Ms. Marvel is the story of superhero-obsessed teenager Kamala Khan, who lives in Jersey City and is constantly being told by her parents, teachers, and even some of her peers that she needs to stop thinking about heroes and start focusing on her own life.
But when Kamala discovers that she has powers of her own to tap into, she embarks on her own journey to becoming a superhero just like her idols — and realizes it's harder than it looks.
We caught up with Iman to chat about Kamala, filming in Thailand, and find out who her favorite superhero is...
Iman Vellani on Kamala Khan
"Kamala is a 16-year-old kid from Jersey City, in high school, and essentially just trying to find some simplicity in life through this fantastical world of the Avengers, and aliens, and superheroes - she's just obsessed with them, Captain Marvel especially. I think a lot of that appeal comes from the fact that Captain Marvel doesn't really have to deal with boys and religion and high school and cultural stuff! Being 16, dealing with coming-of-age and growing pains is not easy, especially when you have superpowers — that's the kind of confusion she's going through."
What was it like filming the scenes where Kamala uses her powers — have you done anything like that before?
"No, this is my first job — my first audition, period! I didn't know how any of this worked, but power scenes in particular are a little tricky because you don't see them, they're all VFX. So you've got to have conversations with your producers and VFX artists, because they're going to be your biggest resource throughout this whole process.
"Her powers are fairly new for the MCU, I didn't know what they looked like and how it felt, so we were having a lot of these conversations. It was really fun, because we got to create this power set and her entire fighting style together — it really felt like this amazing collaboration."
You mentioned this is your first job — what was it like when you found out you'd got the part?
"I didn't believe it until, like, last month — and it's been two years! It was very surreal. I was a huge fan of the comics growing up, and the MCU in general, and Ms. Marvel was my second favorite character — Iron Man is my first — and I had read all the comics in high school. That was the only reason I had auditioned, she was just a character that felt so close to home to me. It was like she spoke on my behalf when I read those comics, and I fell in love with her for that reason. It was a weird manifestation thing that I've done — I don't know how I got the part!"
Kamala is the first Muslim superhero in the MCU. Does that mean a lot to you?
"Yeah! I hope the show does for other people what the comics did for me, that representation I've never seen before. Honestly, I don't really think about it because I can't go to work thinking 'I'm the first Muslim superhero' — it is a lot of pressure, and that comes with being the first of anything, but I have the most incredible team around me. Our producers, directors, castmates — everyone has such an incredible connection to the story, and to Kamala, and they realise how monumental this show is going to be. There are two billion South Asians and Muslims in the world, I really hope each one can take something from the show and find a little bit of themselves in it, and that this show ends up opening a lot more doors in this industry for filmmakers and actors who are South Asian and Muslim."
How did it feel to try on the Ms. Marvel costume for the first time?
"I had, like, three people watching me, because everyone was so excited about getting the costume! Our costume designer Arjun [Bhasin] is just the coolest person ever, and has incorporated so many cultural prints into it, so it felt very personal and unique compared to a lot of the other costumes in the MCU. It's the first dress in the MCU, so there are challenges that come with that — making sure it doesn't ride up when I run! But it was very surreal — I cosplayed as Ms. Marvel when I was 15, so now putting on a real suit that was tailored for me, that I didn't just make with my grandma, was a real full-circle moment."
You filmed part of the series in Thailand. What was that like?
"It was hot! [laughs] It was super fun, our entire Thai crew was so incredibly nice and the food was amazing, but it was extremely hot, and we did go at a time of year that was constantly raining, so we had problems with our sets flooding or lightning strikes, but I think that brought us closer as a crew. Doing fight scenes in 40-degree weather in skinny jeans is not always easy! We had multiple costume changes in the middle of the day because we would literally sweat through our costumes, but it was a wonderful experience, and I made so many friends there that I still keep in touch with."
When did you first get into comics?
"I've been in love with the MCU forever, but when I went into high school, my high school was right across the street from a comic book store! I only ever read Iron Man comics, then I picked up an Ironheart comic and Kamala was actually on the cover of that one, and I was like, 'oh my God, who is this brown person?' [laughs]. Then I read it and I fell in love. She was holding up a mirror in front of me, I felt so seen by those comics, and I'm very excited for people to see why I fell in love with her."
- Ms. Marvel launches exclusively on Disney Plus on Wednesday, June 8
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Steven Perkins is a Staff Writer for TV & Satellite Week, TV Times, What's On TV and whattowatch.com, who has been writing about TV professionally since 2008. He was previously the TV Editor for Inside Soap before taking up his current role in 2020. He loves everything from gritty dramas to docusoaps about airports and thinks about the Eurovision Song Contest all year round.