Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon’s relationship plays out like a plot of a movie — which is why they made it into one. The couple wrote their 2017 independent film The Big Sick about their own relationship, with Nanjiani playing a character based on himself. The film went on to be nominated for the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, and it immediately sent Nanjiani’s star on the rise.
The actor and comedian is now one of the newest members of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, starring in the new superhero ensemble film Eternals as Kingo (and undergoing a huge physical transformation for the role). But that doesn’t mean he’s stopped working with his writer and producer wife. After being married for nearly 13 years, Nanjiani and Gordon’s relationship timeline proves that the couple that writes together stays together.
2006: Emily Heckles Kumail At A Bar
According to a 2017 New Yorker profile, the couple first met at one of Nanjiani’s standup gigs in Chicago, where he was lovingly heckled by Gordon at the bar. Rather than get offended at the gesture, the two became friends after running into each other again two nights later. The couple began seeing each other on-and-off. However, it didn’t fully turn romantic right away for a couple reasons: Gordon had just been married and divorced, and Nanjiani hadn’t built up the courage yet to reject his parents’ plan of an arranged marriage to a Pakistani Muslim woman.
2006: Emily Is Diagnosed With Still’s Disease
Eight months into their on-and-off situation, Gordon informed Nanjiani that she was going to the doctor one day. That night, as reported by The New Yorker, he got a call saying Gordon was in the emergency room and having trouble breathing. In order to treat what the doctors detected was a lung infection, they put her in a medically induced coma, which they had Nanjiani approve.
Gorden remained under the coma for more than a week, and on her eighth day, she was diagnosed with Still’s disease, a rare inflammatory syndrome that is manageable once treated. Nanjiani visited her in the ICU every day, skipping a huge opportunity to open for Zach Galifianakis on tour, and met her parents for the first time, which made him decide to tell his own folks about her. “I hung out with her parents while she was in a coma for eight days, and that’s when I told my parents,” he told Cosmopolitan in 2014. “I was like, ‘Hey! Good news / bad news ... I’m in love with a white girl and she’s in a coma.’ Luckily they were really, really good about it and they saw how distraught I was, and they saw how much I loved her, and they obviously aren’t monsters so they were like, ‘OK, what can we do? Can we come visit her?’”
2007: Kumail and Emily Get Married
While Gordon was in a coma, Nanjiani promised himself that he would marry her if she made it through, as he told NPR in July 2017. “This sounds like a movie moment, but it really, really isn’t,” he explained. “I remember seeing her laying there in the coma for the first time and I remember having the thought, ‘If she comes out of this, Im going to marry her.’” As Gordon told The New Yorker, “Spoiler alert — I made it.” Following through on his promise, Nanjiani and Gordon got married three months after she left the hospital.
The couple first got married in secret at a Chicago courthouse, then held a massive Muslim-Pakistani ceremony with Nanjiani’s family that lasted for three days, as they told Cosmopolitan. Years later, after moving to New York and not telling anyone they met that they were married, they held a reception for friends to announce they were lying the whole time. “I knew that everybody would be like, ‘You guys just got married because she was sick and almost died,’” Gordon remarked, explaining why they hid it at first.
2012: Kumail and Emily Start Writing
The Big Sick came about when Nanjiani met Judd Apatow in 2012 at a live taping of Pete Holmes’ podcast You Made It Weird at Austin’s SXSW Festival. “Judd called my manager and was like, ‘Hey, does Kumail have any ideas?’” he recalled to The Daily Beast in 2017. “So I went and met Judd at 7 a.m. out in Santa Monica, and I told him some ideas and then was like, ‘Well, there’s also this real-life thing that I think could make a good movie …’ and he liked it. He said, ‘Go, figure out a pitch, and come and pitch it to me.’” After his pitch was green-lighted, he and Gordon started writing The Big Sick, with Apatow signing on as a producer.
2021: Kumail and Emily Keep Working
Thirteen years later, Nanjiani and Gordon are still happily married, even as Nanjiani takes on more projects like Eternals. They seem to still make time to work together. Their latest project is the Apple TV+ series Little America, on which they serve as writers and executive producers.