21 "Ms. Marvel" Behind-The-Scenes Facts Straight From Director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy

·13 min read
Two characters from Ms. Marvel in a fighting stance

There are obviously MASSIVE spoilers ahead for Ms. Marvel!

Chuck Zlotnick / Marvel Studios / Disney+ / BuzzFeed

1.First, prior to directing Ms. Marvel episodes 4 and 5, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy was known for her documentary films, TV shows, and work in journalism. She's won several Emmy Awards and an Academy Award. When Sharmeen found out Ms. Marvel was looking for directors she knew she had to be part of "breathing life into this comic book character."

Sharmeen holding her Oscar

"I have been a storyteller that has worked in different mediums for the better part of two decades," Sharmeen told BuzzFeed. "And I wanted to be part of the storytelling team that was breathing life into this comic book character. I have worked in so many different mediums as a storyteller, but when you step into the MCU, you're telling a story for, like, millions of people."

Steve Granitz / WireImage / Getty Images

2.Before signing on to direct Ms. Marvel, Sharmeen was familiar with Kamala Khan's story and the Ms. Marvel comic books thanks to her daughters.

Kamala in her Ms. Marvel outfit

She explained, "I had been a fan of the comic books. My daughters read the comic books. So, I was familiar with Kamala Khan and her world, but of course, when I began to work on Ms. Marvel, I sort of did a deep dive."

Daniel McFadden / Marvel Studios

3.Sharmeen was excited to bring her own "experiences of coming from Pakistan, but having lived in the United States and straddling two worlds" to Ms. Marvel. Throughout the series, Kamala deals with her place in several different worlds.

When it came to directing the episodes, Sharmeen said,

When it came to directing the episodes, Sharmeen said, "I drew from my own experience of looking for my own voice and realizing that my superpower was to create films that [create] change."

Marvel / Disney+

4.Also, one important thing Sharmeen wanted to make sure came across in Ms. Marvel was Kamala's voice and having the audience fall in love with a very authentic Pakistani family.

<div><p>"I wanted Kamala's voice to be authentic," Sharmeen began. "I wanted the audiences to fall in love with her family, and in going on this adventure with Kamala, where she finds her voice, the audiences also embraces the culture, the food, and the music."</p></div><span> Daniel McFadden / Marvel Studios</span>

"I wanted Kamala's voice to be authentic," Sharmeen began. "I wanted the audiences to fall in love with her family, and in going on this adventure with Kamala, where she finds her voice, the audiences also embraces the culture, the food, and the music."

Daniel McFadden / Marvel Studios

5.Sharmeen said working with Iman Vellani to bring Kamala Khan to life was a dream. She loves how much MCU knowledge Iman brought to set, and Sharmeen says it was great to see Iman's own journey of "self-discovery" when it came to reconnecting with her Pakistani heritage.

<div><p>"Iman Vellani is Kamala Khan. She is a nerd when it comes to the MCU. She's such a massive fan of the MCU, and I'm sure she could tell Kevin Feige a thing or two he doesn't know about the MCU. Directing her has been incredible," Sharmeen explained. "Also, Iman was disconnected from her culture growing up in Canada a little bit. Through the series, she's really discovered it. So Iman is also on a journey of self-discovery. Both Iman and Kamala are on similar journeys, and I think that really plays out. She embodies that superhero so well in the big moments and in the small ones. I'm excited to see her thrive in the MCU."</p></div><span> Daniel McFadden / Marvel Studios</span>

"Iman Vellani is Kamala Khan. She is a nerd when it comes to the MCU. She's such a massive fan of the MCU, and I'm sure she could tell Kevin Feige a thing or two he doesn't know about the MCU. Directing her has been incredible," Sharmeen explained. "Also, Iman was disconnected from her culture growing up in Canada a little bit. Through the series, she's really discovered it. So Iman is also on a journey of self-discovery. Both Iman and Kamala are on similar journeys, and I think that really plays out. She embodies that superhero so well in the big moments and in the small ones. I'm excited to see her thrive in the MCU."

Daniel McFadden / Marvel Studios

6.When Sharmeen first met with producers Kevin Feige and Victoria Alonso from Marvel Studios, she told them she wanted to bring "color into the series" and to make sure Kamala's adventures reflected Pakistan and her culture.

She said,

She said, "I always think about visual identity and patterns, and color. So in my first pitch to the studio, I talked a lot about that, about bringing color into the series."

Chuck Zlotnick / Marvel Studios

7.Sharmeen was given "free rein" in creating the world of Karachi for Ms. Marvel, which allowed her to work with every department to make the city come to life in Episodes 4 and 5. Sharmeen considers the two episodes she directed a "love letter to Karachi."

<div><p>"I was lucky because with the episodes I directed, I was creating a world of its own. The first three episodes are in one world, while Episode 4 is a completely different world," Sharmeen explained. "I had free rein to create the world I wanted to create, and I worked with the art director, the costume designers, the props team, and more to really bring to life my vision of what I wanted Karachi to feel like and what I wanted Partition to feel like. I got to choose the music I wanted too. All of these elements helped me put together all the things that I love about my city. The restaurants I went to as a child, the train station, all of that has bits and pieces of me that I wanted to share with the world. It's my love letter to Karachi."</p></div><span> Marvel / Disney+</span>

"I was lucky because with the episodes I directed, I was creating a world of its own. The first three episodes are in one world, while Episode 4 is a completely different world," Sharmeen explained. "I had free rein to create the world I wanted to create, and I worked with the art director, the costume designers, the props team, and more to really bring to life my vision of what I wanted Karachi to feel like and what I wanted Partition to feel like. I got to choose the music I wanted too. All of these elements helped me put together all the things that I love about my city. The restaurants I went to as a child, the train station, all of that has bits and pieces of me that I wanted to share with the world. It's my love letter to Karachi."

Marvel / Disney+

8.There are numerous great Easter eggs hidden throughout Ms. Marvel Episode 4, like the Chinese restaurant ABC, which was actually the name of the Chinese restuarant from Sharmeen's childhood.

  Marvel / Disney+
Marvel / Disney+

9.Another great Easter egg Sharmeen placed in Episode 4 was that when Kamala arrives at the Karachi airport, you can see a girl wearing a Stanford sweatshirt. Sharmeen graduated from Stanford in real life.

She explained,

She explained, "I put bits of me in lots of places. During the airport scene, I went to Stanford, and you'll see a girl coming out of the airport in a Stanford hoodie. There's a lot of stuff. There's a few more that haven't been discovered yet, and I like waiting to see if fans will find them."

Marvel / Disney+

10.With Ms. Marvel Episode 4, Sharmeen's main objective was to make the audience feel like they were on the streets of Karachi alongside Kamala.

She said,

She said, "We wanted to bring the trucks, the buses, the food, the murals, and the hand-painted intricacies of Karachi into the show. I almost wanted it to be so visceral that the audience can smell Karachi. So, when Kamala stepped out of the airport, and the doors open, and the drums are beating and there are rose petals with people cheering, that's exactly how it is when you land at the airport in Karachi."

Marvel / Disney+

11.The murals and art you see in Karachi and the closing credits were all designed by female artists from Pakistan that Sharmeen helped Marvel Studios find. In fact, some of the art in Kamala's bedroom was also created by these Pakistani artists.

<div><p>"I work with Marvel to identify female artists from Pakistan," Sharmeen explained. "So much of the art that you see in Kamala's bedroom in New Jersey, the art on the streets of Karachi, the Ant-Man mural in the train station in Karachi, they're all coming from Pakistani artists who are visualizing this. Those are the little things, like the truck art on the streets, the closing credits, and so much of that is the palette of Karachi that we wanted to bring alive."</p></div><span> Marvel / Disney+</span>

"I work with Marvel to identify female artists from Pakistan," Sharmeen explained. "So much of the art that you see in Kamala's bedroom in New Jersey, the art on the streets of Karachi, the Ant-Man mural in the train station in Karachi, they're all coming from Pakistani artists who are visualizing this. Those are the little things, like the truck art on the streets, the closing credits, and so much of that is the palette of Karachi that we wanted to bring alive."

Marvel / Disney+

12.Also, the Ant-Man mural was a huge piece of art that was done by a female Pakistani artist named Saira Hussain that Sharmeen found. On the mural, Ant-Man is saying, "Strong like an ant."

  Marvel / Disney+
Marvel / Disney+

13.While Sharmeen loved creating present-day Karachi, the most impactful moments to direct and create for her involved when Kamala travels back in time to Partition. The Partition of India occurred in 1947 and divided British India into two countries: India and Pakistan. Sharmeen said it was "extremely special" to recreate the history of Partition the way she wanted to.

<div><p>"I grew up listening to the stories from my grandparents of 1947 and the conversations that they had on the platform when they were leaving their home," Sharmeen explained. "I wanted to bring Kamala into Partition for her to bear witness to those conversations that we do authentically have from oral histories at that time. At that moment, as she walks on that platform, she is bearing witness to a father and a son, a mother and a daughter, to friends who are going through that moment in history. You can see and hear the anguish around her."</p></div><span> Marvel / Disney+</span>

"I grew up listening to the stories from my grandparents of 1947 and the conversations that they had on the platform when they were leaving their home," Sharmeen explained. "I wanted to bring Kamala into Partition for her to bear witness to those conversations that we do authentically have from oral histories at that time. At that moment, as she walks on that platform, she is bearing witness to a father and a son, a mother and a daughter, to friends who are going through that moment in history. You can see and hear the anguish around her."

Marvel / Disney+

14.In fact, the entire cast and crew who were in Thailand, which is where they filmed a lot of the Karachi scenes, took a moment to take in the impact of bringing Partition to not only the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but to a mainstream TV show.

<div><p>"It was extremely special because you almost never see Partition visualized in Hollywood. It is one of the largest mass migrations the world has ever seen. So much of Kamala's history comes from that. It was truly special to recreate that in the manner that I wanted to," Sharmeen continued. "There was a moment when I was filming that I literally had hundreds and hundreds of people [on set]. I looked around, and so many of us in video village were like, 'This feels like 1947. It feels like we are creating something extremely special.' We filmed a lot of it in Thailand, and during Partition, in Aug. 1947, it was a very hot month, and we were filming in the heat of Thailand. So from the weather to the people to the look and feel of the trains and the platform, it was really surreal for many of us who were part of the production that day."</p></div><span> Marvel / Disney+</span>

"It was extremely special because you almost never see Partition visualized in Hollywood. It is one of the largest mass migrations the world has ever seen. So much of Kamala's history comes from that. It was truly special to recreate that in the manner that I wanted to," Sharmeen continued. "There was a moment when I was filming that I literally had hundreds and hundreds of people [on set]. I looked around, and so many of us in video village were like, 'This feels like 1947. It feels like we are creating something extremely special.' We filmed a lot of it in Thailand, and during Partition, in Aug. 1947, it was a very hot month, and we were filming in the heat of Thailand. So from the weather to the people to the look and feel of the trains and the platform, it was really surreal for many of us who were part of the production that day."

Marvel / Disney+

15.For the final scene in Episode 4, where Kamala travels back in time to Partition, Sharmeen wanted to make sure it felt like the scene was a "pause" and allowed Kamala (and the audience) to reflect on the event she was witnessing.

Sharmeen explained,

Sharmeen explained, "I think that when you're telling a story that means so much and that carries intergenerational trauma for so many families, you have to tell it in a manner in which you pause, you reflect, and you take it all in. Kamala Khan is Kamala Khan in that moment. She's not a superhero."

Marvel / Disney+

16.When creating Ms. Marvel, the creative team really wanted it to be a story about family that happens to take place inside a superhero series.

<div><p>"What's so special about Kamala Khan and the Khan family is that we're looking at this family as a story. It's so rare in the superhero world to do that because you're usually focused on the superhero. But the beauty of the story is the unpacking of the relationship," Sharmeen said. "Each family member is informing Kamala and sort of piecing her world together in order for her to find her powers. I think there's something really sort of special in telling that family story that resonates beyond cultures and boundaries. It's relationships with other human beings. That's what it is. So when you watch, you see all of that and can recognize your own family in the Khans."</p></div><span> Marvel / Disney+</span>

"What's so special about Kamala Khan and the Khan family is that we're looking at this family as a story. It's so rare in the superhero world to do that because you're usually focused on the superhero. But the beauty of the story is the unpacking of the relationship," Sharmeen said. "Each family member is informing Kamala and sort of piecing her world together in order for her to find her powers. I think there's something really sort of special in telling that family story that resonates beyond cultures and boundaries. It's relationships with other human beings. That's what it is. So when you watch, you see all of that and can recognize your own family in the Khans."

Marvel / Disney+

17.In fact, the relationships between mothers and daughters became very important in telling Kamala's story, and it was something that the show loved highlighting.

<div><p>"Those quiet moments where Kamala's grandmother is talking about the past, which intrinsically links to Kamala, is so important. Then, there's the relationship of Kamala and her mother at that dining table in Episode 4 where they're eating toffees together," Sharmeen explained. "You see the relationship between Kamala's grandmother and Kamala's mother, and how that connects to Kamala's relationship with her mom. There is a friction, and you realize, to be honest, how intergenerational this is and how that speaks to all of us. Those are conversations we've had with family members. It's universal. So in telling that story, we wanted it to be universal."</p></div><span> Marvel / Disney+</span>

"Those quiet moments where Kamala's grandmother is talking about the past, which intrinsically links to Kamala, is so important. Then, there's the relationship of Kamala and her mother at that dining table in Episode 4 where they're eating toffees together," Sharmeen explained. "You see the relationship between Kamala's grandmother and Kamala's mother, and how that connects to Kamala's relationship with her mom. There is a friction, and you realize, to be honest, how intergenerational this is and how that speaks to all of us. Those are conversations we've had with family members. It's universal. So in telling that story, we wanted it to be universal."

Marvel / Disney+

18.Bringing Kamala's grandmother Sana to life in Episode 4 was very important for Sharmeen, and she said it was amazing to see Sana's "quirky" personality, which is rarely seen in "women from that part of the world."

Sana greeting Kamala and joking that she just came from a party

"When you think about women from that part of the world, you seldom see them as quirky," she began. "It was really important. She's wearing a saree, but on top of it, she's wearing this jacket that's got paint splat on it. Also her art studio has a quirkiness to it. She's got the newspaper articles, a typewriter; it's facets of her personality. The quirkiness in Sana is what you see in Kamala in episode 1 and episode 2. It's a wonderful connection."

Marvel / Disney+

19.Introducing Kareem in Episode 4 was a huge moment for Ms. Marvel, considering his character plays a big role in the comic books. It was important to showcase that Kareem and Kamala understand each other's background right from the start.

Kamala saying, &quot;How do you know I'm not Canadian?&quot;

"Aramis [Knight] plays Kareem so well, and the banter Kareem has with Kamala is so perfect," Sharmeen said. "The fact that he's been following her and they have that fun banter about being an American superhero and the sunglasses is so fun. I think for the first time, Kamala was meeting someone who, like her, had a higher purpose and who was her age and who she could have some fun with. You see that play out at the train station. They go after each other, but in that moment she realizes that he could potentially really be an ally. Then Kareem opens up this world for her."

Marvel / Disney+

20.Also, Kareem's introduction was important because it showcased that he's different than Bruno and Kamran. Unlike the two of them, Kareem is able to connect with Kamala on a deeper level.

Kareem noticing that Kamala has the bangle

Sharmeen explained, "You realize very quickly that Red Dagger and Kamala share a bond because he understands the world she comes from, and she understands where he comes from. That's a very different relationship from what she has with Bruno and what she has with Kamran."

Marvel / Disney+

21.And finally, for the big chase sequence in Episode 4, Sharmeen wanted to make sure it felt like audiences were "literally running through the streets of Karachi." Using props that could actually be found on the streets was key in making sure the chase felt authentic.

Sharmeen recalled the pre-production and filming for the scene, saying,

Sharmeen recalled the pre-production and filming for the scene, saying, "Gary Powell [the second unit director] and I wanted it to be frenetic. We wanted to bring in the trucks and the six people on a motorbike, and the pushcarts and the fabric. We wanted it to feel like you're literally running through the streets of Karachi. We wanted to use the props that line the streets to throw in during the fight sequence. Kamala gets into a soda truck, and it harkens back to Episode 1. She has a stick shift, doesn't know how to drive, and is on the wrong side of the street. Also when she tries to save the family of six on the motorbike. All of that stuff, when people watch that we wanted them to feel like, 'Oh my god, am I on the streets of Karachi?' because it really does feel that way. I wanted it to come alive. It's very rooted in reality."

Marvel / Disney+

Be sure to watch Ms. Marvel, which is streaming now on Disney+.

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