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I was dressed as Marvel on Halloween. Now I’m playing her on TV.

“Marvel was all I’ve talked about,” says an Ontario cartoon fan who became a superhero on the screen before her debut role.

In September 2020, Iman Vellani was an 18-year-old cartoon fan living with his family in Markham, Ontario. She loved movies and attended high school theaters, but overall she didn’t look like she was heading to Hollywood. Later, a casting call appeared on WhatsApp, Marvel’s teenage superhero, Kamala Khan, and Verani’s enthusiastic audition won her role.

She plays the leading role in Marvel, The Marvel Cinematic Universe miniseries will air on Disney + and premiere on June 8th. It was created and co-authored by British Pakistani comedian and screenwriter Bisha K. Ali. Characters based on Marvel Comics are the first Muslims and Pakistani superheroes of the MCU.

I told Verani how her life has changed since she played that role, and what it was like to share a journey to rediscover her roots with the character.

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Please tell me how that part was born for you.

I was a big Marvel fan when I was in high school. My school was directly opposite the comic bookstore.I often go there Invincible Iron Man Manga. I came across an Iron Man manga with Kamala Khan on the cover. I wondered, “Who is this brown man?” I just fell in love with her. I dressed as her on Halloween.Then someone forwarded the casting call to my aunt Ms Marvel With WhatsApp. She sent it to me, and I went for it. On the last day of high school, I realized I was playing that role.

How did your family react to your role?

My parents were supportive from the beginning. They were very happy when I got that part. Just before the audition, my mom gave me a Marvel doll. A doll sits next to the show’s action figure. It’s a perfect circle moment.

It didn’t matter if I was trying to do it. Marvel was all I talked about in her daily life. My parents would never have thought of robbing me of it. Just seeing how passionate I was about my job made them happy. They would meet everyone I worked with, which reassured them.

How has your life changed since then?

When I was in high school, I used to play movies and manga. I spent all my allowances on comic books. I watched a pirated movie, but I shouldn’t say it.

Now I’m working and making money. cool. I’m paying for my phone. That was a big step. I have worked with so many adults that I have had to grow rapidly in the last few years.

Some things are still the same. I’m in touch with three of my best friends in a high school drama program. They came to the show in Toronto. I travel a lot, but stay in Markham for a few months a year. I am currently living with my parents. I like to be a baby. It’s good to have them take care of me. In addition, my mother cooks a lot of delicious Pakistani food.

Kamala Khan, also known as Iman Vellani as Mizu Marvel (Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios)

What about the Kamala Khan you connected to?

I felt like this manga was about me. The director encouraged me to add a lot of my personality and habits to Kamala, which I think was rewarded. She comes across as genuine, attractive and friendly. That is, she doesn’t want to get all the credits, but she gets some.

The comic did not focus on Kamala’s identity as a Muslim Pakistani girl. They were just a part of her life. Ms Marvel It is to allow fans to live in Fantasyland. It’s cool to imagine fans winning a superpower. I have lived through this character for generations.

Growing up with immigrant parents, you may feel separated from your culture and roots. Kamala feels that way at the show and I can relate to it. Growing up, I didn’t think it was cool to be Pakistani or Muslim. Because I’ve never seen these parts of me appear anywhere.

I embarked on a journey similar to what Kamala did at the show. She learns about her ancestors and uses her Islamic teachings as her moral norms and voice of guidance. We reconnected with our roots. It’s really cool to be able to share it with her.

How much did you think about expression before? Ms Marvel?? What does it mean to see yourself (in multiple ways) on the big screen?

Before the comics, I was unaware that the expression was what I was missing. It’s like someone finally holding a mirror in front of me, like “Oh, it looks like that.”

It is very important to feel that you are being watched. Movies and television really shape how we see people around the world. I hope this show will do what the cartoon did for me for others, and that we can roll the ball to more expressions of Islam in the mainstream media. I think this show will change the way we look at Muslims and Pakistani people.

How was it when you started acting in such a big role? Do you think you will stay in the industry?

I didn’t expect to grow up and become an actor. High school theaters haven’t begun to compare to Marvel. I am learning as I go. I’m like a sponge and absorb all this knowledge. This is essentially the biggest crash course I’ve ever had in a movie.

The acting is pretty good so far. Since this role suddenly came to me, I decided not to predict my future.

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I was dressed as Marvel on Halloween. Now I’m playing her on TV.

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