Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Marvel's Avengers Actor Sandra Saad Opens Up About Ms. Marvel - Exclusive Interview

Marvel's Avengers, the superheroic beat-'em-up from developer Crystal Dynamics and publisher Square Enix, is the Avengers' boldest and most ambitious video game appearance yet. Over the course of Avengers' excellent single-player campaign and constantly evolving multiplayer missions, you'll step into the boots of many of Marvel's most popular heroes to bash villains, collect loot, and see what life is like as one of the most popular characters on the planet.


But Avengers isn't just a watershed moment for Earth's Mightiest Heroes. It's also a big coming out party for Kamala Khan, the Avenger better known as Ms. Marvel, and the actor who plays her, Sandra Saad. Since Kamala's comic book debut in 2014, the teenage fangirl with shape-shifting powers has headlined comics, won awards, and appeared in multiple cartoons. Now, as the campaign's lead character, she's been thrust into the spotlight like never before. Kamala Khan is the heart and soul of Marvel's Avengers, and before the story is over, she's almost certain to win you over.

In this exclusive interview, Call of Duty, The Elder Scrolls, and Fallout veteran Saad discussed what Ms. Marvel means to her, how she got the role, and what it's like filming a big-budget video game. As you'll see, Saad is just as charismatic and enthusiastic as the character she portrays. It's hard to imagine anyone playing Kamala better.


How Sandra Saad landed the part of Ms. Marvel in Marvel's Avengers

What initially drew you to voice acting?

Well, I started off auditioning and training exclusively for film and TV. I've always been a singer — like since I was a baby, or so my mom says — so I feel like all of that easily transitioned me to voiceover work. Acting for video games is so fun and so different. Be it mo-cap or in the booth, there's just so much room for imagination to flourish. That creativity is always encouraged by most imaginative directors out there. They always end up being voiceover directors.


Are you a gamer?

I used to play a lot of video games when I was a kid, but I couldn't keep up with it. Then all of my hobbies took over my life, and my life just became about acting and singing very, very quickly.

When you were a kid, what were your favorite games?

Sonic. I loved Sonic. I loved Mario and Luigi. I had Nintendo and Sega. I was really into Sega. I played that Aladdin game. These days, it's been fun to relearn. It's like 2020. Everything is so advanced.

What about comics? Did you know much about Kamala before you took the role?

Comics, I read a lot more now. Before, I was more familiar with other characters, but Kamala, I didn't know much beyond what I read on those audition scripts. They don't really tell you that she's an Avenger when you're auditioning, or what her name is, or anything. I had no idea beyond that she was somebody who I wanted to play. I could tell right away that she had internal conflict, that she was spunky, and that she was a good person. I just wanted to play her, whether or not I knew anything else beyond that.


What was the audition like?

I just thought it was a film or TV audition. I didn't know. It's so secret. You know, it's an Avengers project. No, I had no idea. They mic'd me up and I was in front of a green screen. It was very, very high-tech, and they were looking at all kinds of things that I wasn't used to. I knew there was really something different about this. They were looking at all my facial movements and the way my voice sounded. Yeah, it was different, man.

I went back a lot for callbacks. That was another thing that I wasn't really used to. Usually, you go in for a callback or two, and then you meet with the exec and that's it. I was like, "Man, what is this? Film, TV, web series? What is it? A video game?" It didn't feel like a video game audition, because you usually just send in an audio clip.

What was it like when you learned you were going to be a superhero?

I didn't believe it. I was like, "This can't be actual Marvel. This has to just be based on Marvel." Because I've auditioned for stuff like that before, where it's like, "Oh, loosely based on DC, loosely based on Marvel, loosely based on whatever." I didn't let myself believe it until I got on the mo-cap stage and met the Marvel people, and I was like, "Oh, this is for real. Oh, you're playing the Hulk? Okay, cool."


Why Sandra Saad thinks Ms. Marvel is so special

Kamala is a relatively new character, but she's become a fan favorite pretty quickly. What do you think the reason for her popularity is?

She's super relatable. We can all see parts of ourselves in a 16-year-old fangirl with an internal struggle of like, "Do I be myself, or is that weird?" We can all relate to that.


Is there anything about her that you relate to specifically?

We're very similar in a lot of ways. I have a lot of the same internal struggles. I feel a lot of those internal struggles of like, "Oh, is what I like weird or is it normal," or all of those things.

Also, being a first-generation American, it goes kind of hand in hand. Growing up, you don't exactly feel at home at home. You don't exactly feel at home at school. The things that my American friends liked, I was like, "I don't get this." When I went back home to where my family's from, I was like, "I don't get any of this either." You don't exactly feel at home anywhere.

I read the comics, and there's this one arc where she goes back home to where her family's from, and she has that struggle too. I related to it so hard. I was like, "Yeah, I feel you. I don't get it either." You know? There's a never-ending struggle of like, "Oh, man, who actually am I?" It's hard to find people who will completely accept you for all of the things that make you different, and you live so much of your life being like, "Okay, am I weird or am I not?" Or like, "What exactly am I?"


I think when Kamala sees that her heroes accept her for who she is and encourage her to be who she is, it really means a lot to her, because they're not classmates or whatever, they're on another level. These are her heroes. I haven't met my Bruce Banner, but I understand that struggle that she has.

What would you say the biggest lesson that you've learned from Kamala is? What has she taught you?

She's taught me a lot. I feel like every time I read a new comic book or every time I have a new script, I learn a new thing about her, but I admire Kamala's hope and her perseverance. This is a girl who has every reason not to do the amazing things that she does in the game, but she does them anyway, because she loves the Avengers and she's not a quitter.

What makes her the right person to reunite the Avengers?

Like me, and I'm sure like you as well, she's a huge Avengers fan. She knows the Avengers' strengths, their weaknesses. She knows everything about them. She writes Avengers fanfic, but most importantly, she believes in them.

What it was like recording for Marvel's Avengers

Did you have any fight training or stunt training for the motion capture work?

Well, I did yoga. I did my own stretches and stuff, but I have to credit my amazing body double. She takes on really tough stuff for me, but at the same time, I had to do some stuff. Informing Kamala's abilities by looking at Crystal Dynamics' combat design for her really, really helped. They're really good at showing me what they've got for her.


Had you done mo-cap before?


What was it like?

It was so cool, dude. Like I said, with video games, the biggest thing is you've got to have a great imagination, especially with mo-cap. It's like there's no sound. It's deafeningly quiet. There's nothing, besides cameras and poles and pool noodles.

Everything comes from in here, and having an amazing director really, really helps inform what's around you, and an informative script and stuff. At the end of the day, it's all in your imagination, because you do have all these other things that would normally work against you. You have a bunch of people sitting down having coffee in front of you, and pool noodles and cameras, a ton of people and a ton of cameras and gear everywhere. You've just got to keep in your head what the character's actual surroundings are. It's all in the imagination.


Who directs the motion capture part of it? Is it the overall game director themselves?

[Nodding] Shaun [Escayg]. Man, he's a beast. He's so good. The guy's a genius. He is so great at relating to every different person. He's amazing at knowing how to get into my head, as opposed to knowing how to get into these other people's heads. He just knows what to say to each person. Also he's very tech-savvy, which I feel like you really need for mo-cap. He knows exactly what to ask for from a cameraman versus an audio person, versus his visual effects crew. The guy is very smart.

Were all of the actors filming together, or did you film individually?

We filmed, for the most part, together. I worked with most of them on every single mo-cap shoot, and the mo-cap shoots went for a while. I had several scenes that were by myself, and monologue moments and internal struggle moments, and moments where I'm just talking to myself. Then also there's the ADR stuff. With ADR, I have only had one or two where I'm working with other people, but usually it's just me and the director, and a couple of other guys behind the glass.

You're acting with some of the biggest names in video games — Nolan North, for example. What was it like working with such well-known actors?


Well, it's always really special working directly with actors, especially face to face. Like we mentioned before with ADR, sometimes you are alone, so it's really nice getting to connect with another actor. I'm an actor too, so it's nice to connect. They're all super talented. Like you said, they're giants in the industry, and it's just really nice to experience each one of their different processes on stage and to see them go from person to superhero in seconds.

As an actor, what is the biggest lesson that you learned from this project?

Wow. What all that gear feels like.

It sounds silly. Admittedly, saying that feels silly, but you never think of what all that mo-cap gear must feel like until you have it all on. It took me, probably, a whole day to get acclimated to the weight of it. A lot of it can obstruct from an otherwise natural performance. After working with all those people who've done it a million times, you're quickly out of that. You're quickly, "Oh, yeah. I know. That's fine. I'm just normal Sandra, walking now."

Which also, I feel like, is especially cool about the stunt people. They're stunt people normally, but if they can also be stunt people in all that gear and move like a regular body, It's so impressive.


How long was the shoot?

I don't remember. I'd say a few years, super off and on. It was pretty sparse, for me at least, but I don't know how long they have been working on it. Crystal Dynamics has been chomping away for a while.

What it's like for Sandra Saad to be part of the bigger Marvel community

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

I would like superhuman intelligence. Hopefully, then you'd know how to solve all the world's problems. Also, I'd know like every piece of movie trivia. You'd know how to play it. I'd probably go nuts with all that information, but I don't know. I think it's worth it.


Besides Kamala, do you have a favorite Marvel character?

Besides Kamala? I go back and forth between Thor and Iron Man. I play a Marvel character, so I've done a lot of studying about the Avengers and the different Marvel characters. I love so much about so many, but I go back and forth between those two because Thor is mad funny without meaning to be, and he doesn't want to be, but he is. He's a god who gets dropped down to Earth. That's funny. I'm a sucker for comedy. Iron Man is brilliant. He's tough on the outside but soft on the inside. I don't know. I think I'll have my answer one day, but I might still have one.

Ms. Marvel is set to star in her own Disney+ series, she's featured in cartoons, and so on. People are going to play her after you. Do you have any advice for the next actor to take on this role?


Kamala is so relatable. When you allow yourself to just be affected by those similarities, then you're easily moved. Also, have fun, because she's fun.

Have you interacted with the fans much?

Just at New York Comic-Con and a little bit online, but there's nothing like meeting fans in person. Between you and me, every time I get on that stage with Shaun and with those incredible actors, I say to myself, "This is the best day I've ever had in my life," because Kamala is such an incredible character. I'm honored to play her, but she goes through so much. It's just such a rewarding role for an actor that I always feel like the best days of my life can't be topped, until I go in again.

Then I met the fans, and I was like, Kamala's fans were amazing, because they like something so pure and so beautiful. Then slowly, the game hadn't even come out yet, but I had fans. I'm like, "You guys like me already?" It's really cool and it's really rewarding. I want to meet fans so bad. This whole COVID thing is stopping that from happening. It's been a bummer, but hopefully I'll meet them someday.

Is there anything that you haven't been asked about this project yet that you'd like to talk about?

I think what I've always wanted to talk about was what I told you about Shaun. I feel like people don't really know how much he does, and he does so much. That worked with me. I like a pretty decent amount of direction, just in all the studying I've done. I studied at UCB and Groundlings a lot. I've done a lot of comedy training and I've worked with a lot of people, directors and stuff. Shaun is something else. His team, Shaun and Dave, he's a great director and he works so, so hard. He has been really great about allowing everyone to be imaginative and allowing everyone to be as creative as they can within the scope of their character.


When you give that to a smart artist, or when you give that to somebody who is passionate, who is as passionate an actor as Troy, for instance, then you really, really get something beautiful. This process has really been beautiful and special because of that, I feel, because of how much Shaun trusts us and just the working relationship with everybody.