Ms. Marvel's Mehwish Hayat on Her Mysterious Role as Kamala Khan's Great-Grandmother, Aisha
In the second episode of Disney+'s Ms. Marvel, the series teased the story of Aisha, Kamala Khan's great-grandmother, and in the new episode out today, we actually got to see Pakistani actress Mehwish Hayat bring her to life onscreen.
If you're not caught up on the show, you may want to stop now because of spoilers—because it turns out that Aisha wasn't just anyone.
In fact, the series just revealed that Aisha was one of the Clandestines, an immortal being from another dimension, whose bangles hold the key to sending home the others like her who are still trapped on earth. It's clear that much of her story is still untold, and we can't wait to discover it in upcoming episodes. In the meantime, we got the chance to chat with Mehwish herself all about the character of Aisha, and the important role that Ms. Marvel is playing in the cultural landscape in terms of representation for South Asians, Muslims and women everywhere.
Sweety High: Coming from a family in the entertainment industry, did you always know you were going to be an actress?
Mehwish Hayat: I think so. I guess my first inkling that I wanted to be an actress came when I went with my mother to the PTV (Pakistan Television) studios when I was 6 years old. She was a major drama actress. The experience made a lasting impression on me—the lights, the hustle and bustle all seemed very magical to me and even then I knew that someday I wanted to be part of it. I loved the atmosphere of being on set with her.
SH: Was there any one pivotal moment when you knew that was what you wanted to do as a career?
MH: My first "job" was a television commercial for a bubble gum which I did when I was 7, and it was the first time that I was in front of the camera. I auditioned and got the part. I think that they were looking for a confident child who could emote on screen and I must have fit the bill. I was a very cheeky and outgoing child and loved play-acting. Appearing onscreen was just an extension of that. I loved being in front of the camera, I loved the attention, I loved dressing up and I loved seeing myself onscreen. Guess I knew then for sure that this would be the path I take
SH: What can you tell us about your Ms. Marvel character, Aisha? What's her relationship with Kamala in the series?
MH: Aisha is Kamala's great-grandmother and is integral to Ms Marvel's origin story, which will become apparent as the series progresses. As Aisha says, "The world has a way of making people feel small. We are connected, each of us to those that came before."
(Ms. Marvel via Disney+)
SH: What does it mean to you to be involved in this great series about a superhero who's Pakistani American, as well as Muslim? Do you see this as a major cultural shift in TV?
MH: I've spoken a lot about misrepresentation, particularly of Muslims in the mainstream, and the damage it has done by creating differences at a time when we needed to be building bridges. Ms. Marvel is a godsend; the answer to all our prayers. We've heard a lot since the release about how much this means to Muslims, but it is even more poignant for me that the lead character is a girl. I cannot begin to stress enough how much of a game-changer this is given the lives women in our part of the world lead. I am a firm believer in women's empowerment and look to taking on projects and roles that can inspire young girls. It is only by portraying these characters onscreen that we can we instill a change in society. Girls cannot underestimate the role that they can play in society and have to stand up for themselves in achieving their goals. Just imagine what it means to my niece and millions of brown girls around the world to see their lives onscreen and to see that they can also be superheroes. Professionally, I am so pleased that we, Pakistani artistes, have been given a platform to share our talent with a global audience. Marvel needs to be applauded for this amazing step—but I guess that it's how the greater industry reacts and runs with it is that is important. Let's pray that this is not a flash in the pan, so to say.
SH: What is your favorite memory from the Ms. Marvel set?
MH: There is not one single moment that stands out. For me, acting is what I enjoy doing so the whole shoot was an enjoyable process. Nothing beats giving a take and then watching it back on playback. Seeing what were just words on a page come to life is an exhilarating feeling which I will never tire of. For me, each project is about the people I work with and the one everlasting memory that I will take away from Ms. Marvel is the amazing friendships I've made with people from all around the world.
SH: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
MH: I hope that all audiences are able to learn a lot more about Pakistanis and the way we live—and see that deep down we are all the same with the same hopes, dreams, desires and insecurities. Love more people to come to Pakistan and see for themselves what a vibrant, hospitable, and beautiful nation we are—nothing like the way that we have been shown in media over the last couple of decades.
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