Ms Marvel star Sandra Saad explains why it’s so important to see “three-dimensional” Muslim characters on screen

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Sandra Saad – who plays the role of Ms Marvel in the upcoming Marvel’s Avengers game – says her character’s identity is so important because she isn’t defined by her difference as a Muslim, but is a “fully-actualised” character.  

In 2020, it feels like things might finally be changing when it comes to ensuring diversity and representation on screen.

Take Marvel, for example. Over the last couple of years, the franchise has increased the representation of women and people of colour both on and off screen – just recently, Nia DaCosta was signed on to direct the Captain Marvel sequel, making her the first Black woman to direct a Marvel movie. And at the beginning of 2020, the president of Marvel Studios confirmed that more LGBTQ+ characters would be coming to the MCU in 2020/21.

With all this being said, when it comes to representing new voices and identities, the importance of making these characters fully-formed and multi-dimensional – opposed to them being defined by their ‘difference’ – is often understated. And that’s what makes the character of Ms Marvel – who is one of the lead characters in the upcoming Marvel’s Avengers game – so ground breaking.  

As Sandra Saad – who plays Kamala Khan/Ms Marvel in the new game – told The Independent, her character’s identity as a Muslim is so powerful because it’s just one part of her fully-actualised backstory.

“Kamala’s not a token – she’s a real person,” Saad explained. “I feel like, all too often, when you do see Muslim characters – or specific characters that have something about them that’s different – they focus really heavily on that and that’s all that becomes of the character.”

Saad continued: “The great thing about Kamala Khan is she’s not just Muslim. She’s not just Pakistani. She’s not just hopeful. She’s a fully actualised three-dimensional character with a life, a background and a family. She’s a first-generation American – she’s a lot.”

Although Ms Marvel has appeared in other video games, Saad is the first actor to take on the role as a lead character. Her words come after Disney confirmed last year that they are working on a Ms Marvel TV series, which is set to air on Disney+ sometime in late 2021 or early 2022. 

Very little is known about the new show – Saad’s role as Ms Marvel in the upcoming game is unrelated – so we’re looking forward to learning more about the series as more information is released. The only thing we do know so far is that Bisha K Ali – who lead the team behind Mindy Kaling’s Four Weddings and a Funeral Hulu series – is being hotly tipped to lead the writer’s room.

For now then, fans of Ms Marvel will just have to wait and see what’s coming next for this incredible character – if one thing’s for sure, we’re very excited. 

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