Feature Article

How Marvel's Avengers Actor Has Embraced Her Role As Kamala Khan

After Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Rage 2, and Fallout 76, Sandra Saad is lending her talents to Marvel's Avengers as Kamala Khan.

The beta for Marvel's Avengers didn't particularly blow me away, but I did enjoy the snippet of story I got to see. Specifically, I love Kamala Khan, who's the focal point for the campaign. Not only does she have my favorite combat mechanics, but she injects both a wonderful playfulness and human element into the story.

Kamala is a nerdy teenager who likes to tell cheesy jokes, but she's also struggling to come to terms with being labeled as a freak for having the superpower to enlarge and stretch her body (which she calls embiggening). Marvel's Avengers is about Earth's Mightiest Heroes learning to become a team again, but the beta also showcases that it's just as much the origin story for an ordinary girl who becomes the second Ms. Marvel--a symbol of inspiration for Inhumans and teenage superheroes. This is the aspect of Marvel's Avengers that I'm most intrigued to see unfold, and that largely comes from actor Sandra Saad's performance as Kamala.

Saad does a wonderful job bringing the young hero to life and, after playing through the Marvel's Avengers beta, I got to sit down and talk with her about her performance, how she prepared for the role, and what someone like Kamala means to both her and the wider superhero fan community. I was immediately surprised by how much Saad already is so much like Kamala--I can see why she was cast. "That's what I've been told," she said, laughing. "That I'm pretty similar to her character DNA already, so I didn't have to go very far in my study."

She continued: "Forming the character from my own personal experience was really nice because my personal experience is a lot like Kamala's. I was a lot like her at 16. I had a lot of the same struggles as a first-generation American girl. I'm just as awkward and quirky, apparently."

Seeing a superhero story about a group as notable as the Avengers through someone like Kamala is incredibly important, says Saad. Too often, people of color are relegated to background roles in superhero narratives where they can run the risk of being portrayed with negative stereotypes. And that can be harmful to the emotional and mental development for kids of color and how they perceive themselves. "When you grow up, you see your people being put up in the media in a certain way," Saad said. "And at some point you get old enough to understand it for what it is. But when you're a kid growing up with that, it's disheartening and you're like, 'Wait, but is that really what my people are like? Is that real?' And it's confusing."

She continued: "I can't tell you how many auditions I've been on for stuff like 'woman whose husband gets blown up in front of her.' It was super sad at first. And then I was just like, I don't want to do this anymore. I would rather not be successful then do this to my people because I know that's not what we're like, and that's not all we are. When you have a character like Kamala Khan, a person who looks like Kamala Khan can look up to her, can see people like them being reflected in a better light. And there's just something about that that empowers a young person."

To that end, Saad wanted to ensure that Kamala was done her due justice. "I think I took on that heavy responsibility [of becoming Ms. Marvel] really quickly," Saad said. "I was like, 'Oh my God, I'm going to play an Avenger. What do I do? Okay, I'm going to read the comics.' And I delved into that. Nice and slowly actually, because there's only so many of them--there isn't 50 years of history behind her yet. That was really nice. And then having my time with the script and with the director was also really helpful. [Creative director/writer] Shaun Escayg is really great about spending his time with the actors and talking through the characters with each one of them. And then in that way we can kind of create our own Crystal Dynamics version of the character and not just the ones that you're used to."

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Amusingly enough, Saad has been able to draw inspiration from being cast as Kamala in order to inform her performance for what it would feel like for Kamala to meet the Avengers and take on new challenges. Coming from a background in comedy and television and movies, Saad is a relatively new voice in the video game industry in comparison to fellow Avengers actors Jeff Schine (Steve Rogers/Captain America), Travis Willingham (Thor), Nolan North (Tony Stark/Iron Man), Laura Bailey (Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow), and Troy Baker (Bruce Banner), all of whom have been a part of numerous video games and many of whom have worked together on past projects. Meanwhile, though Saad has voiced characters in a few notable video games (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Rage 2, and Fallout 76) she doesn't have the same amount of experience doing the other things that go into creating a character, like motion capture.

"They're mega mo-cap superheroes already," Saad said. "This is my first mo-cap game. I've done other games. I auditioned for film and TV, and I came up in comedy. That's where I come from. But you step onto this mo-cap stage where everyone's already a superhero on that stage. And I'm like, 'What's a mo-cap? Explain this to me.' And everyone's super cool and super inviting and super giving with their knowledge. It fit like a glove."

And once she got the hang of the mo-cap, Saad says that Crystal Dynamics afforded her a ton of creative freedom in defining Kamala's idle animations, as well as how she stands, walks, runs, fights, and (most importantly) embiggens. "I think I just did whatever I wanted," she said. "There was a lot of like, 'Hey, what do you think it feels like to embiggen? Do that.' And thankfully it worked out. Crystal Dynamics does a really good job of showing me the abilities and showing me the stuff that they've come up with. And that really helps inform what the movements are supposed to be. There's only so much a human of my actual size can do, but I try."

When you have a character like Kamala Khan, a person who looks like Kamala Khan can look up to her, can see people like them being reflected in a better light.

In order to avoid spoilers, I couldn't get too much out of Saad about Kamala's story and her arc as a hero in Marvel's Avengers. But Saad did confirm that we can expect to see more scenes like the one in the beta between Kamala and Bruce, when Kamala momentarily breaks down as she deals with her situation as an Inhuman and Bruce comforts her--it's a heartfelt moment for the two heroes who seemingly see themselves as having kindred experiences on account of their respective superpowers. "I'm not going to give anything away, but she does have special moments with everyone because it's an Avengers story," Saad said. "It's not just the Hulk and Kamala story. She relates to all of them just from her own abilities. And just from knowing everyone's abilities already, you can see how they all relate to her as her heroes. But the Hulk, as you know, he's a monster who has this thing about him that he can't really control and Kamala does, too. She has this new power and she's like, 'What do I do with it? Is this weird? How do I even use it? Do I use it for good? Is this a disease? What is it?' And so in that way, you can see that they both have a lot of similarities."

Saad also told me that she has had the chance to play the game and even after spending all her time shaping Kamala, she's not sick of the teenage hero. Ms. Marvel is her go-to. "For me, there's nothing like fwipping your limbs out from your body and swinging and stuff," Saad said. "It's so much fun."

You can see and hear Sandra Saad's performance as Kamala Khan in Marvel's Avengers when it releases for Xbox One, PS4, PC, and Google Stadia on September 4. Next-gen versions for Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 will be available when both consoles come out later this year.

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Soulcrusher777

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Edited By Soulcrusher777

No one asked for this character to be in the game or a tv series! Yawn..... LOL

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"Seeing a superhero story about a group as notable as the Avengers through someone like Kamala is incredibly important, says Saad. Too often, people of color are relegated to background roles in superhero narratives where they can run the risk of being portrayed with negative stereotypes. And that can be harmful to the emotional and mental development for kids of color and how they perceive themselves."

This just feels like more PC cancer because the most important part of any story should be interesting characters. It should never be about filling a quota. The obsession that a lot of the gaming media has with race and gender is embarrassing. A character can be any gender or race, but if it is not interesting or connects to the story, then this is a big problem.

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Slayer70

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@Cashmoney007: I totally agree. I’m tired of this and gay characters being forced on us.

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EricDWright

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@Cashmoney007: Her statements ensured I don't buy this game.

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alex33x

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Edited By alex33x

@Cashmoney007: It is exactly just more PC cancer.

If the actor had to embrace her role, why didn't they used her likeness? Oh wait I know

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?vanity=1sandrasaad&set=a.910369082352303

Because she is too light skinned. She can't go around talking about how hard it is for a person of color, to make it in America, which is not true by the way. When the only thing that points out she is not white is her last name.

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Cashmoney007

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Edited By Cashmoney007

CCC= Cancel Culture Cancer

Always fight it!

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TheGreatChomp

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Edited By TheGreatChomp

@Cashmoney007:

Instead of looking at the character, story or anything you get mad over her color? Why? Diversity and different view points is good, and the dude is right.

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Cashmoney007

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@thegreatchomp: If you don't believe that PC culture is a cancer, then I can't help you. I will continue to embarrass GS until they find a clue, and this has nothing to do with me being mad at the color of her skin. It is about the fact that these gaming companies and media need to stop pandering to these idiotic SJW people that have no desire to ever create anything. If a character is just added because of diversity, then it will probably be an agenda. Any race including Caucasian added to a game that doesn't fit the story will always be an issue. Why is that hard for you to see? How can you think the dude is right when Kamala Khan isn't that interesting? Any strong character that is well written will stand on it's own because it is more than just about the character being a different race.

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TheGreatChomp

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@Cashmoney007: All you seem interested in is her skin color, nothing else. If you can’t see why diversity is good, nobody can help you.

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Cashmoney007

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Edited By Cashmoney007

It is always easy for you to deflect instead of seeing the whole picture which is that the character needs to be more than gender and race. This is why the last Star Wars movie had problems because it has females in it that are just in there to say that the movie has more females. Why didn't the writers make those females including Zorii Bliss more interesting? This is a perfect example of bad diversity and an agenda. Anyways, you will never understand this because seeing a person of color in some form of art is enough for you. Many people don't look at a movie like Black Panther and think, wow, this movie is so progressive because a Black man is the main character in a movie. They enjoy the movie because the characters, story and plot is entertaining.

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Nathlioni

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Edited By Nathlioni

@thegreatchomp: sounds like @cashmoney007 is saying that the they are not interested in the skin colour and that the character is what should come through. Yes diversity is a great thing when it is natural and unforced, what isnt great is doing something for the sake of diversity without it being natural. Just my opinion

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Cashmoney007

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Edited By Cashmoney007

@nathlioni: Exactly. These companies need to understand that a lot of people just want awesome characters. If the main focus is only about gender, race, and being a victim, then this will always be a problem because great characters don't need some BS agenda behind them IMO.

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SystemOverload

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How much new content will be added to the war room after launch? It does not have PVP? Multi-player will get old fast if new content is not added often and a good twisty story would be nice as well.... Kamala is the new young hero like Spider-Man is in Avengers but everybody likes Spider-Man. At least Kamala is different, Spider-man is old news and is in plenty of his own video games and Avengers video games.

I wish the team was more diversified. Any new characters added will probably not have a back story or be important to the story. Majority of the time DLC is fanfare and filler.

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freedom01

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Edited By freedom01  Moderator

it would have been better if they would have just let us create our own character with a set of choices for super powers like DC Universe Online

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Byshop

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Byshop  Moderator

@freedom01: You should check out Freedom Force. It's an older isometric real-time combat game but it was very comic book-themed and it had a build your own character option. It had a decently complex system where you could add both strengths and weaknesses. You could even use your customer characters in the main campaign, but the more powerful you made them the more "Prestige Points" you needed to recruit them.

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uninspiredcup

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@Byshop: ^ Freedom Force is indeed boss.

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Barighm

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@freedom01: You'd think that would be a better idea, but I've looked into this in the past and apparently that doesn't sell. Studies show people want to play established superheroes. They don't want to play nobodies even if it's a create-a-hero nobody.

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Grampy_Bone

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Worst character in the Marvel books by a large margin.

Squirrel girl is better, even with her dumb redesign, if only as a joke character. At least she has the joke.

Mile Morales is now better thanks to the Spider-verse and upcoming game.

Kamala welcome to the bottom rung, hope you enjoy sinking our only shot at a decent Avengers game.

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Keaze_

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MUST....HAVE......DIVErr..SsiTY!!!

Because......someone (noone) demands it.

Seriously I don't think I have ever read a single comment of someone mentioning ''I am arab and I really wish I could play as an arab character and this is not fair''.

Nobody cares. Get that force-fed sh*t out of gaming! It only has ONE outcome: a lot of people -don't- buy the game because of the stupidity of forced inclusiveness and it just makes the whole philosophy behind the game laughable and not focused on ''creating the best experience'' but more ticking checkboxes of PCness and therefore I'm not interested in your focus-grouped bs game.

Yes most games are judged by focus groups probably but as you shove PCness way way down my throat, at some point it doesn't go any further and when it overflows is when I don't buy the game. This overflows my throat.

I love metaphors.

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greek5

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@Keaze_: The thing is, the people that created the comics and characters, made them the way they wanted them to be, now we're seeing all sorts of variants to each hero, Ironwoman, really? Point being imagine black guys created comics and then half their characters got white washed and changed.

Why don't these people that crave diversity so much create their own brand? or make something that they think people will enjoy? instead of force feeding their way into already established brand that people have been enjoying for decades

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Cashmoney007

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@greek5: It is always easier for them to destroy anything that offends them than create.

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Barighm

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@greek5: What they should be doing is going to comic book writers in India or the Middle East or Africa, finding the best ones, and making them part of the official Marvel/DC universe, or putting up writing calls for those writers. As much as people hated the Snowflake and Safe Space comics, that was actually the right away to go about it.

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XBgyManX

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No one asked for her. She is the least cool looking character in the game. She doesn't even look like she fits in with the team. There are so many other girls that would have been better picks than her.

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Barighm

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@XBgyManX: I'm just wondering why they didn't use Mr. Fantastic.

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Daidochus

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@XBgyManX: Marvels Magik for example with the black tight latex would have been way better in my opinion. Damn Magik is my fave women inside Marvel. Very cute with good personalitie(s).

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Wraith3

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I'm not a comic person, but I've always watched the cartoons, movies, etc. So how many freaking stretchy superheroes are there between Marvel and DC? There's got to be about 20 at least! They need to stop focusing on "Look at the race of the lead of our movie! See how woke we are?!" and just make a good story. If it's good we'll watch it.

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mrbojangles25

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Edited By mrbojangles25

@Wraith3: It's so bad they even spoofed it in The Incredibles. I mean you got the strong dude and the stretchy lady, because the non-comic people at least know those two types.

"Oh, a strong dude? Like X, Y, and Z? Oh wow and a stretchy character, sort of like A, B, and C? Yeah I guess I can get behind that".

No judgement, though. Fun is fun, and I enjoyed what's-his-name on The Flash.

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ClunkerSlim

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@Wraith3: It's got to be the most creatively-bankrupt superpower. There's Kamala Khan, Mr Fantastic, Plastic Man, Elongated Man, Elasti-Woman, Rubberband Man, Flatman, and you might as well count Green Lantern too since he's usually swinging a giant hand around. Those are just the ones off the top of my head.

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PrpleTrtleBuBum

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@ClunkerSlim: eh... superstrength, superspeed, flight, invisibilitycamo and shooting some kind of lasers or fires from eyes or hands or chest... theyre all super caricatypish. and if you count green lantern as stretchy dude then you can count thor and gambit as laser shooters etc

if anythinf usually the superheroes that try too much to be unique are the ones who suck. kamala just has been always presented with the words "heres a marginality token" which means only the people who identify with her can have a chance of liking her.

stan and ditko made peter parker to appeal to teen boys and then said it a couple of times when asked in interviews about reasons for popularity but in general spiderman was just spiderman. with kamala theyre trying to do the opposite and tell us why we should like her

ofc reason might be that of superhero comic readers about everyone have always been boys.. even when the genre was just born. so kamala is just that... character for spesific group

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ThePlantain

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Edited By ThePlantain

I always find it funny when they say "a person who looks like xyz can look up to xyz"...As someone from a minority group i can tell you, we aren't "looking up" to s***, especially some comic book character...the representation is cool though lol

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uninspiredcup

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@ThePlantain: To be fair, usually when you see someone dark skinned in a video game, you are typically shooting them.

Mean, not ALWAYS the case, but it certainly mostly the case.

Having said that, the character does look kind of goofy with the stretch-armstrong stuff.

But mean, whatever, it's a comic book game.

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Please stop trying to make Kamala Khan happen. She has the goofiest power since Mr Fantastic. In fact, I better never hear anyone complain about Mr Fantastic looking stupid outside of a comic book ever again. I'm all for increasing representation, but Ms Marvel's big-fist super power is just lame, and kind of gross looking.

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Cikatriz_ESP

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@ClunkerSlim: It is gross, and I can’t explain why. I’m just not comfortable with it.

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Proxima1025

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@ClunkerSlim: I'm here for the coming replies, be ready to be called an 'ist' or a 'phobe' or some other such slights. I have spent too much time in the naughty corner to respond to these kind of subjects.

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Cikatriz_ESP

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@proxima1025: And yet you’re the one bringing it up.

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