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“I Hope That Muslim Women Feel Seen, Empowered and Proud” – An Interview With Sana Amanat, Co-Creator of Ms. Marvel

by in Careers on 16th August, 2022

Marvel Comics' secret weapon is a woman named Sana Amanat - Vox

Sana Amanat. Judith Stephens/Marvel

Ms Marvel co-creator, Sana Amanat, discusses all things Muslim representation, how to handle criticism and what we can expect from season two of the show.

The first season of the hit Disney+ series Ms Marvel has come to a close and viewers have been left reflecting and rejoicing on its success for Muslim representation and wanting more. 

The successful comic book series-turned TV show told the story of Kamala Khan, a 16-year-old Pakistani, Muslim student and superhero fanatic from New Jersey, US as she deals with school, family, boys and culture as well as her newly-found superpowers.

The series has received much critical acclaim, with a score of 98 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, and minority audiences have celebrated the rare instance of positive representation of themselves within popular media. 

The co-creator of the comics and now series producer, Sana Amanat, shared that Kamala Khan was a character created for the “young Sana’s of the world”, so I sat down with her to learn more about the story’s origin, the success of the series and the potential for season two. 

What first inspired you to help create Ms Marvel and how has it felt to see the series unfold?

The idea was very simple. As my old boss Stephen Wacker said, we were creating a character for the young Sanas of the world and wanted to tell a story that felt very Marvel, but through a different perspective. I didn’t expect it to do as well as it did, to be honest, and it’s a credit to the initial creative team and artists who worked on the comic books. I think it felt so unique and special yet very Marvel, so that’s where we got much of the excitement and attention.

I always wanted this to be a television or streaming series versus a film because there’s so much of Kamala’s world to explore and you can do that better with multiple episodes over a two-hour feature. It’s been incredible and I’m very grateful, yet emotional as the chapter is, kind of, closing and granted her story will continue to be told but it’s been a lot of blood, sweat and tears and now we’re, sort of, done.

Looking back on the series, there were some incredible moments such as conversations about the Partition and the hijab. What were some of your favourite moments of Ms Marvel?

Oh, my God, I have so many. One of my favourite moments in this series is a beautiful scene between Yousef [Kamal’s father, played by Mohan Kapoor] and Kamala at the end of episode six. It’s very personal to me on a few different levels – because of my father and it’s also linked to the comics, and I just love it so much. I love the scene of Nakia [Kamala’s close friend, played by Yasmeen Fletcher] and Kamala talking about her Hijab, their identities and different experiences. I love Kamala and Kamran, I love the dance she does when she comes in after their date. There’s so much I love.

(L-R): Mohan Kapur as Yusuf, Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan, Saagar Shaikh as Aamir, and Nimra Bucha as Najma in Marvel Studios’ MS. MARVEL. Photo by Daniel McFadden. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

When chatting with Iman Vellani about representation within the series, she said the aim was to be reflective without trying to represent every Muslim out there. In your own words, how has Ms Marvel tried to treat Muslim representation?

No group should be painted with one brush. We’ve known that since the inception of the comics and we knew we would deal with many different experiences. Islam is a pluralistic faith and I strongly believe that we are not a monolith. We have different people embracing different ways to express their faith and we wanted the show to be able to encompass that.

I think that’s why it was incredibly important to me for Nakia to be a Hijabi but also very modern, someone who loves fashion, very much a feminist and she runs for the mosque board. Then, Kamala comes from a different perspective as she doesn’t cover her hair and still goes to the mosque, but like, how religious is she? I don’t know. Everyone is coming from very different perspectives. I liked shining a light on Sheikh Abdullah who is not necessarily your typical Imam, but also kind of is. There are so many wonderful Imams I’ve met over my life who surprised me. That’s what I love — showcasing different aspects and facets of the Muslim experience.

Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan in Marvel Studios’ MS. MARVEL. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

And of course, Ms Marvel won’t represent every Muslim experience so behind the scenes, how do you deal with criticism of the show’s representation and does it impact creative processes?

I was very aware of what the flags were going to be walking in and we had some great consultants who really helped. Oftentimes, if the directors were not there, and it was me figuring things out without other Muslim creatives — although, we had a lot of great representation in cast and crew — but, there were times where it was just me and the studio, and I am the only Muslim executive. So, it was nice to have that gut check and be aware that we were walking into some things that could have been controversial.

But, for the most part, everyone is going to have a different perspective or take and that’s okay. I know we’re not going to please everyone, and we can’t please everyone. So, we took it on the chin if people were very upset and just respected that opinion and disagreement, as long as they respect the fact that we have a different perspective on it, and that we’re telling a fantasy mythology which is the fun of it. It’s more about the celebration of our community and I hope people really appreciate that.

At Amaliah, we share the stories and intricacies of the lives of Muslim women. What do you hope Muslim women watching Ms Marvel will take away from the story?

I hope that they feel seen, empowered and proud to be who they are. I think we haven’t been allowed to be proud of ourselves and within our own communities. But, there is something to be said when one of the biggest studios in the world is reflecting your story — maybe it’s not exactly your story, but an aspect of it — and are saying this is cool, this is relevant and this is important. I think that changes your sense of self and gives you a strong sense of pride.

Especially for Muslim women, I know and have the most incredible Muslim women in my life, starting with my mother and my grandmother who are powerful and have done such great things. Now, it’s time to be able to remind these women that they have great power within themselves, so I just want to be able to celebrate that with them and I hope that they really own it.

Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan in Marvel Studios’ MS. MARVEL. Photo by Daniel McFadden. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Creatively, is there anything that was originally written that had to be edited out or change for the show?

Oh my god, so much. During the development process, things are constantly changing and the first draft of a script is never what you end up producing. Then, what you end up producing is never what you end up seeing in the editing room. So, things have changed significantly and there’s definitely some scenes I wish we had with Bruno [Kamala’s best friend/love interest, played by Matt Lintz] and Kamala from the comics that weren’t there. I wish we were able to tell a little bit more about the Red Daggers backstory and tell more about the Partition history.

We were doing so much in a short amount of time and we just didn’t have time to do everything. There’s certainly a lot, like I wish we were in Jersey City for longer, but she’s going to continue to tell her story in the Marvel universe and I hope we get to tell more Ms Marvel stories regardless.

(L-R): Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan and Matt Lintz as Bruno in Marvel Studios’ MS. MARVEL. Photo by Daniel McFadden. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Now, season two! Will be there one and if so, where would you like to see Kamala Khan go next?

We don’t know if there will be one! It would be awesome, I would love for there to be a season two. I know that there are other stories with Kamala within Marvel, so I think people will be happy that her and her family’s story is continuing to be told. If we’re able to do a proper season two, there’s so much I’d love to see. I would love to stick around in Jersey City for a little bit longer, or see more with the Red Daggers. There is so much I would love to be able to do.

Ms Marvel is streaming now on Disney+

Furvah Shah

Furvah Shah

Furvah Shah, 23, is a culture and lifestyle journalist currently working at Cosmopolitan Magazine. Being from a Pakistani, Muslim background, Furvah is passionate about diversifying representations of women, Muslims and ethnic minorities within the media and passing the microphone to underrepresented communities.