The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has found its newest superhero in unknown Canadian actress Iman Vellani, set to become Marvel Studios’ first live-action Muslim hero, Ms Marvel, on Disney+. The casting for Ms Marvel has been highly anticipated by MCU fans, ever since the announcement of the show by studio president Kevin Feige at 2019’s D23 Expo with many expecting an established actress to bag the role. However, with zero credits currently to her name, Vellani is expected to make a spectacular debut in the Disney+ show set for 2021.
Kamala Khan first appeared in the pages of Marvel comics in 2013 and has quickly gone on to become a favourite of comic-book readers, appearing in several animated Marvel projects and as a lead character in Square Enix’s 2020 Avengers game. Both praised and criticised for their portrayal of a Muslim Pakistani-American teenage girl, Marvel has ensured Kamala is at the forefront of many of their projects so it is no surprise we are now getting a live-action version of the character. Hopefully, she will breathe new life into the MCU after the milestone instalment of Avengers Endgame (2019).
More diversification is allowing more of those in marginalised groups to tell their own stories on camera
The behind-the-camera talent for Ms Marvel is just as diverse, with Sex Education writer and British comedian, Bisha K. Ali, in her first run as showrunner. Alongside her are Bad Boys for Life (2020) directors Bilall Fallah and Adil El Arbi who will head up the first two episodes of the Disney+ show. This continues Marvel Studios’ shift towards diversifying crew as well as cast members, allowing those of marginalised groups to tell their own stories on camera, rather than being represented by the same pool of white men.
While Iman Vellani may not be an established actress, she is certainly an MCU fan. Her Letterboxd account highlights Iron Man (2008) as one of her favourite movies. And despite a 2/5 star review of 2019’s Captain Marvel, Vellani writes that those stars are not for Brie Larson’s highly-criticised performance as Carol Danvers because she would “sacrifice (her) own life” for the Academy Award winner. This will be something Marvel fans will be excited to hear as Kamala Khan idolises Larson’s character, Carol Danvers, in the comic-books, even taking up Danvers’ previous mantle of ‘Ms Marvel’ as a show of respect. As a result, it can be expected that Kamala may make an appearance in the sequel to Captain Marvel, currently set for 2022.
Vellani is also a superhero in her own right, selected from a pool of young film enthusiasts for Toronto International Film Festival’s (TIFF’s) Next Wave Committee in 2019. The committee focuses on diversifying the film industry’s representation of marginalised groups and when interviewed, Iman expressed her love of TIFF’s And Then We Danced, a queer coming-of-age film (she also spoke about how she much she loved Iron Man.)
It's been a long time coming for the MCU to finally tap into its amazing roster of female characters
Ms Marvel is the latest in a growing list of female-led Disney+ MCU shows, with Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black, Perry Mason) recently announced as the titular character in She-Hulk (release date TBA) and Elizabeth Olsen’s WandaVision set to release before the end of 2020. It is a long-awaited development for the Marvel Cinematic Universe to tap into the cinematic potential of its many amazing female characters. It infamously took a decade of movies for a female Marvel superhero to headline her own solo film, the aforementioned Captain Marvel.
Hopefully, the positive response to Maslany and especially Iman Vellani’s casting will encourage Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios to continue diversifying their upcoming slate of cinematic ventures on the big and small screens.