MS. MARVEL Premiere Directors On SPIDER-VERSE Influences, Casting Iman Vellani, SRK & More (Exclusive)

Ahead of today's series premiere of Ms. Marvel, we sat down with directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah to talk about introducing Kamala Khan to the MCU, their unique visual style, SRK, and more!

Interviews Opinion

As Ms. Marvel begins streaming on Disney+ across the globe today, we recently caught up with directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah to talk about the series premiere, which finally introduces Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The dynamic directing duo, whose credits include Bad Boys for Life and the upcoming Batgirl, helmed the premiere and the season finale, and while we didn't get into the latter, they did speak at length about how they drew inspiration for the show's unique visual style from films like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. They also touched on bringing an authentic South Asian experience to the MCU, and a whole lot more.

Check out the full video interview below!

ROHAN: Like Moon Knight and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, this show isn't really dependent on the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe... did that help you develop Ms. Marvel?

ADIL: Yeah, it was a great opportunity to try to do something a bit different and Kevin Feige gave us, like you said, this is the base, this is Ms. Marvel, but you can maneuver in terms of style and the visual aspect of it the way that we want it and that's why, for instance, we wanted to do the animation aspect in it, which was something that was not in the script or in the original concept and we were inspired by Into the Spider-Verse and Scott Pilgrim.

We wanted to go into the head of Kamala Khan and try to translate what her dream world was, her fantasy world, and, even though it is something that was not present in the other aspects of the other shows of the MCU, after a big presentation with some examples and arguments as if we were lawyers, we showed it to Kevin and other people at Marvel, Louis and Victoria and they were just sold for the idea and said, go for it, guys. Make your visual style the way you want. Don't go overboard, but stay true to the story in the character and go for it. So, that was really very, very nice to be able to do something different.

ROHAN: Iman Vellani is perfectly cast as Kamala Khan... can you tell me more about finding her and then casting her in this life-changing role?

BILALL: Yeah, Iman Vellani, we saw her in the casting and it immediately clicked, like yeah, she's destined to be Kamala Khan. Her story is really parallel to Kamala Khan's story because Iman is Pakistani-Canadian, like Kamala Khan is between American culture and Pakistani Islamic culture and, at the same time, Iman is also just a huge fan of Marvel, really a Marvel expert, and Kevin Feige is her idol and Iron Man is her favorite movie. She herself is also very smart, intelligent, funny, and has a lot of charisma and she brought so much to Kamala Khan of herself, she brought it to next level. It was just a blessing to work with her. She's also just a filmmaker, she thinks about story and character, and for us, it was just mind-blowing to meet Iman, who had never starred in a movie ever, but now is really the heart and soul of the show, and that's a true blessing for us as directors.

ROHAN: It's often overlooked in Hollywood, but South Asia is a very large area, spanning from India, Pakistan, through the Middle East, and even into some parts of Africa. While we do all have some shared experiences growing up in the United States, all of us have very different cultural backgrounds that sometimes get meshed together in Western media. 

How did you approach balancing Kamala's Pakistani heritage with her also growing up in America?

ADIL: For us, it was also a connection to our origin, our story. We are Moroccan Belgian, North African Arab Muslims, and when we read Kamala Khan’s story, as this 15 year old teenager who was in between those two worlds, those two cultures in this kind of identity crisis searching for herself, where does she belong? Does she belong in the Pakistani world, the American world and now knowing where her place is, that's what we went through when we were teenagers, also not knowing, are we Moroccan Muslim, or are we Belgium, and that was really relatable. So, we put a lot of our own experience with our family dynamic, you know, like the father, played by Mohan, is a bit based on him his father.

BILALL: Yeah, my father is also like an old man with wisdom, the same clothing style.

ADIL: Yeah, so that aspect of our cultural background helped us a lot because there's a lot of similarities with the South Asian background, but at the same time, we also obviously had Iman Vellani, we had Sana Amanat, who co-created the comic book and is a producer on the show, she’s also a Pakistani American. We also had Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, who is from Karachi, as another director. So, we had enough people that really knew the culture really well and knew how to translate it in an authentic way and at the same time, just telling a very international universal story that anybody can relate to, whether or not you're South Asian or Muslim or not.

ROHAN: I'm sure you can see all the Shah Rukh Khan posters behind me... loved that reference in episode two. 

ADIL: Numero uno! The great Shah Rukh Khan! SRK!

BILALL: Yeah, we want to make a remake of Bad Boys with him!

Marvel Studios’ “Ms. Marvel” is a new, original series that introduces Kamala Khan, a Muslim American teenager growing up in Jersey City. An avid gamer and a voracious fan-fiction scribe, Kamala is a Super Hero megafan with an oversized imagination—particularly when it comes to Captain Marvel. Yet Kamala feels like she doesn’t fit in at school and sometimes even at home—that is, until she gets superpowers like the heroes she’s always looked up to. Life gets better with superpowers, right?

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