Ms. Marvel co-creator Sana Amanat on bringing Kamala Khan from page to screen
- TV Show
Sun's out, fun's out! EW's 2022 Summer Preview has dozens of exclusive looks at the most anticipated TV shows, movies, books, and music of entertainment's hottest season. Continue to visit ew.com throughout the week for more previews of what you'll be watching, reading, and listening to in the months to come.
Sana Amanat has been with Kamala Khan since the beginning. The longtime Marvel comics editor helped create Ms. Marvel back in 2014 in collaboration with writer G. Willow Wilson, editor Steve Wacker, and artist Adrian Alphona. Ever since the teenage Kamala burst onto the Marvel scene with her embiggened fists and wide-eyed enthusiasm, she's become one of the most beloved new superheroes of the last decade, a quirky Jersey City native who's incredibly powerful — and incredibly human.
Now, Kamala is making the leap to the screen, and Iman Vellani will star as the Pakistani-American hero in the upcoming Ms. Marvel series on Disney+. Like her comics counterpart, the Kamala of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a geeky, Muslim high schooler who looks up to Brie Larson's Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel. When Kamala develops powers of her own, she decides to follow in her idol's footsteps and become a hero in her own right.
For Amanat, who serves as a producer on the series, she's thrilled to be able to introduce Kamala's story to an even larger audience.
"The great part of it for me is the collaboration," Amanat tells EW of working on the show. "I love that so many people now are in Kamala's life. They're helping her grow, whether it's our directors, our writers, our VFX team, our costume designer, our set decorator. Everybody has now influenced Kamala. What's really wonderful is that she's truly going into the next stage of growth because of all these amazing people who are bringing their own perspectives."
Before Ms. Marvel premieres on Disney+ on June 8, EW caught up with Amanat to talk about bringing Kamala from page to screen — and why her powers look different from the comics.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you first start talking about the possibility of bringing Ms. Marvel to the screen?
SANA AMANAT: It was definitely years ago. There has always been buzz. I know Kevin [Feige] was really excited to try to bring this to life. I think at this point it's been four or five years since we were officially going to adapt it. But it was exciting, and we were very happy to know that not only would it be adapted, but it would be adapted into a live-action series, which is what I had always hoped. I feel like this is a series because there's so much world and community.
As the co-creator of this character, you've been with Kamala since the beginning. What was it that excited you most about bringing her into live action?
I mean, obviously, adapting the comic into something that feels familiar to the comic and also synced into the MCU was a really fun challenge. Obviously, this show and this character mean the world to me. I know how incredibly important it is for people to have this out there, especially for young Muslims and young Pakistanis and Indians and people of color and young women. It just affects so many different communities, and that's what was really exciting for me, just knowing how important this show is and hoping that we get it right.
Based on the trailer, the show seems like a fun mix of a superhero adventure and a coming-of-age story. How did you want to approach the tone of the series?
The comic was very much a guiding light for us. We needed to make sure that it worked in the MCU, of course, but we wanted to make sure that we had that quirkiness and the stylistic distinction that the comics did so well. We wanted to find our own MCU version of it. So, we're doing things in this show that we don't really do anywhere else in the MCU. It's kind of told through the lens of Kamala's experience and her wild imagination. I think the brightness and the colors and where we go in the Marvel universe and in Kamala's universe is really what makes it stand out, tonally and stylistically, from everything else.
And I think it needs to. Obviously, it's a coming-of-age story, but it's a coming-of-age story through the lens of a young brown woman. I think that in itself is going to make it stand apart. Her world is naturally colorful. She grows up in a colorful environment, not only because of the community that she's from, but also the city that she's from. Jersey City is a pretty crazy and vibrant and multicultural place, and we really wanted to showcase that, too.
What was it about Iman Vellani that made her the right person to play Kamala?
I think once people meet Iman and get to know her and watch her in the show, everyone's going to be like, "Oh, no question. She's Kamala." It's no doubt. She is funny and sweet and vulnerable and nerdy and a huge fan of Marvel in real life. She's incredibly smart, like whip smart, and she has such a bright future ahead. I feel like Iman is going to do so much after this show. Sure, she can get an Oscar, but she's probably going to go be a director or a producer. She's going to do so much because she's so smart.
There is so much of Kamala in her because I think Kamala has the same type of view of the world. She looks at the world with eager and hopeful eyes, and I think Iman does that, too. You can't help but root for her and be drawn to her. There are just so many similarities that it felt like such a natural fit to see her put on the costume for the first time [or] see her go into the Khan house for the first time. It just made sense. There's no other Kamala than Iman Vellani.
One of the things I've always loved about Kamala in the comics is how she has that sense of joy, like you said. She's not a billionaire or a god; she's just a girl from Jersey City. And she's never jaded or cynical.
It's so nice to have a character who just wants to do great things and be great, and at the same time, she has so much love for her family and for her friends. There's so much joy in the show. I feel like we're so used to seeing darker stories, especially sometimes about young people. I'm just like, "Nah, let's just have fun. Let's enjoy ourselves and enjoy growing up with Kamala."
From what we've seen in the trailer, Kamala's powers look a little different than they did in the comics. How did you want to approach translating her powers to the screen?
Obviously, so much of the show is an adaptation, and we thought it was important to make sure that her powers are linking to larger stories in the Marvel universe. We wanted to make sure there is a little bit more story to tell after this series. Obviously, she goes into The Marvels. The powers do look different, which is very controversial. I know people are like, "How dare you change the powers!" I know people are upset about it, but as someone who's probably one of the closest people to this character from the inception, and having spoken to Willow about this as well, I think Willow and I have always felt that this made sense. This was the right move because there are bigger stories to tell.
It's really fun to give Kamala different kinds of powers that feel big in scope and cinematic in a different way. We can do a lot of fun things with her. I don't want to spoil too much about how she uses her powers, but they're fun and bouncy. At the same point, the essence of what the powers are in the comics is there, both from a metaphorical standpoint and from a visual standpoint. We're doing the embiggened fist. We're doing the elements that make her feel and look kind of crazy, but also really cool. I think it's going to be familiar to people, but at the same time, different in a fresh and unique way.
One thing that's so key to Kamala's character in the comics is her admiration for Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel. What can you tell me about her admiration for Carol in the show?
I think that is very, very similar to the comics. Obviously, in the Marvel comics, the story was different. [Carol] was Ms. Marvel in the Marvel comics, and she's been around for much longer. But in this case, what's unique is Captain Marvel is one of the few really well-known, big-time female Avengers, if you will. She had a pretty significant save in the battle against Thanos, and I think if someone who was young and looking out at the world, and she sees this really powerful, badass woman almost take down Thanos, what does that do to you? How do you internalize that? I think that is a really important story to tell, not only about who your heroes are, but who are your heroes when you're a young person of color? What does that do to your sense of self?
When you think back to filming, what was your most memorable day on set?
The lamppost was awesome. It's weird because we have ideas, and we scribble them down, and I talk to Adrian Alphona or Jamie McKelvie or Willow, and we're like, "Here's a picture," and then it's done. And now, it's years of work and so many hundreds of people, and then she's sitting on a lamppost in her costume, looking amazing. It's surreal when you have these little ideas, and then they're out there, everywhere, and they're out there in a big way on billboards and posters. Every day I'm pinching myself, and I just hope people like it.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free daily newsletter to get breaking TV news, exclusive first looks, recaps, reviews, interviews with your favorite stars, and more.
Iman Vellani suits up as Pakistani American hero Kamala Khan in this Disney+ Marvel series.