Iman Vellani charmed audiences as the star of Ms. Marvelon Disney+ last year, but the Canadian actor was still star-struck when she showed up to shoot The Marvels as her first feature film.
In fact, the Toronto-area actress got shy when she met Samuel L. Jackson on the set of the Marvel film, according to The Marvels director Nia DaCosta.
“She literally stood behind me and was like, hiding because she was so nervous to meet him,” DaCosta told Narcity during a recent interview ahead of the film’s release.
However, DaCosta says Vellani warmed up pretty quickly to the situation, and eventually she was channeling her character, Kamala Khan, by shifting into full Avengers fangirl mode.
“By the end of the day she was wearing an eyepatch and asking him questions for her book,” said DaCosta. “That was pretty cute.”
#themarvels director Nia DaCosta with the cutest story about Iman Vellani meeting Samuel L. Jackson #marvel #msmarvel #nickfury #niadacosta #imanvellani @marvelstudios @narcitycanada
The Marvels unites Ms. Marvel (Vellani) with Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and Captain Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) for a spacefaring superhero team-up that sees the trio swapping places every time they use their powers.
It's a particularly thrilling team-up for Vellani's Kamala Khan, a certified Captain Marvel superfan within the MCU. Fans first met her in the Disney+ series Ms. Marvel, and the film picks up with the final teaser from that show, which ended with Captain Marvel randomly appearing in Kamala's bedroom.
The new film also brings back franchise veteran Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, the Avengers super-spy with the eyepatch — an eyepatch that Vellani obviously asked to try on for herself in between scenes.
As for Vellani’s book that DaCosta mentioned, that might be a reference to her comic book. The Canadian has fully embraced her MCU character off-screen and is now writing a Ms. Marvel comic for Marvel Comics — a project that she revealed earlier this year. And who better to ask for tips than Jackson, who has appeared in dozens of Marvel films and TV shows over the last decade?
Despite Vellani’s early jitters, DaCosta says she was “so professional” on set, and that she brings a ton of enthusiasm and passion to the role.
“It really just reminds me of when I was that age, to be honest,” DaCosta said. “Except I wasn’t, you know, playing an amazing character in the MCU.”
She added that Vellani was a refreshing presence on the film because Marvel movies can be tiring projects, and it helps to have someone around "to remind you why you're doing it."
DaCosta has also been a Marvel fan for much of her life, and this project marks her first major studio film following the success of Candyman, her horror franchise reboot from 2021.
“I’m a big nerd,” she said, before explaining how Thanos for "cheated" in his fight with Captain Marvel in Avengers: Endgame.
But while that's a pretty nerdy take, even DaCosta was shocked by how seriously Vellani takes her Marvel fandom, after she learned that the Canadian dressed up as the X-Men mutant Jubilee for Toronto’s Fan Expo last summer.
“Amazing!” she said with a laugh.
Vellani doesn't have a public social media presence so her friend and Fan Expo pal, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, was the one to share their outfits last summer.
She also hasn't been able to promote The Marvels due to the ongoing Hollywood actors' strike, but that doesn't mean she's been keeping quiet. Instead, she's been happy to talk about her experience with writing Ms. Marvel: The New Mutant for Marvel Comics.
"It's so cool to be able to contribute to the actual Marvel Comics canon and this next phase for (Ms. Marvel), because it's a really big deal," Vellani told Marvel.com earlier this year. "I thought that they were going to give me a cute little miniseries or a one-shot and just, you know, 'Go ahead, do your thing.' And they were like, 'No, she's a mutant, and you're dealing with the aftermath.' I was like, 'Oh my God! This is a lot more pressure and it's way too late to back out now!'"
The comic book stuff is definitely a full-circle moment for Vellani, who told Narcity last year that she's loved Ms. Marvel since long before she started playing her on screen.
"We pretty much had a very similar life, that's why I kind of took to Kamala a lot when I picked up those comics for the first time," Vellani told Narcity in 2022.
"It felt like those comics were written for me, and as cheesy as that sounds, I was very possessive over it, you know. I love the fact that no one really knew who Ms. Marvel was because it felt like it was just this little secret I get to keep and now to be sharing it with the world is so incredibly surreal."
Fast-forward one year and she's once again sharing Ms. Marvel with the world, only now she's taking her to the big screen and the comic book page. MCU fans can also expect to see more of Vellani in the MCU in years to come, as she's super charming in The Marvels and is already expected to appear in a few of the next Avengers films.
The first three issues of Vellani's comic book Ms. Marvel: The New Mutant are available now, with the fourth and final one slated to drop at the end of November. You might even bump into Vellani herself if you go to pick up a copy at Heroes World, her favourite comic book shop in her hometown of Markham, Ont.
And if you're craving something to eat in Markham, you could hit up her high school hangouts such as BarBurrito and ChaTime.
You can watch Vellani take her superhero act to the big screen in Marvel Studios' The Marvels, which opens everywhere on November 10. The film is directed by Nia DaCosta and also stars Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris, Zawe Ashton, Samuel L. Jackson and Park Seo-joon.
You can also stream the full first season of Ms. Marvel anytime you like on Disney+.