Last Friday evening, the cast and crew of Marvel Studios’ Ms. Marvel gathered for a virtual press conference less than a week before the series’ debut. Notable moments discussed the process of adapting such a popular comic character to live-action and the changes necessary to integrate her into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), as well as some of the stars’ backgrounds in Marvel fandom long before being cast in the series.
MS. MARVEL CREATOR ON ADAPTING THE CHARACTER TO LIVE-ACTION
During Friday’s press conference, Bisha K. Ali (Head Writer and Executive Producer) spoke about adapting Kamala to the small screen and working alongside Sana Amanat (creator of the Ms. Marvel character) to produce and write the series:
“[Kamala is] live-action in the first instance. I think it was an incredible process, and the thing that felt like such a gift is the fact that Sana was involved in this project from the go, and having Sana around really felt like, ‘OK. There are borderlines and things we can do in how to stay true to the character in the comics on the pages and still add something new, add a freshness, add a vitality and a contemporary edge to what we’re going to see onscreen.’”
THE "GROUP DECISION" BEHIND MS. MARVEL'S POWER CHANGE
A note of dialogue among many fans since the very first look at the series was Ms. Marvel’s altered powers, appearing to differ from her Inhuman powers in the comics. Many theories were proposed as to the purpose of this, but Bisha went on to resolve the questioning among fans and explained the reasoning behind the deviation in Ms. Marvel’s powers for the series, noting the “group decision” to better fit Kamala into the MCU:
“That was really a group decision talking through how she’s going to exist in the MCU, how she’s going to fit into this web of storytelling that Marvel Studios has done in live-action over the last decade and putting all those pieces together while staying true to this beautiful, incredible character that Sana had created over on the publishing side.”
As Bisha explained, the change in powers appears to be a decision made to better gear her for a future in Marvel’s storytelling, and it may be important to note her upcoming appearance in next year’s The Marvels, a crossover movie between Kamala, Captain Marvel, and Monica Rambeau, all of which have “energy-based” powers in the MCU. I believe the writers have an opportunity to use this connection to their advantage, as Kamala is famously a huge fan of Captain Marvel, and acquiring similar powers to her hero may feed into her growth.
RISH SHAH HID HIS MARVEL FIGURES TO AVOID ALARMING MS. MARVEL CREATOR
Having been asked about his reaction to receiving the call that he got the role, Rish Shah (Kamran actor), after being nudged by Sana, revealed he was in his kitchen, surrounded by the Funko pops he had been collecting for years and was worried his fanaticism would shock Sana:
“Oh my god, all my Funko pops [LAUGH] that I've been collecting and arranged in my mom's kitchen in, like, a specific, you know, all the battle sequences over the years.” Rish divulged. “Yeah, I was worried I was gonna freak Sana out”
Sana then revealed that Rish was so anxious from the call that he actually hid some of his Funko pops from her:
“He hid some of them.” Sana joked. “He's like, “Yeah, but there's, like, more behind my computer. I just felt embarrassed.” [LAUGH]”
Rish then revealed his life-long connection with Marvel and how that informed his decision to audition for the role of Kamran, as well as his reaction to finding out he got the part:
“Yeah, so obviously I was freakin' out,” Rish recollected. “I mean the first toy I ever received from my dad was an Incredible Hulk action figure. You know, so it really was something, yeah, like all of us have grown up with. So, to be able to play Kamran, I immediately… When I was at university, I used to go to the comic shop called Forbidden Planet in London and I'd see the comics. And when I found out this was happening, I begged to get into the room, and so yeah, I was basically crying with tears when I found out.”
Of course, Rish is not the only cast member who is obsessed with Marvel. Fans will be delighted to know that just as Kamala is engrossed in a room full of Avengers memorabilia, so too is the actress, Iman Vellani. In an interview with the Toronto Sun, Iman went into depth about growing up with the MCU, and the obligations of being a fan:
“I grew up with the MCU, but when I was in seventh grade, something clicked,” Iman said. “Marvel fandom is demanding. We’re 34 projects in, and you need to keep up with everything. There’s the subreddits, the fan forums, fanfic, cosplay, and fan art. Then there’s breaking down the trailers, frame-by-frame, and breaking down the posters, inch-by-inch. That’s how I grew up and that’s how obsessive I was over Marvel.”
After being asked by an audience member whether Marvel would consider hosting a convention in the near future, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige confirmed that the filming of the Avenger-Con event in the series actually inspired Marvel to seriously consider a real-life Marvel convention, speaking to how crew from Spider-Man: No Way Home (which was filming next door) would sneak over to see Ms. Marvel’s Avengers Convention:
“We were definitely talking about that on the set. We shot that right, you know, in the middle of COVID protocol, so there hadn't been a convention for a very long time. And it was very cathartic for all of us to see that. And we were shooting Spider-Man: No Way Home on the stage right next door, believe it or not. Actually, the scene with the three Spideys,” Kevin recalled. “And a lot of that crew kept sneaking over to see, and attend Avenger Con, walking around. So, I think that might be fun to do it sometime,”
Beyond the crew, a special guest from the Spider-Man set took a keen interest in Ms. Marvel’s convention:
“Tom Holland came back to come and see Avenger Con,” Adil El Arbi (Series Director and Executive Producer) said.
Will we get any version of this convention soon? Kevin revealed that fans may soon be able to get a taste of the convention Kamala attends in the show:
“There might be a few places you can go and visit the Ms. Marvel version of Avenger Con,” Kevin teased.
I strongly suspect that Kevin is referring to an upcoming addition to Disneyland’s Avengers Campus in the near future, considering how promptly the attraction has been integrating material from Marvel Studios’ most recent releases, including Disney+ releases such as Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Moon Knight. In fact, Sana let slip that she believes some of the show’s props will circulate among the Disney campuses:
“Some of our props, I think are going to be circulating, I think on the Disney campuses”
From all accounts, it sounds like everyone involved in the series, both cast and crew, are huge fans of Marvel, as well as the Ms. Marvel comic series in particular. From casting a real-life Kamala Khan, to bringing in the creator of the character as a writer and producer, it sounds like Marvel Studios endeavours to make this series faithful in spirit to the source material.
Adil echoes these sentiments, stating:
“[Viewers] can see the show, fall in love with Kamala Khan with her friends and her family. Because you know, she has superpowers, but her real powers are the love and the care from the friends and the family. So, this magnificent cast here that brought these characters to life, that's the real main reason to watch the show. And I hope, you know, it's gonna be their family, the same way that we all became family.”