Actress Iman Fellaini has always been a huge fan of Avengers and the comics – so moving from Markham, Ont., to the Marvel Cinematic Universe to portray her first Muslim superhero is an almost indescribable feat.
“It’s a big feeling…just so many feelings,” she said, trying to put it into words at her first appearance on the red carpet in Toronto. “Being in Toronto and celebrating this with all my friends and family is so weird. But yeah, I’m excited.”
Vilani, 19, will play Kamala Khan in the upcoming series Mrs. MarvellIt will be released on June 8 on Disney+.
The role of Vellani also marks the franchise’s second South Asian champion – and the first is female. In 2021, Camille Nanjiani played Marvel’s first South Asian superhero in eternity, Taking on the role of Kingo, a Bollywood movie star turned superhero.
Diversity in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
Before that, despite the abundance of South Asian characters found in Marvel comics — think Thunderbird, Timeslip, and Omega Sentinel — roles in South Asia were limited to supporting characters like Dr. The Amazing Spider-Man (Irrfan Khan) and Dubinder V dead list Franchise (Karan Soni), parts Critics suggest It is largely built around stereotypes.
Criticism has also been growing about the lack of diversity for the main actors in the superhero franchise.
Filani said she sees this role as also about representing her community and showcasing South Asian culture.
The Pakistani-born Canadian actor said, “Movies and television literally shape how we see people in this world. And so, you know, when you only represent Muslims in a certain kind of light, you get very one tone.”
“I’m very happy that Marvel is making space for a character like Kamala to exist and occupy space and tell a very specific story about a very specific girl.”
Watch | Eman Villani shares what it’s like to wear a Ms. Marvel mask:
Representing South Asia in the film
The show focuses on Khan, an American Muslim teenager and superhero big fan who grew up in Jersey City. She deals with stresses familiar to many teens: the difficulty of adjusting at school and finding support at home.
Then she discovers that she has superpowers of her own.
Brie Larson, known for her role as Captain Marvel, the first superhero in the franchise, reached out to Vellani shortly after casting her.
“She was holding my hand everywhere,” Villani said. “It was really nice to get that guidance from someone who’s been through all this and everything I’m facing now.”
Celebrating fan culture in Ms. Marvel
The story offers a unique resemblance to Villani’s daily life. Being a fan, she describes entering the Marvel universe as “a lot of fun”.
“I was on set and was totally gushing about everything I see around me,” Villani said.
The show team didn’t let her watch the set of episode 1 of ‘Avenger Con’ until the day they shot the scene – they knew her reaction would be as prolific as Kamala’s.
They were like, ‘Whatever your reaction to in real life is what we want… so just be yourself,’ she said, describing the energy it brought to the character.
“This specificity is really what makes a character believable and what people will represent…not generalizing all brown people into one character.”