Who is Iman Vellani? Newcomer cast as Muslim superhero Ms Marvel

The young actress will star in the TV series 'Ms Marvel' set for a 2021 release

Newcomer Iman Vellani has been cast as Ms Marvel. Twitter / TIFF
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The actress who will play Muslim comic book superhero Ms Marvel on TV has been announced as Canadian newcomer Iman Vellani.

Ms Marvel is Pakistani-American teenager Kamala Khan, and the character will front a live-action TV series on Disney+. This was announced in August and the show is currently slated for a 2021 release.

Little is known about Vellani, as this is her first role in TV or film. However, she was on the Next Wave panel at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, which worked to pick films that would suit a younger audience.

She picked Minhal Baig's Hala, which tells the story of a Muslim-American teen trying to navigate cultural codes and differences.

"We want stories from different genders and different countries and different people," Vellani said at the time according to CBC. "I think [it]'s a really important film to see when you want to take a good look at a young member of society who's just trying to fit in to the best of both worlds."

Famous faces in Hollywood have already started to congratulate Vellani over her casting, including Mindy Kaling and Kumail Nanjiani.

Comic book author and Ms Marvel co-creator Gwendolyn Willow Wilson vouched for Vellani by tweeting the news and then writing, "she is the real deal".

An Instagram account in her name was created on Wednesday after the casting announcement. It already has more than 16,000 followers (showing the power of Marvel fandom) but isn't verified and many commenters are saying it isn't run by Vellani.

Marvel studio chief Kevin Feige has said that the character of Kamala Khan / Ms Marvel will also appear in future films in the franchise, but they may of course cast a different actor for the big screen.

Plot and crew: more on the 'Ms Marvel' TV show... 

A handout image of Ms. Marvel (Courtesy: Marvel) *** Local Caption ***  al15mr-cover-msmarvel02.jpg
Marvel has confirmed that Ms Marvel will be coming to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Courtesy Marvel

Sixteen-year-old Kamala Khan, or Ms Marvel, is Marvel's first Muslim lead character. She first appeared in an August 2013 edition of Captain Marvel, and landed her own comic book series in February 2014.

She was in part created by comic book artist Sana Amanat, who told The National that the character was sparked by a conversation she had with her senior editor Stephen Wacker about her own experiences growing up in New Jersey as a Pakistani-American Muslim.

“I was talking about the fact it was really hard to be a young Muslim in America and the different struggles I had, like trying to go to the prom, making my own dress that was fully covered, fasting and playing lacrosse, wearing tights underneath my shorts in 90-degree weather and not being able to go on dates,” Amanat said. “For me, it was so common and everyday, but my senior editor said: ‘Not a lot of people know those kinds of stories.’ That was the first spark of an idea of creating a character that maybe could resonate with young Sanas out there.”

In the comic book, Khan develops polymorphous powers due to 'inhuman' genes and takes over the former identity of her hero Carol Danvers (Danvers drops the Ms Marvel moniker in the Marvel comics when taking on the mantel of Captain Marvel in 2012). She has the ability to shape shift and has powers of elasticity.

As for the TV show, directors announced for the project include Bad Boys for Life directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, as well as Oscar-winning Pakistani-American director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and American-Indian Farah Goes Bang director Meera Menon.

The showrunner and writer on the show is Bisha K Ali, who was a writer on the Four Weddings and a Funeral TV series and appears on the Guilty Feminist podcast.