Ms. Marvel star Aramis Knight discusses the Order of Red Daggers and what Kareem teaches Kamala
The two most recent episodes of Ms. Marvel have not only brought Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) to Pakistan, they've also introduced her to another hero her own age: Kareem (Aramis Knight), a.k.a. Red Dagger. The friendly chemistry between the performers is no accident — they've known each other since they originally auditioned for the Disney+ superhero series years ago.
"We first tested together originally," Knight tells EW. "She was the first person I met on the show, and I was the first person she met on the show."
But, Knight says, it took a while to translate their personal chemistry to the screen. It helped that they roomed next door to each other in Thailand, where the production filmed the episodes set in Karachi. Working a job so far from home can be a bonding experience, and now Knight calls Vellani "a friend for life."
However, when it comes to their characters, the relationship between Kamala and Kareem starts off rocky and combative. That's similar to the Marvel comics from which they both originally hail, but with the added layer in the TV show of Kamala's connection to the mystical Clandestines — the enemies of Kareem and his fellow Red Daggers.
"Kareem has trained his whole life to be where he is now, and to keep up with the Clandestines who have superhuman abilities," Knight says. "So when he first meets Kamala, he's a bit wary of her, but once he realizes she's not a Clandestine, the dynamic between them comes from her having just recently discovered her powers that are very much in her ancestry, whereas Kareem has really dedicated his whole life to this. That gives him this ability to help Kamala learn what it's like to be a superhero and a normal person at the same time."
Might that rapport turn romantic? For a nerd, Kamala certainly has a lot of love interests: She's already got Bruno (Matt Lintz) and Kamran (Rish Shah) waiting for her back in Jersey City. For now, she and Kareem feel more like work pals — but you never know…
"We live so far apart, yet we get so close based on the traumas that we go through together, and I think Red Dagger is one of her greatest allies throughout this series," Knight says. "While we were shooting, we made jokes that Kamala's really racking up the boys! But it's ultimately up to Marvel which direction that ends up going in."
Kareem is the only Red Dagger in the Ms. Marvel comics, but in the show he belongs to the Order of Red Daggers. This organization, which also includes Kareem's mentor Waleed (Farhan Akhtar), is dedicated to stopping the Clandestines from breaking the Veil of Noor and releasing their fellow djinn into the human world.
As Ms. Marvel co-creator Sana Amanat told EW last week, expanding the Red Daggers into an order for the show gives more depth to Kamala's world and also serves as a demonstration of egalitarianism. The Red Daggers aren't blessed with superhuman gifts — they're simply willing to wear a red mask (which is very COVID-safe, Knight says) and fight to protect their home.
"They're very much selfless heroes, which is one of my favorite things about Kareem," Knight says. "There's actually a scene that didn't make it into the episode, where Kareem has this line that I thought was really cool. He says, 'I don't wear this mask for acclaim. I wear it so that every boy in Karachi knows that they can do the same thing I do.'"
Ms. Marvel is streaming now on Disney+.
Iman Vellani suits up as Pakistani American hero Kamala Khan in this Disney+ Marvel series.