Ms Marvel's Iman Vellani: 18 Things You Didn't Know About The Kamala Khan Star

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Iman Vellani striking a pose ahead of Ms Marvel's debut (Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/Shutterstock)
Iman Vellani striking a pose ahead of Ms Marvel's debut (Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/Shutterstock)

Iman Vellani striking a pose ahead of Ms Marvel's debut (Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/Shutterstock)

If you’ve never heard of Canadian actor Iman Vellani, believe us when we say that’s all about to change.

The latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Iman takes the lead in the new Disney+ original series Ms Marvel, which centres around a superhero-obsessed regular teenager, Kamala Khan, who begins to develop her own powers.

After just one episode the show has been met with huge acclaim from both critics and those famously picky Marvel fans, so it’s inevitable we’re going to be seeing a lot more of the 19-year-old in the near future.

To get to know her a little better, here are 18 facts about Iman Vellani you probably didn’t know already...

1. Like her Ms Marvel character, Iman is a big fan of the superhero world

In fact, the walls of Iman’s childhood bedroom were plastered with characters from the MCU.

Recalling a Zoom call with the young star, Ms Marvel co-creator Sana Amanat told Empire: “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.”

“I have so much love for this character and for the Marvel universe and that’s really what drove me,” Aman also told People magazine. 

Iman Vellani at a special screening of Ms Marvel in London last month (Photo: Jeff Spicer via Getty Images)
Iman Vellani at a special screening of Ms Marvel in London last month (Photo: Jeff Spicer via Getty Images)

Iman Vellani at a special screening of Ms Marvel in London last month (Photo: Jeff Spicer via Getty Images)

2. In fact, years before being cast she once dressed as Ms Marvel for Halloween

Iman told Vogue: “I must have been 15 or 16. My grandma and I sewed the Ms Marvel costume together and I wore it for Halloween.

“Absolutely no one knew who I was except my English teacher who was also a comic book nerd. Everyone thought I was The Flash which was really annoying. I had to go across the street, buy a Ms Marvel comic and carry it with me.”

“But like, who’s laughing now?” she added.

3. However, while Kamala reveres Captain Marvel, Iman is more of an Iron Man girl herself

She’s quoted Tony Stark in multiple interviews, and even said she’d pay homage to the Robert Downey Jr character if she were to attend a real Marvel convention.

4. Iman’s love of Marvel means she’s feeling the pressure to get things right 

Asked whether she felt pressure to represent the Muslim community in Ms Marvel, Iman admitted to Refinery 29: “I really wasn’t worried about that… Honestly I was more feeling pressured on the fan culture side of things.

“Honestly, just to be a nerd and represent other nerds, that was scary because I wanted to do the fandom justice because the Marvel fandom can be very picky... I would know!”

5. It also means she’s been a little light-fingered on set

“AvengerCon is what my dreams look like,” she told Entertainment Weekly. “I had so much fun filming there. It was very distracting: Every time we would cut, I’d be wandering off set, just looking at all the little Easter eggs that our set dec people had put up. I stole so much from that set, too. I took boxes home.

“I got a lot of posters, a lot of T-shirts, a lot of hats and sunglasses. I got some cool mugs and Funkos. Just everything that was there!

“On my first day, my assistant and I went around taking photos of everything I wanted to steal, and on the last day, when I said bye to people, she put things in bags and we shipped everything home.”

Iman in character as Kamala Khan (Photo: Disney/PA)
Iman in character as Kamala Khan (Photo: Disney/PA)

Iman in character as Kamala Khan (Photo: Disney/PA)

6. As well as a comic book devotee, Iman is also a total film buff

Before finding fame, Iman was chosen as part of the Toronto International Film Festival’s Next Wave Committee, a group of teenage cinema enthusiasts who select films from the event to highlight to younger viewers (she gave a special push to the Georgian queer coming-of-age film And Then We Danced at the time). 

You can also read her candid reviews of various films on her Letterboxd page.

7. She has a similar back story to her character

Born in Pakistan, Iman moved to Canada when she was a one-year-old, where she grew up and attended high school.

8. Iman found out that Disney were looking for someone to play Kamala Khan on WhatsApp

“My aunt got the casting call through a WhatsApp forward and it was literally a blank page that said like ’Ms. Marvel Disney+ Casting, send headshot and resume here,” she told Variety, admitting it all “looked super sketchy, but I did it anyway”.

She also revealed it was only when she received a non-disclosure agreement from Disney before her audition that things began to feel real.

9. The casting process was rocked by the pandemic, and she was eventually cast deep in the throes of Covid

“Soon after my audition, which was in February 2020, the pandemic hit,” she told Vogue.

“I didn’t get to do my other LA screen test – they moved it to June. I was like, ‘I have to accept university offers and figure out what I’m going to do if I don’t get the part’.” 

10. Fortunately she didn’t have anything to worry about, and found out she got the part of Ms Marvel on her last day of high school

The story goes she was hanging out with her friends like any other teenager when the phone call from Marvel boss Kevin Feige came through.

Ms Marvel began airing on Disney+ earlier this month (Photo: Disney/PA)
Ms Marvel began airing on Disney+ earlier this month (Photo: Disney/PA)

Ms Marvel began airing on Disney+ earlier this month (Photo: Disney/PA)

11. Being part of the show and getting to know her castmates helped Iman learn and connect more to her own heritage 

Of co-stars Rish Shah and Saagar Shaikh, Iman said: “We’d watch movies and I actually started listening to Bollywood music because of Rish and Saagar. I didn’t really have a lot of South Asian friends growing up.

“We talked about being brown and how disconnected you sometimes feel from your culture growing up, and that was a special thing to get to share with those guys.”

To The Guardian, she added: “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.

“Filming the show, I learned so much about my ancestry. That’s such a special thing I get to share with the character, and that’s because I was working with so many incredible creators who were from a Muslim or Pakistani background.

12. She’s said she relates to many of her teenage character’s struggles

In particular, Kamala’s name being repeatedly mispronounced is something that resonates with her.

“In elementary school, there was a teacher who would always call me an Apple product – like I-Man, iPod,” she revealed to Variety. “I hate it when people emphasise the ‘man’ because my name means ‘Faith’; it’s a very important Arabic word, especially in the Quran.

“You’re used to people not getting it and you grow up wanting to change your name, hating your name and not seeing the significance of these words. Kamala’s name in Arabic also means ‘Perfection’, or a miracle. Names are so important and, I can say this for myself, as soon as I come to terms with how cool my name is and how rare it is for people to have a name like mine, it’s a big step to take in self-acceptance.”

13. So much so, she’s actually advised on certain character choices

“I was 17 when I got cast, so they used me as a resource and I was more than happy to give my input because it’s annoying when adults make shows about kids and they get everything wrong or make everything as generic as possible,” she told Vogue

“We wanted to tell a specific story and make Kamala realistic and relatable. I talked to them about the types of guys I had crushes on, my favourite teachers, the sort of drama that’d happen at my high school.”

Iman continued: “I remember telling them about my guidance counsellor and how much I really didn’t like him – I think after that, they put in this guidance counsellor scene that is a big moment for Kamala.”

Iman at a Ms Marvel Q&A (Photo: Eugene Gologursky via Getty Images)
Iman at a Ms Marvel Q&A (Photo: Eugene Gologursky via Getty Images)

Iman at a Ms Marvel Q&A (Photo: Eugene Gologursky via Getty Images)

14. Iman hopes the Ms Marvel TV adaptation can make an impact on how South Asian stories are told on screen

In an interview with Refinery 29, Iman said: “I hope Ms. Marvel is not the end of seeing Muslims and Pakistanis in Hollywood. I really think that we are creating space for more inclusivity and hopefully this show inspires more South Asian creatives to tell their stories.

“This is just one story of one girl of one family of one character arc, and we can’t represent all two billion South Asians and Muslims, right? So hopefully this does kind of get the ball rolling on more representation in Hollywood.”

15 If you’re looking to follow Iman on social media, you’re out of luck

Iman previously had a rarely-updated Instagram profile, though this was deleted not long after the news of her casting was made public.

“The amount of attention that’s going to come towards me in the next couple months is going to be just a juggernaut. And this is my way of easing into the process,” she explained to The Guardian.

16. As well as acting, Iman has a keen interest in behind-the-scenes work

She’s already tried her hand at directing short films, available to watch on her Vimeo page, and said she wants to branch into cinematography.

17. For now, though, her next project is already lined up – The Marvels

After debuting in Ms Marvel, she’s set to share the screen with Captain Marvel herself, Brie Larson and WandaVision’s Teyona Parris. Samuel L Jackson will also co-star as Nick Fury.

18. And she’s already received a lot of mentorship from Brie Larson

“Brie actually reached out to me like a week after I got the part,” Iman told E! News. “We just talked on video chat for hours, sharing stories.”

She continued: “I was listening to her give me really great advice on how to take care of yourself, because you can get lost in this world and everything can get super overwhelming and it’s a lot of emotions and new experiences.

“Just hearing someone who’s as established and successful as Brie have the same problems that I’m having was just really comforting.”

In a separate interview, Iman told AP: “Brie is on my wall and she’s in my phone book. So, like, that’s weird.”

The first episode of Ms Marvel is available to watch now on Disney+

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This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

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