With Oscar Isaac's Moon Knight now far in the rearview mirror, fans are diving into the story of Iman Vellani's fangirl superhero Kamala Khan courtesy of Ms. Marvel. Despite some early controversy regarding massive changes to the character's powers, the show has seemingly overcome that road bump with positive reactions across the board.
It's hard not to like the series, seeing as Iman Vellani's energy is simply contagious. Her love for Marvel in real life seems to be just as intense as Kamala's fandom in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She even casually gives Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige grief when it comes to happenings in the MCU—including the brutal death of Black Bolt in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
While the fourth episode of the show may have already aired, many are likely still thinking about Episode 3. The installment featured a massive Muslim wedding, one which offered some groundbreaking representation, especially within the superhero genre.
The lucky couple, Aamir and Tyesha, had a wonderful ceremony; not including the Clandestines coming in and mucking it all up. Now, The Direct has sat down with the actress behind the Khan's newest family member to talk about her part to play in Ms. Marvel.
Travina Springer Talks Tyesha
In an exclusive interview with The Direct’s Russ Milheim, Ms. Marvel actress Travina Springer, who plays Tyesha Hillman in the hit Disney+ series, opened up about her groundbreaking role in the newest MCU project.
Coming into the world that Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige created, how big of a fan was she? Springer admitted that “[she] was probably more of a casual fan,” but once it became clearer that she was going to become a part of it, she “started diving in and watching stuff:”
“I was probably more of a casual fan. I didn't know as much about the MCU when I joined. I think honestly, I didn't even know what I was auditioning for. And as it became clear that I was going to become a part of the series, I started diving in and watching stuff and catching up. I definitely watched Captain Marvel to get an idea of the tone and stuff. And it's been amazing to really see how vast the world is. And how large the pool of fans are in how serious I mean, they're for real. It’s definitely one of the more intense fan bases.”
So how did the actress come to learn about the role? Well, ironically she was also friends with Saagar Shaikh, who plays Kamala’s brother, Amir, in the series. He had reached out to her and mentioned that she “should audition for it:”
“It's really interesting, because the day that I got my audition material, Saagar [Shaikh], who plays Amir, who is a friend of mine, sent me a text message, and it was like, ‘hey, this characters came in. I think you should audition for it.’ And I was like, ‘I am, how do you know this? I got really paranoid because Marvel is—I had to sign like 10 NDAs just to get the material. I was like, ‘why do you even know this?’ He was like, ‘oh, I'm just paying attention.’ And I was like, ‘Alright, cool.’ So um, when I had to test, we were testing together, and I still had no idea. I didn't get it. I was like, ‘oh, this is this is fun.’ It was nice… [Saagar] and I are [already] friends, so we had chemistry already.”
Funnily enough, the two didn’t know each of them both got the role “until [Springer] showed up on the callsheet:”
“And then, like, when I got it I was still secretive about it. I don't even think I told him until I showed up on the callsheet... that's the level of paranoia. I think that's when he saw it. And then like we talked about, it was very exciting. We were really excited to be able to have our first really big thing be together. And yeah, the audition process was very, very secret. I was paranoid that my phone was being tapped… the audition process at the casting office was phenomenal and so kind, and they made it really easy. And I will add that, that they did really an amazing job.”
When it comes to being a part of the amazing representation that Ms. Marvel is bringing to audiences around the world, Springer admitted that she is “just overwhelmed with joy and gratitude… and [I’m] extremely honored. She also exclaimed how Iman Vellani’s project is “a groundbreaking project that’s going to shift a lot of narratives [in a great way]:”
“I think the biggest feelings I have are just overwhelmed with joy and gratitude. And I'm just extremely honored to be not only a part of such a groundbreaking project that's going to shift a lot of narratives and a lot of opportunities for South Asians, for Muslims, but also on a personal level to play Tyesha Hillman-Khan. Who is a black Muslim convert in this series, is, I mean, I couldn't have asked for a better way to be introduced to a broader audience. It’s special when an actor gets to play like a fun character. But when you get to be part of an important project as well, I think words really can't express what that means, you know, as I want to do something that's meaningful, as well as creatively fulfilling, and to have the two things come together is just chef's kiss.”
One of her character’s biggest moments in the show happened in Episode 3, when she got married to Aamir Khan in a big Muslim wedding. Springer noted how she doesn’t “think the average audience has seen a Muslim wedding,” and that its inclusion “is really huge:”
“Oh, that was really exciting. You know, I don't think the average audience has seen a Muslim wedding… you know, [you’ve seen] non-religious weddings or we've seen Jewish weddings on television and film, you know, I think there's like some sort of maybe understanding of what that looks like. And to put a love story of two Muslims—and also [who are] intercultural [and] interracial, in a Muslim relationship on television I think is really huge and just showing that joy and love between you know, two people really care about each other I think that's important for people to see it normalizes us you know…”
When approaching the big event, she went on to elaborate on how “[it’s] been torture [keeping the secret]... [but they] tried to keep it [all] real and special:”
“… it was fun doing the wedding and the beautiful clothing I am so excited everybody can finally see it. It was very fun. I've been like holding the secret for so long. Been torture but it was special… we shot it inside the nikha [which] was inside of a mosque. And for us to like, do the ritual and for the audience, you know, for the people in the attending the wedding to say Allahu Akbar like all that stuff. It was just really lovely. Like we tried to keep it real and special.”
When asked what her favorite scene to do in the entire series was, she enforced her love for the show’s big wedding. Not only did she “get to wear that beautifully designed costume,” but Springer was also a part of some “important… representation:”
“Yeah, I think, honestly, the wedding was like my favorite. Because I think, you know, not only did I get to wear that beautifully designed costume. It was gorgeous. But it was also very heavy, like 30 pounds. But I think, you know, just the joy that was around that and the visualization of a Muslim couple, getting married and experiencing joy and having fun. I just think it's really important for that sort of representation. And to, for us all to be there dancing together and having a good time… that was a really fun experience.”
When it came to the big dance-off, “it was just a pleasure [for Springer] to watch [it unfold,” even their cinematographer, Carmen Cabana, “[was] in a dress [on the dance floor and] dancing:”
“… The dance, it was so perfect. [It was] very fun. They had a choreographer in there… that was my favorite couple of days was watching them dance and start and like everybody building up [and] everybody practicing and getting better, and watching the Khans dance… it was just such a lively, beautiful [event]. Carmen [Cabana], our cinematographer, was amazing. She was like in a dress, dancing… the way she was saying that she wanted the camera to [move around]… it was just a pleasure to watch the dance scene and to have the cinematographer, also a woman, moving around and having this vision. And our director, also a woman—[seeing their] vision [come] to life. And they’re all performing for Tyesha. I felt very special.”
The actress “wanted to dance so badly,” but admitted that being forced to watch wasn’t all too bad. She also made it clear how all “the smiles [seen on camera] were real:”
“I wanted to dance so badly. But Tyesha is a lot more modest than Travina is… I definitely wanted to [take part]… everybody [was great]. I mean Matt [Lintz] was great. Everybody was so good, Iman [Vellani] was adorable. If you asked me, everybody was really wonderful with their dancing. I was very impressed… the smiles were real.”
Outside of those wedding scenes, Tyesha obviously had other scenes. Many of them involved working with the Khan family at dinner—which is where the bulk of her interaction with Iman Vellani’s Kamala Khan was.
So what was it like working alongside the young star? Springer admitted that “[she] was very impressed with her,” and that all of her co-stars on set knew that Vellani “[was] perfect:”
“It was really a treat working with Iman. I was very impressed with her. The way that she rose to the occasion, and that she was able to just show up every day. You know, she was number one on the call sheet and that’s a lot of pressure for any show, for any seasoned actor and for her having the limited experience she had, she was just phenomenal. I was even more touched by just how charming and perfect she was as Kamala Khan. Like I knew there—I think we all knew like while we were filming this so long ago that she’s perfect and [that] this is going to be amazing and people are going to see [that]. I’m so excited that now Marvel fans can see the magic we got to witness every day.”
When it comes to who Springer wishes she had more screentime with, the actress was quick to mention “Rish Shah,” who plays Kamran in the series, and how “[he’s] just another phenomenal human:”
“Probably Rish Shah… we had limited interactions but like we played a lot, you know off camera [where we would’ve] been hanging out. He’s such a sweetheart. He’s so talented. And I think it would have been fun to have more scenes also. I could just watch his work. He’s really good, and just another phenomenal human. He’s really great… casting was on point.”
With her character living in a world filled to the brim with superpowers, which would the actress behind Tyesha want the newest member of the Khan family to meet? Her answer quickly went to Chadwick Boseman, and how she’d love to be in “another universe [where she] get[s] to work and see” the legendary actor:
“I'm like, can I say, I mean… can I interact with Black Panther? Like, another universe that I get to work and see [Chadwick Boseman]. We’ve got holograms an stuff… I’d probably run up to T’Challa and be like, ‘oh my god, it is you.’ But I wouldn’t bow, because Tyesha, she’s Muslim, you know she don’t be bowing to people.”
As for who she’d want to be if she could embody a superhero herself, Springer settled on the classic X-Men “Storm,” declaring that “she’s a vibe.”
Ms. Marvel's Groundbreaking Representation
While Tyesha may not be the main character in Ms. Marvel, she's been an enjoyable part of the experience. Hopefully, with the more Kamala's story gets told in the MCU, Springer's character will get more time to shine and be explored on a deeper level. With how much Aamir means to Kamala, there's plenty of room to play around.
The actress' excitement for the Muslim wedding, which also happened to be her character's biggest moment, is absolutely deserved. It's a prime example of how important Ms. Marvel is to the wider world. It provides glimpses into cultures that some people may never have seen otherwise.
That trend has continued with the show's fourth episode, which saw the main character travel all the way to Karachi for more answers about her past. The story doubled down when it came to exploring Kamala's heritage, and where her family comes from. Given how the installment ended, next week's episode will undoubtedly go even further.
The first four episodes of Ms. Marvel are now streaming on Disney+.