Photo by Kim Newmoney
On June 8, Disney Plus debuts its next great Marvel tale, bringing to the silver screen the MCU’s the first Muslim superhero and one Pakistani American teen’s coming of age. Iman Vellani stars as Kamala Khan, the titular Ms. Marvel who ends up with the very sort of powers of the heroes she’s looked up to all her life.
Alongside Kamala is Tyesha Hillman, the stylish, confident wife of her brother Amir. Ahead of the series’ premiere, Travina Springer, the comedian and actor who plays Tyesha, gave LA Confidential the inside scoop on Ms. Marvel.
What was it like to play Tyesha Hillman?
She's very confident and self-assured. She’s definitely okay with going on her own path. She loves her family very deeply and she also takes her faith very seriously. She's a convert to Islam, and it is a centering anchor point for her as a person and how she moves in the world. She's very unapologetic in her existence.
As a Black woman, it was really important and special to play someone who was similar to me as well. I'm also convert and the fact that she is just so self assured and resourceful— I just enjoyed being able to play such a powerful character who was also very fun and loving.
Given your similarities, were you able to pull your personal experience into the role?
I was able to bring some of myself into it, which was really a benefit, a value that I could bring my own experience to this character. I'm really protective of Tyesha and the way that she's portrayed and the choices she makes. We're different in the way that we physically carry our Islam or in some ways we're different, but I have an understanding of her, which has made it very seamless in my portrayal.
How does it feel to be part of the first Marvel story that features a Muslim superhero?
It feels really special and groundbreaking, and I'm ecstatic for people to see it. I think it's going to mean a lot more to people who are within the community, but also to those who are not— more than I think people are anticipating. It's going to be really meaningful to bring this visibility on a broader scale as Marvel's huge.
For people to have access to a Pakistani American family— maybe you’ve never met one before. or had to interact—and to have access to a Muslim family and community and seeing how that shows up in people's lives, it being displayed in a very accessible way, I think it's gonna be important and really impactful more than people probably can predict right now.
How would you describe Tyesha’s relationship with Kamala?
I will say that they have a very special relationship and I am really excited for fans to see it play out on screen through the series and how it progresses.
What experience do you hope fans get from watching the show?
First of all, I hope that and I actually am confident that they will fall in love with Kamala Khan. Iman Vellani who’s playing her is just amazing. I hope that they fall in love. People who are just getting introduced to her this character, I hope that they become huge fans and supporters. I think on a broader scale, I hope that people get accustomed to seeing just more people of color on their screens and it becomes a normal thing where it doesn't have to be marked or celebrated. It just becomes commonplace. I hope that there's affection and love for our Ms. Marvel and that young people can see a version of themselves in the series
What else have you been working on?
I am writing my first solo show that I'm putting up this summer. I'm really excited about that. And terrified. But I’m looking forward to workshopping that.
It's a one-woman show. It will be a hybrid of stand up and storytelling, a little bit of both. It’s going to make me feel very exposed, but I'm excited to do it. I’ve been wanting to do it for a while. I'll be putting it up at The Hollywood Fringe on June 17, 18 and 19.
It's called Extra. Through stand up and storytelling, I share the journey of a loud, overachieving, clumsy Black girl who learns she's enough in this world even though she might be extra. It's basically a self discovery of why I show up so extra in some spaces and how I got there and self acceptance. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
How's it felt putting something like that together? Has it been cathartic?
I'm excited to do it because it's been something I've been wanting to do for a while and it feels risky. And because it's scary, I'm going to lean into it.
I am very lucky that I have a community of other artists who have done similar things and have been encouraging me and offering feedback and tips and have been very supportive. So that's been very helpful.
No one else can tell my story but me and I'm curious about what can come out of it. I think that it's been calling on me for a while, and I think that when something is calling on your spirit that you need to answer.
I'm being very open within the creative process because this is the first draft of it. I think it can go in so many directions and I think I'm going to allow the audience to let me know, to inform me with which way I should lean and what they're interested in. I want to offer this and hopefully it can maybe inspire other people to lean into their own stories. I think there's just so much power in being really honest and truthful and authentic. I would like to offer that for myself and for other people.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Photography by: Kim Newmoney