in collaboration with the Immune Deficiency Foundation, is “just for us.”
“It’s about building up a suit of armor for how you can protect yourself … and that there are many options you can talk to your doctor about, as I have,” Gordon told THR by Zoom. “And also encouraging people who maybe aren’t talking to their doctor as much as they should be about what’s available.”
During yesterday’s discussion, Nanjiani and Gordon were also joined by content strategist and recent kidney transplant recipient Crystal King and Dr. Dorry Segev, Professor of Surgery and Population Health & Transplant Surgeon at NYU. “This is just how it is for me, pandemic or not,” King, who has to take immunosuppressants daily for the lifespan of her kidney, shared. (She and Gordon both have received five vaccines to date.)
“It’s uncomfortable for me to talk about some of this stuff. And I think the fact that I would like to see a campaign like this is what brought me to this campaign,” Gordon says. “I would have loved to have just witnessed it. But since there are not a lot of immunocompromised people in the entertainment industry — or if they are, they’re kind of not being out with it — I’ll do it.”
At the Emmy’s Monday night, three-time nominee Bill Hader became an accidental ambassador for immunocompromised people (of which there are millions in the United States) when he was seen wearing his mask at the ceremony, presumably to protect himself against COVID-19 since he is more at-risk due to an undisclosed illness.
“I was so impressed by him, by his willingness to wear a mask there, and to see that,” Gordon says.
Academy Award-winning actor and musician Jeff Bridges stars in this campaign’s national PSA following his experience battling COVID-19 while undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma.
“A lot of the world is trying to move forward and put COVID-19 behind them, but people with compromised immune systems can’t do that yet,” Bridges said in a statement. “While the option to up my antibodies to protect me from COVID-19 wasn’t around when I was going through cancer treatment, it is now. As soon as I could, I upped my antibodies. And now I’m feeling more confident to get back to doing the things I love.”
Beyond Gordon’s autoimmune disease (which impacts the body’s ability to produce antibodies on its own) partially inspiring an award-winning film, she and Nanjiani have also found new creative ways to discuss illness and resilience, despite the ongoing pandemic.
In March 2020, the couple launched a podcast chronicling their experienced living in isolation during the pandemic: Staying in with Emily and Kumail. On November 22, their new true-crime saga from Hulu, “Welcome to Chippendales,” will premiere — with Nanjiani starring as lead in the limited series and Gordon as an executive producer.
Of his experience filming on set during the pandemic, Nanijiani said: “Going into it I was quite worried because there were just so many more protocols to keep you safe — masking, testing every day — which I think is necessary. To me, so much of the fun of being on set is to hang; you’re working, but you’re also hanging out. But everyone gets used to these very unnatural and artificial limits that have correctly been put on us.”