Ms. Marvel 's Iman Vellani Only Auditioned for the Show Because She 'Wanted to Meet People at Marvel'
A Hollywood career wasn't exactly on Iman Vellani's radar, but Ms. Marvel changed everything.
The 19-year-old newcomer exclusively tells PEOPLE about how she booked the star-making role. She originally "didn't want to be an actor," she admits, and "only auditioned" for the part of teenage superhero and Captain Marvel fangirl Kamala Khan in Ms. Marvel and 2023's upcoming film The Marvels "because I am obsessed with Ms. Marvel and the comics."
"The opportunity just came about through this casting call that got forwarded to me, and so I went for it and it actually worked out," recalls Vellani, who adds that she initially "wanted to do more tech-related stuff" and be "working with different mediums to make art."
And while she is having a lot of fun and "not complaining" about how her career trajectory has played out thus far, Vellani — who notes that this was her "first audition" — says, "I really only wanted to meet people at Marvel."
"And the fact that I even got a screen test and was able to fly out to L.A. and meet Louis D'Esposito and Sarah Finn, the people who really built Marvel, it was crazy and super surreal," she continues. "I wanted to take full advantage of being there. And I think they just saw how much I love this world and gave me the opportunity and the trust to bring Kamala to life."
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Vellani found out she landed the role on her "last day of high school" and tells PEOPLE she was with her "best friends who didn't know that I had auditioned."
"I was in my friend's driveway and opened my phone. And lo and behold, [Marvel Studios President] Kevin Feige was there," she says. "I was freaking out, and they told me I got the part."
She continues, "I went back in the car and my friends were like, 'So what happened? Did you win the lottery or something?' I was like, 'Basically.' And I told them everything. And then we got burritos."
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With Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel stepping into the MCU as the first Muslim Marvel superhero, Vellani says she recognizes that "the character [is] a role model" but doesn't personally "feel the pressure or feel the need to take up this mantle of being the poster child for Muslims and South Asians everywhere."
"I think our work is going to speak for itself," the Pakistani-Canadian actress tells PEOPLE. "And honestly, it's a good show, and I really do think that we've represented the group of people we want to represent quite well."
"I only wanted to bring everything that I love from the comics, and we achieved that," Vellani adds. "And I'm super happy with the end product. So yeah, I'm excited for the reaction."
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Ms. Marvel is now streaming on Disney+ — for more from Iman Vellani, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.