Ms Marvel: Pakistani-Canadian actress Iman Vellani takes series to highest ever MCU ratings

Boundary-breaking MCU series
Who's Ms Marvel?
Pakistani-Canadian actress
Out of place in Canada?
Finding a place through acting
Much in common with Ms Marvel
Both geeks who like comics
Recalling Vellani's own life experiences for the role
Written for Iman Vellani
Growing up with the Avengers
Everything Marvel
Heroes World
How long has Ms Marvel existed as a character?
Does she have powers?
Like looking in the mirror
Vellani 'totally deserves the role'
Ms Marvel Halloween costume
A taste of home
A role-model for students in Markham, Ontario
Vellani very nearly missed the Ms Marvel opportunity
Uncertainty
Representing
Doing the character justice
Boundary-breaking MCU series

'Ms Marvel' has surpassed 'Black Panther's Rotten Tomatoes rating of 96%, receiving an astounding 97% on the review website. The Marvel series breaks two records:  it features a Muslim superhero and became the highest-scoring Disney Plus MCU series, as well as the highest-rated MCU movie.

Photo: Marvel Studios

Who's Ms Marvel?

The young main actress, Iman Vellani, has certainly made a big impression on viewers. After the first episode, The Guardian headline read: "a glorious debut for the MCU’s first Muslim superhero." And Rotten Tomatoes described the young actress’s performance as 'wonderful'.

But how did she get here? We look at her journey from Markham, Ontario (Canada) to a much-loved Marvel superhero.

Pakistani-Canadian actress

Iman Vellani was born in Karachi, Pakistan to Muslim parents, but she moved to Canada when she was a year old. She entered the screens as Marvel’s first Muslim superhero.

Out of place in Canada?

Iman said to The Guardian: "Growing up, I felt very disconnected from my culture and religion because I grew up in Canada. I didn’t have any brown friends that weren’t from my mosque and I didn’t hang out with them."

Finding a place through acting

But the actress found her place on set, saying she 'learned so much about my ancestry' in her interview with The Guardian. She continued, "That’s such a special thing I get to share with the character."

Photo: Marvel Studios

Much in common with Ms Marvel

Iman Vellani has a lot in common with her on-screen persona, so much so that the writers of Ms Marvel added real-life moments from her own life story.

Photo: Marvel Studios

Both geeks who like comics

Kamala Khan (Ms Marvel) is a New Jersey nerd of Pakistani heritage who is obsessed with comics and one day becomes a superhero. She's very similar to the actress playing her: a Pakistani-Canadian teenager and self-proclaimed 'geek' who is obsessed with comics and plays a superhero.

Recalling Vellani's own life experiences for the role

She told Vogue that she remembers telling them about her guidance counsellor and how much she really didn’t like him. She said, 'I think after that, they put in this guidance counsellor scene that is a big moment for Kamala.'

Written for Iman Vellani

"I literally put my entire self into this show before we started filming," Vellani, now 19, told CBC News. "Everything is just about my high school life, and they just put so much of that into the story," she said.

Growing up with the Avengers

According to Empire, the series' co-creator Sana Amanat revealed that during Vellani's Zoom audition it was clear that Vellani is an Avengers fangirl like Khan.

Photo: Marvel Studios

Everything Marvel

"She showed me every corner of her room, and it was covered with Avengers. Then she said, ‘Oh wait, I’m not done,' opened up her closet, and there was more Marvel everywhere," said Sana Amanat in her interview with Empire.

Photo: Marvel Studios

Heroes World

Vellani went to Unionville High School in Markham, Ontario and would often frequent a comic book store across the street called Heroes World. Whilst she was a big fan of 'Iron Man', she eventually came across Ms Marvel and was 'amazed' there existed a character with a back story similar to her own.

Photo: Marvel Studios

How long has Ms Marvel existed as a character?

Kamala Khan first appeared in comics in 2013. She is one of the newer Marvel characters and part of a superhero generation led by women and ethnically diverse characters.

Photo: Marvel Studios

Does she have powers?

As Ms Marvel, Kamala gained the ability to extend her limbs, alter her appearance, and shift shape in several other manners. She first uses these powers unconsciously when she emerges from her cocoon looking like her idol, Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel.

Photo: Marvel Studios

Like looking in the mirror

According to CTV News, Vellani said, “I didn’t have many female superheroes that I looked up to, and the fact that this comic book was holding up a mirror in front of me was just absolutely nuts... She was Pakistani, she was Muslim and a superhero fanatic. I was a Pakistani Muslim superhero fanatic.”

Photo: Marvel Studios

Vellani 'totally deserves the role'

Heroes World comic store's Andre Greenidge is incredibly proud of the young actress. He says Vellani 'totally deserves' the role, as reported by CTV News. "I never met anyone who so totally embodies the character that they’re portraying, so it’s really fantastic."

Photo: Marvel Studios

Ms Marvel Halloween costume

Iman Vellani related to the character so much that she actually dressed as the character for a Halloween party when she was 15/16 years old, according to an interview with Vogue. No one recognised the character and many thought she was the Flash. In response, Iman ran across the street, bought the comic and carried it with her to explain to everyone who she was dressed up as.

Photo: Marvel Studios

A taste of home

The role of Ms Marvel was like playing her own 'coming-of-age story' in Markham, Ontario. According to CBC News, Vellani not only frequented Heroes World but returns to one of her absolute favourites every time she visits her hometown: a blueberry doughnut from Tim Hortons.

Photo: Marvel Studios

A role-model for students in Markham, Ontario

CTV News interviewed current students of South Asian descent at Vellani's old high school who said they see themselves reflected in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Vellani’s casting, students said, makes them feel more represented on screen. Grade 9 student, Devanshi Seth, said, "I’m really happy she’s representing our culture, who we are, and the school."

Vellani very nearly missed the Ms Marvel opportunity

The actress told Variety that her aunt had received the casting call via WhatsApp. It came in the form of a forwarded message that was simply a blank page saying, 'Ms. Marvel Disney+ Casting, send headshot and resume here'. Vellani said it "looked super sketchy, but I did it anyway." And we're glad she did.

Uncertainty

The actress' future in the role was uncertain as, just after her audition in February 2020, the pandemic hit. They pushed back her screen test - which was to be in LA - to June. At the same time, the actress needed to confirm university applications and think about her future if she didn't get the part, as Vogue reports. In the end, luckily, she found out she got the part on her last day of high school. And that's how her Ms Marvel journey began.

Representing

Vellani, in a range of interviews, has often highlighted the significance of her role and the many people she is representing: from Canadians to South Asians and the Muslim community; Super Hero fans and 'nerds'; female leading ladies and, of course, teenagers and the trials and tribulations of growing up. The actress takes the responsibility very seriously.

Doing the character justice

"It’s one story about one girl and one family, and we really want to do this one character justice because specificity is representation. As soon as you stop generalizing all two billion Muslim and South Asian people, then we can start having proper representation," she said, according to The Star. And she's made a good start, because Vellani has certainly made her mark.

Más para ti