Iman Vellani had to apologize to her friends when she got the part of Ms. Marvel. As excited as they were for her new life as an actor, they were expecting to share a university dorm with her. See, the then-normal Canadian teenager didn’t exactly tell anyone she was auditioning for Ms. Marvel, which recently premiered on Disney+. Between the ironclad NDAs and the complete incredulity of auditioning for one of the biggest franchises in Hollywood (she’s set to reprise her role in the 2023 Captain Marvel sequel), she decided to keep her after-school superhero activities a secret. That is, until Marvel Studios asked her to get on a Zoom call while she was celebrating the last day of high school with that same group of friends. “I got back in the car [after getting off the call] and one of my friends was like, ‘So what happened, did you win the lottery?’ And I was like, ‘Basically,’” the actress, now 19, says.
Ms. Marvel, the newest series on the MCU roster, welcomes us into the origin story of Kamala Khan, a Pakistani American high schooler who moonlights as the biggest Avengers fangirl Jersey City has ever seen. That is, until she discovers superpowers of her own. In the first two episodes, we watch Kamala discover that her hands can produce light that solidifies into solid matter. She’s trying to figure out how to use it and where it came from, while also somehow trying to meet the expectations of her parents and teachers, expectations that, at first, feel wholly at odds with her newfound identity.
Kamala’s origin story mirrors Iman’s with chilling accuracy. For one, before Kamala became Ms. Marvel, she made animated fan videos, gushing over her favorite Avengers. Iman was online too, going down deep rabbit holes of multiverse theories and detailed breakdowns of movie trailers.
“I was very active on all the subreddits. I still am,” she says. “I will troll people now that I know the real secrets. Oh God, Reddit was a huge outlet for me. I could just argue with random Redditors and talk about theories.”