The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s very first coming-of-age series was something that Iman Vellani was fully ready and eager for. Vellani portrays Kamala Khan in the Disney+ series that centers on the Jersey City-bred Muslim American teen and hugely imaginative superhero fan who soon gets powers just like the heroes that she looks up to.
“I read all the Ms. Marvel Comics when I was in high school,” the actress told Shadow and Act in a recent interview ahead of the series premiere. “I am obsessed with the MCU and Marvel and anything to do with it. All my time and energy when I was a teenager…and I’m still a teenager, [laughs] was on just Marvel and just sharing my love and passion for it, and Kamala just meant the world to me when I was 15. I cosplay as her, I read all the comics, so when this thing happened, it was just so fated.”
She also talked about that now-viral video that Marvel dropped of the Zoom call in which found out she got the role. Outside of nabbing the part, the star was truly in awe of being on the call with Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige.
“That call took place on my friend’s driveway and I was not expecting it,” she explained. “Our casting directors texted me and they were like, ‘Can you get on this call real quick? ‘And I was like no, [because] my friends don’t know that I had auditioned and I didn’t want this to happen in front of them. Then she was like, ‘I just sent you the link, get on,’ [with] winky face [emoji]. I get out of the car and I’m in my friend’s driveway…and I opened my phone to a Kevin Feige jump scare– and he told me about the part. And I know there were like 10 other people on the call, but I have no recollection…thank God they recorded it without my consent [laughs]. Then I got back in the car, and I told my friends and we were just screaming and freaking out…and then we got burritos.”
While the MCU and Marvel Comics have gods as characters, Ms. Marvel is the first time a character’s religious background is explored on a grounded level.
She said, “I do hope that we’re able to shift the perspective on how we see Muslims in mainstream media and I think incorporating scenes like, you know, the Eid celebration and Kamala’s parents bonding over Bon Jovi for example– just really humanizing the entire culture as a whole and showing brown people on screen having fun, making jokes and being normal is just so wonderful, because we’re giving them depth and specificity. That’s representation. So often we’re seeing all these brown people, or people of color generalized into the one best friend character or a villain or whatever–and how is anyone supposed to relate to that? Like, there are 2 billion Muslims and South Asians in the world, and you can’t represent everyone through one character, and the show can’t do that either. So I really do hope that we kind of inspire more Muslim and South Asian creatives to kind of tell their specific story and do that important work.”
And when asked to give a tease about The Marvels (aka Captain Marvel 2), Vellani remained coy as did her co-star Teyonah Parris when we asked her last year, noting her excitement was about “sharing a screen with Brie Larson and Teyonah Paris.”
Watch the full interview below:
Ms. Marvel premieres Wednesday on Disney+.