Ms. Marvel is the newest superhero to join the MCU. Her real name is Kamala Khan, and she is a 16-year-old mega-fan of the Avengers. Her Disney+ series is an excellent introduction to the character, and the casting choice is pure perfection.
Iman Vellani has always related to Kamala Khan for several reasons — not only does she look like her, but she's also a huge Marvel fangirl. Vellani knows her stuff when it comes to the MCU but also when it comes to the comic books.
During the recent Ms. Marvel press conference, the cast and creators discussed many ins and outs of the new show, including the importance of representation, if AvengerCon could happen in real life, and the changes that this comic book character sees when coming to live-action.
Participating Press Conference Talent:
- Iman Vellani (“Kamala Khan / Ms. Marvel”)
- Rish Shah (“Kamran”)
- Yasmeen Fletcher (“Nakia”)
- Matt Lintz (“Bruno”)
- Mohan Kapur (“Yusuf”)
- Zenobia Shroff (“Muneeba”)
- Saagar Shaikh (“Aamir”)
- Sana Amanat (Producer and Writer – based on the character by)
- Bisha K. Ali (Creator)
- Meera Menon (Series Director, episodes 2 & 3)
- Adil El Arbi (Series Director, episodes 1 & 6 and Executive Producer)
- Bilall Fallah (Series Director, episodes 1 & 6 and Executive Producer)
- Kevin Feige (Executive Producer)
Iman Vellani Learned About The Audition From Her Aunt
Iman Vellani has been a fan of Kamala Khan ever since she picked up her first comic book featuring her. She was attracted to it because the character looked like her, but it was easy to fall in love because she could relate to her in so many ways. Like Kamala, Iman is a big fan of the Marvel Universe, both Cinematic and Comic Books.
Vellani's Aunt knew this and sent her a listing for an audition for the role of Ms. Marvel via WhatsApp, but Vellani almost didn't believe it. Luckily for fans, she decided to go for it, and it turns out it was real.
“I get the WhatsApp forward. I thought it was a scam. I don't know what casting calls look like. But they are not like pages that say Ms. Marvel and Disney+, a headshot and resume here. I sent in a very academic resume, the one photo I had of myself, and they sent back lines for the self-tape. I knew exactly which comic books they pulled them from. And I was like, okay, this is real. I can't do it.” – Iman Vellani.
Well, she did, and after being flown out to LA with her father, and after the pandemic hit, which delayed everything, Iman was eventually cast as Kamala Khan – on the day she graduated High School.
Ms. Marvel's Power Set Changes From The Comic Books
While this MCU version of Ms. Marvel's powers are similar to those in the comics, they aren't the same. However, from the start of the project, Sana Amanat, who created Ms. Marvel, was a part of the process. This allowed the whole team to feel like they were doing the character the justice she deserves.
Bisha K. Ali, Creator of the MCU series, explains that the plan was always to stay as true to the character in the comic book pages as they could and add something new. Add a freshness, add vitality, and add a contemporary edge.
“Every single person involved in this project loves those conflicts deeply, personally from their full heart. And I think we're all committed to that love. I didn't walk up and say, Hey Kevin, let's throw out the powers. That was not my first pitch by any means. That was a group decision, talking through how she's going to exist in the MCU, how she's going to fit into this web of storytelling that Marvel Studios has done in live-action over the last decade. And putting all those pieces together while staying true to that beautiful, incredible character that Sana and her team crafted over in publishing.” – Bisha K. Ali.
Will Fans Ever Get An AvengerCon?
AvengerCon plays a significant role in the new Ms. Marvel series, and when asked if we could get this in real life, Marvel President Kevin Feige says it's not out of the question. What is AvengerCon? Well, precisely what it sounds like. A massive convention packed with all things, Avengers. After fans tune in to the first episode of Ms. Marvel and see AvengerCon for themselves, they will be begging for this to happen in real life.
During the press conference, Feige admits that this is a discussion that has come up. “We were definitely talking about that on the set. We shot [Ms. Marvel] right in the middle of COVID protocol, so there hadn't been a convention for a very long time. It was very cathartic for all of us to see that.”
He adds that some of the Ms. Marvel props will be making their rounds to real-life places so that fans can at least go and visit the Ms. Marvel version of AvengerCon.
Kevin Feige also shares that when Ms. Marvel was filming AvengerCon, they were actually doing so right next to the Spider-Man: No Way Home set. It just so happened to be when they were filming the three spiders scenes, so of course, the cast and crew did what they could to stop by and watch. After No Way Home wrapped for the day, Tom Holland himself came by Ms. Marvel set to catch a glimpse of AvengerCon. It wasn't just him, though; Feige says that “a lot of that crew kept sneaking over to see, and attend, AvengerCon. So I think it might be fun to do sometime.”
Ms. Marvel Isn't Just About Representation, But Representation Is There
When asked about the importance of bringing Muslim and South Asian influence and representation to the screen with Ms. Marvel, Mohan Kapur, who plays Kamala's father Yusuf, said something that truly touched everyone's hearts.
“I don't think this series is shouting from the rooftops saying, ‘watch me talking about representation.' It's a wonderful story of a community that's so ethnically diverse and culturally rich. And for me coming from that region, I think it's a fabulous up because we suddenly say, this is the Marvel Universe, telling a story about our milieu. And it's so beautifully and so subliminally translated over scenes.” Kapur explains.
He continues, “A small scene, like, you go to the mosque, put your shoes in over there, come back, and the shoes are gone. That's a real thing. That's a real thing. You know, the process of entering a mosque, the festivals, the wedding ceremonies, they're just so beautiful. And I'm sure that, because I know this for a fact, from whatever little social media I'm into, that side of the world, they just can't wait to see this happen. This is, this is us.”
The fact that Marvel could successfully pull this off only gives the cast hope that other production studios can look at Ms. Marvel and realize that they can do it too. “It's going to be a roller coaster from here on. For actors, for writers, for directors — for the entire caboodle — to sit up and say, let's do this. Let's share their story and not shout from the rooftops. This is not a political statement. This is a story of one family, one girl, but it's so beautiful. It's a story of a family in a land that's not their own, but they've called it their home.”
Throughout the series, a few cultural and religious references are sprinkled throughout. For example, things like praying before starting something, Kamala's name in Arabic calligraphy on a necklace, and Quranic calligraphy throughout the house. There are also words used and not translated, but there are enough context clues for every viewer to figure them out. Taking this approach is what makes Ms. Marvel something genuinely unique and special.
Ms. Marvel premieres on Disney+ on June 8th!
Feature Image Credit: Marvel Studios.
Tessa Smith owns MamasGeeky.com and is a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved Film and TV Critic and a huge geek. Tessa has been in the Entertainment writing business for almost ten years and is a member of several Critics associations including the Critics Choice Association and the Greater Western New York Film Critics Association. She grew up watching movies, playing video games, and reading comic books -- and still loves all of those things. She proudly lets her geek flag fly and spreads the word that there is nothing wrong with being a geek.