“I’m not going to lie. I thought my managers were joking,” Yasmeen Fletcher laughs, recalling the moment she found out she was cast in the Disney+ series Ms. Marvel. To be fair, just two weeks earlier, she was told the role wasn’t going her way, so the news was, well, unexpected. In a span of days, Fletcher went from being sad about the loss of the part to packing her bags to start filming one of the most highly anticipated new Marvel projects. It was a roller coaster of emotions for the 19-year-old, but it was all worth it in the end. As she has followed the Marvel franchise for years (she is currently a Wanda Maximoff stan but admits it changes pretty regularly), joining the coveted MCU was a dream come true. “I was crying immediately,” she says in response to the call that changed everything.
The story of Ms. Marvel centers on Kamala Khan, a 16-year-old Pakistani American growing up in Jersey City, who discovers a family heirloom that gives her incredible superpowers like the heroes she idolizes. The original comic on which the series is based debuted in February of 2014 and was the first MCU story to be headlined by a Muslim character. It was a rapid success. Well before the Disney+ series was in development, the comics had a major impact on Fletcher. She could finally see herself represented in a superhero story, so to now be a part of that on a bigger scale comes with a great sense of pride.
“It’s beyond fulfilling being a part of something that, in comic form, made me feel so seen. Even [though] Ms. Marvel is Pakistani and I’m Lebanese, the ethnic [and] cultural growing-up portion I saw myself in,” she says. “So I can’t even imagine how it’s going to feel for young Pakistani and Muslim teens or Lebanese teens or Middle Eastern or South Asian teens to finally see themselves on-screen. Seeing the first two episodes, for some reason, I was able to completely remove myself and just watch as a fan, and I was beaming the whole time because it truly is a fantastic form of representation, and I can’t wait to see people’s reactions.”
In a twist of fate, Fletcher was cast as Nakia Bahadir, her favorite character from the original comics and Kamala’s best friend and confidant. She admired Nakia’s outspokenness as an activist in her community and that she was a fiercely loyal friend to Kamala. “She feels like a human being that people will be able to watch and be like, ‘she’s so stylish’ or ‘she’s so strong and empowering,’” Fletcher says.
The actress credits the authenticity we see with Nakia—and all of the Ms. Marvel characters for that matter—to the talented Muslim creatives working behind the scenes. From the writing room down to the wardrobe department, so much care and attention to detail went into lifting these characters off the page and creating a world that felt culturally accurate. “I think a beautiful thing about the show in general is that it’s very identity focused, and you can see that in every aspect of every character,” Fletcher says. For Nakia specifically, the creators brought in the actress to help reimagine the character to fit more of her mixed Lebanese American background. They talked at length about what it was like for her growing up mixed and the pros and cons of living in that in-between. You see this come to life in a fantastic scene in episode two. Nakia talks to Kamala about the early struggles she had with her identity and how she ultimately found herself by embracing her culture and wearing a hijab—saying, “When I put this on, I feel like me, like I have a purpose.”
“I’ve never really seen a story about a mixed character before,” Fletcher tells us. “So I’m hoping that—aside from all the other incredible things that Nakia has to bring with her activism and her fashion and her friendship—people can take a step back, and mixed kids can be like, ‘Wow, that is how it really feels.’ I hope they can take comfort in that.”
Many will also be thrilled to see Nakia’s modern approach to modest dressing play out on-screen. Fletcher worked closely with costume designer Arjun Bhasin to get her look just right through various color and silhouette combinations. “She’s a 16-year-old girl who is able to dress modestly and still look really cool, which I think is going to resonate with a lot of people,” she says. “There is this misconception that if you are dressing modestly you are completely covered with big silhouettes, [but] it doesn’t have to be that at all.” Some of Fletcher’s favorite Nakia fashion moments include a beautiful printed jacket emblazoned with a colorful peacock on the back that she wore to Eid and a pair of Versace flats, the latter of which made it into her personal wardrobe.
Playing dress-up for hours on end with Bhasin was Fletcher’s favorite part of the filming process, which is unsurprising considering she, too, has dabbled in the world of costume design. As a young girl, Fletcher was dead set on a career in fashion design, often filling up notebooks with sketches of dresses. Despite choosing a different career path, her love of clothing and costumes has always remained, so when a good friend of hers approached her about doing wardrobe for a short film she was directing, Fletcher jumped at the opportunity. The experience, which included 17 (yes, 17!) outfit changes for the lead character alone, gave the actress a newfound appreciation for the world of costume design. “Being on the other side as an actress is really interesting because I think you look at certain character choices in their wardrobe in a different way,” she tells us. “The way that you break down a script as an actor is just so different from how you break down a script as a makeup artist or as wardrobe or as set design. And having acted already, in a way, breaking down a script brought something really interesting and little, minute choices.” Fletcher will be the first to tell you the job was no easy feat, giving credit where credit is due to the costume designers working on series and full-length features.
As for her personal style choices, Fletcher remains an avid thrifter, which she says has given her a ton of freedom to express herself on a unique level. “I think it’s so much cooler to show up and wear something that you put together yourself, and it was a fun experience to dig through and find it,” she adds. “I think my fashion and style is still evolving, but the more that I gather pieces that I like, the more it progresses.”
Before our conversation with Fletcher comes to a close, we ask what she has planned for the show’s big premiere. Following her appropriately edgy Vivienne Westwood moment at the Moon Knight premiere, we are eager to hear what she has in mind. “The show is so colorful and fun and upbeat, and this is the first premiere I’ve done for something that I’ve been a part of, so I want to feel like a princess,” she says.
Spoiler alert: She opted for a statement-making black tulle gown from Georges Chakra’s F/W 21 Couture collection—a perfect moment fit for one of Hollywood’s most exciting rising stars.
Catch Fletcher in Ms. Marvel, now streaming on Disney+ with new episodes airing Wednesdays.
Photographer: Allegra Messina
Stylist: Enrique Melendez
Hairstylist: Jordan Nguyen
Makeup Artist: Allan Avendaño