Some high School graduates get luggage, others get cast as Marvel superheroes. Well, actually, that only happens to Iman Vellani, who plays the title character in the new Disney+ series Ms. Marvel (June 8). “I got the part literally on the last day of high school, which was the most perfect graduation present.” Based on the popular comic series, Vellani was “a huge Ms. Marvel comic book reader,” and she “knew exactly which comic books they were pulling the scripts from” once filming began. “We still very much stay true to the themes and tone of the comics.” One aspect that sets teen superhero Ms. Marvel (aka Kamala Khan) apart: she’s the first Muslim superhero, an aspect of the character Vellani could relate to. “Growing up, religion and culture was always just a part of my life. It never felt like a burden.” Vellani hopes that children of immigrant parents in particular take something from the series. “People just seeing someone like me on screen is enough. That’s what it was for me when I read the comics for the first time. I just saw myself.”
How did the role come your way?
My aunt was a part of a Whatsapp group chat, and it was a Ms. Marvel casting call. She sent it to me because I dressed up as Ms. Marvel on Halloween. The night it was due, I recorded all of it. A day or two later I get a call, “Do you have a lawyer? We want [you] to fly to L.A.”
KAMALA IS THE FIRST MUSLIM superhero! How important was that to you?
It’s so important to showcase children of immigrant parents who don’t neglect their culture and are proud of it. Her family is her rock and the backbone of Kamala’s story. The same goes for me. It feels normal. It’s just a religion. It’s incorporated quite organically in our show.
Who she is at her core does feel like that’s a huge part of her superpower.
It’s like in Spider-man: Homecoming, when Tony Stark says to Peter Parker, “If you’re nothing without this suit, then you shouldn’t have it.” Kamala could shoot fireworks out of her hands, as long as she goes on that same journey of self discovery.
You’re also going to be in The Marvels film. HOW WAS WORKING with the other superheroes?
“People just seeing someone like me on screen is enough.”