Ms. Marvel’s Mehwish Hayat on Secretive Aisha Role, Meeting Kevin Feige, Emotional Moment on Set, and Wonder Woman (Interview)

Courtesy of Disney

Ms. Marvel stars Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan, a Marvel superhero and Pakistani American from Jersey City. The series juggles her personal life and superhero journey as she deals with teenage life, her mysterious newfound powers, and her family’s history. The story also brings to light the Partition of India history, and playing Kamala’s great grandmother Aisha is Mehwish Hayat.

We had Sabeen chat with Mehwish Hayat, a leading lady in Pakistan, for Nerd Reactor as they discussed keeping Aisha’s character a secret, working with Fawad Khan, getting emotional on the Partition set, meeting Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, and her thoughts on whether she would like to play Wonder Woman.

There’s a lot of mystery surrounding Aisha on the show, but the episodes reveal that she’s Kamala’s great-grandmother and a Clandestine, a group of beings from the Noor Dimension.

“Everything about Aisha was so fascinating,” Mehwish Hayat tells Nerd Reactor. “The mystery around her, the fact that she plays Kamala’s great-grandmother, where the bangle originated, me being a Clandestine falling in love with the human being, and then when Sana was born. And then the degeneration starts. So I think it was just so beautiful, her story and the fact that she’s such a strong character, but at the same time, she has vulnerabilities. There is this aspect of her personality that is different than other kinds of styles. So I think, playing that role, and seeing that she has so many shades, as an artist, it was a challenge and such a delight to be able to play.

Before Ms. Marvel premiered on Disney+, Aisha was a character that was kept under wraps. Hayat wasn’t allowed to talk about the character, especially during the premiere of the Marvel Studios series.

“And at the premiere, I was not even allowed to say anything other than the fact that I play Aisha,” Hayat exclaimed. “Even that, I was told that before the premiere, ‘Okay, you can say your character’s name.’ So they were actually keeping Aisha’s character under wraps and they really didn’t want people to know about it. And I think it’s for all the right reasons because when I watched the show, I realized that they wanted to keep this mystery and the suspense around her. And then the fact that it unfolds, and there’s a buildup until episode five. They’re very smart. I learned so much in the process, honestly.”

Fawad Khan is an acclaimed Pakistani actor and plays Aisha’s love interest, Hasan. Even though he and Hayat have worked on many different Pakistani projects, the two never worked together before.

“Imagine, it took a Hollywood project for us to work together,” Hayat said. “Both of us were busy on our own with our own work. And a lot of people would ask me, ‘Why do you not work with Fawad Khan?’ And people would ask Fawad, ‘Why do you not work with Mehwish Hayat?’ And this was supposed to happen with Ms. Marvel, where people actually saw us together for the first time and the chemistry was fire. I mean, if I say so myself.”

The two actors got to know more about each other and were happy and pleased to be doing the intense scenes together.

“It’s very important to have somebody you share your screen with who’s equally passionate about their work and professional,” she continued. “It was about building those scenes together.”

The Partition is an important part of Indian and Pakistani history. With Ms. Marvel highlighting the event, it gives Western audiences more insight into the sad event. Hayat talked about the emotional moments doing those scenes.

“The sequence itself was so intense,” she explained. “It’s such an important part of our history. Partition, like Kamala’s brother says, ‘Every Pakistani family has a partition story.’ And to be in that environment, on a set – I grew up hearing all these stories from my mother, about my grandparents, and great grandparents, and all of that, just hearing about it, reading about it, studying about it is different. But as an actor, being there around those people, the significance that the trains have, and all the history attached to that episode where people died. So many people died. So many families got separated. And so much happened. It literally moved me to tears a couple of times where I was like, ‘Wow.’ This is what my ancestors also went through, and it was just such a difficult time and not so long ago, 75 years ago.”

When we last saw Aisha in Ms. Marvel, she is murdered by her fellow Clandestine, Najma, played by Nimra Bucha. Is this truly the last we’ll see of Mehwish Hayat in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

“I mean, I have no idea,” Hayat replied. “Honestly, I’m being asked this question a lot. ‘Is there going to be season two? Is there going to be a prequel? Do we get to see what Aisha’s story was? How do the Red Daggers really knew about Aisha and her bangle? And when she says that this bangle is not going to work when she tells Najma, how did Aisha know that? It’s not gonna work.’ So there’s so much that is still left unanswered. So many mystery and so much. I know there’s a lot of ambiguity around her. If the show creators want to, they can really do so much. But at the same time, I mean, nobody really dies in the MCU I heard.”

There are fans who would love to see Hayat as Wonder Woman, and she reveals her thoughts on whether she would like to play the princess of the Amazons.

“I mean, there were so many comments about it,” Hayat said. “It was really flattering. And I mean, why not?”

One of Hayat’s dreams is to meet Kevin Feige, the mastermind behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and she did during the premiere of Ms. Marvel.

“I just got so excited,” she said. “I told my team that I wanted to say hello to him. I want to meet him. And they said, ‘Okay.’ He was having a conversation with somebody. And then once he was done, this team member went to him and said, ‘Hi, Kevin, how are you? This is Mehwish. She plays Aisha.’ And he was like, ‘Yeah! How are you doing? You were amazing in the show.’ And the fact that he applauded me and acknowledged my work [Hayat was on cloud nine]. There was Louis D’Esposito, one of the executive producers of the show, and he said that he was a fan. I want to pinch myself, and I literally had to actually pinch myself to go, ‘Am I dreaming, or is it real? Or if it’s a dream, Don’t wake me up, please.’ So yeah, that was one of the highlights of the premiere for me to actually meet Kevin Feige and to actually hear good words about myself. I was gonna cry.”

About Ms. Marvel

Synopsis: Marvel Studios’ “Ms. Marvel” is a new, original series that introduces Kamala Khan, a Muslim American teenager growing up in Jersey City. An avid gamer and a voracious fan-fiction scribe, Kamala is a Super Hero mega-fan with an oversized imagination—particularly when it comes to Captain Marvel. Yet Kamala feels like she doesn’t fit in at school and sometimes even at home—that is, until she gets superpowers like the heroes she’s always looked up to. Life gets better with superpowers, right?

Iman Vellani stars as Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel. She is joined by Aramis Knight, Saagar Shaikh, Rish Shah, Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur, Matt Lintz, Yasmeen Fletcher, Laith Nakli, Azhar Usman, Travina Springer and Nimra Bucha.

Episodes are directed by Adil El Arbi & Bilall Fallah, Meera Menon and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. Kevin Feige, Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso and Bisha K. Ali are the executive producers. Co-executive producers for the series are Sana Amanat and Trevor Waterson, and Bisha K. Ali is the head writer.

Ms. Marvel was released on Disney+ on June 8, 2022.

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