JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP/FOX 5 NY) - The new Disney+ series "Ms. Marvel" features a Muslim superhero — a Pakistani American teenage girl who is the first character of South Asian descent to lead a Marvel Cinematic Universe series or movie.
Iman Vellani, a 19-year-old Pakistani Canadian actress, is the star of the show. She plays Kamala Khan, a 16-year-old high school student from Jersey City. The show is based on the Marvel comic book of the same name.
The barriers the character is breaking are not lost on her.
"Showing those close, tight-knit family relationships, showing parents that are alive in the MCU, how rare is that," Vellani said. "We wanted to hopefully get the ball rolling on Muslim representation in the media because there's 2 billion Muslims and South Asians in the world, and we cannot represent every single one of them. But I do hope that people find some sort of comfort in Kamala's character or through her brother or her parents or anyone in her community."
"Ms. Marvel," debuting Wednesday, is Vellani's first professional acting job. Already an avid reader of the comics, Vellani learned of the open audition from her aunt. She went to the audition and got the gig.
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Vellani just may be the first Marvel actor who is also a massive fan. She especially loves Robert Downey, Jr. and has proudly re-watched "Iron Man" "more than the average person."
"They really are just a projection of real life and make you feel like you're a part of something. Isn't that what we all kind of want, to feel like we belong?" Vellani said. "And I know it sounds super cheesy, but for the Marvel fandom, it's comfortable. It's what we know. We can recite everything under the sun about the MCU."
Jersey City will be front and center in the show as it is in the comic book series, which excites Marvel fans in the city. Jersey City native David Acosta helps run Manifest Comics in neighboring Bayonne. He has followed the "Ms. Marvel" comic book series and is beyond excited that the show is putting his hometown on display.