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June 02, 2017

Kumail Nanjiani, Ray Romano and 'The Big Sick' cast dish on their new flick

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Carroll - The Big Sick Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Actors Ray Romano, Aidy Bryant, and Kurt Braunohler were in Philadelphia this week promoting 'The Big Sick.'

Based on the real-life courtship between comedians Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, “The Big Sick” is a film that promises to upset grumpy, racist grandpas everywhere.

Produced by comedy godfather Judd Apatow and co-written by Nanjiani (of “Silicon Valley” fame) and writer/producer Gordon, the movie tells the story of Pakistan-born Kumail who connects with grad student Emily, after one of his stand-up comedy sets in Chicago.

GALLERY: Celebs visit Philly to promote new movie

Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Stand-up comedian and actor, Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily Gordon.

Ray Romano plays Emily’s father. Holly Hunter plays Emily’s mother. Aidy Bryant, cast member of “Saturday Night Live,” plays Kumail’s stand-up buddy and Kurt Braunohler of “Bob’s Burgers” plays Kumail’s roommate. Zoe Kazan, known for “Ruby Sparks” and “What If,” plays the real-life Gordon.

What would ordinarily be a one-night stand between Kumail and Emily blossoms into real romance, and life gets complicated when Emily falls ill with a mysterious illness, and Kumail meets her parents for the first time in the hospital. It forces Kumail to navigate the medical crisis with Emily's parents while dealing with the emotional tug-of-war between his family and his heart. 

RELATED: Kumail Nanjiani on his 'sex'y commencement speech

All five actors (with the exception of Kazan) came to Philly this week to promote the show and sat down with PhillyVoice for one-on-one interviews.

“It really happened to us. We met at a comedy show [in Chicago]. I was performing and she heckled me,” said a smiling Nanjiani.

“It was a story we hoped would have resonance with other people and it’s a lot about love and about family, so we were hoping other people would relate to it as well, so that’s how we came up with the idea of making it into a movie,” said Gordon.

“If you can get Holly Hunter and Ray Romano, you take Holly Hunter and Ray Romano! We were very lucky to have gotten them. We felt it was just a very specific story that, about five years ago, we started discussing it and then when we met with Judd [Apatow] that’s when it really snowballed from there and we started thinking about it as an actual story and not just ‘our’ story.”

Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Actor Ray Romano was in Philadelphia promoting 'The Big Sick,' a new movie he is starring in.

As a father of four, Romano said he knows what it is like to struggle with your children venturing off into foreign romantic territory [no pun intended].

RELATED: Silicon Valley's Kumail Nanjiani speaks up on show's unexpected cast departure

“I’m a distraught father who’s worried about his daughter, and also meeting this gentleman for the first time, and there’s a bit of – not a culture clash – but a clash of – who is this guy and what’s he doing with my daughter? And the relationship grows, and, I won’t give away the ending, but, everybody dies,” he laughed.

“But, of course…I have a daughter who is roughly the same age as Zoe…so I identified with the torture and angst of seeing her ill. My daughter is also dating, and so that’s torture and angst also. So, yea, my relationship with my wife, played by Holly Hunter, is a little bit strained, and I can identify with that – not in the same way. They go through some heavy stuff. I’ve been married for 29 years. We’ve been through everything.”

Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Comedian Kurt Braunohler also stars in the film and plays the character Chris.

But lest ye be mistaken, “The Big Sick” is not intended to be a message movie. It’s still a romantic comedy.

“Whenever something is made to have an agenda, you can sort of smell it,” said Nanjiani.

“I think people are very savvy watchers of TV and movies these days, and if something is really trying to have a message, people immediately catch that. So, for our movie, our intention was never to deliver a social or moral message, but we do hope that people can watch and draw their own conclusions, and if people can think differently after watching the movie, that’s great, but that’s not really what we intended to do.”

Braunohler added: “It’s about familial love and how you balance your family versus someone you’re truly in love with.”