The latest installment of Disney+’s “Ms. Marvel” is a love letter to Pakistan. Director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy tried to take the Marvel superhero out of the studio and into the vibrant and colorful streets of Karachi, Pakistan, and in doing so, plans a giant Ant- Man Easter egg at one of the locations.
In the episode, Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) and her mother Muneeba (Zenobia Shroff) fly to Pakistan for a much-anticipated family visit, where Kamala also learns more about her unique powers. However, due to the political situation in Pakistan, the show was shot in Thailand.
Obaid-Chinoy collaborated with production designer Christopher Glass on everything from mood boards to sharing visual ideas, while faithfully recreating Karachi. During location explorations, they had looked at other cities in Asia before settling in Bangkok. Glass says: “Sharmeen saw the pictures we got from Thailand and she said, ‘That looks more like South Asia than any of the other places,’ and when we got to the floor, she was absolutely right.”
Obaid-Chinoy says: “When I thought about my episodes, Obaid-Chinoy was directing eps 4 and 5 – I thought about how I could use my experience working outdoors as much as possible. In the end, my episodes are almost entirely shot outside.” She omits greenscreen and volume screens and adds, “You have to make sure that the visual language, the sets, the props and the vehicles lend themselves to that.”
For Glass, the biggest challenge was the weather, especially rain. “It was always something for us, we had to figure out ways to cover sets when it rained. Thankfully the rain would come and go very quickly, but it definitely made the shoot more challenging, because you’d be in the middle of shooting, and then you’d have to stop, wait, and start over.
In the episode, an intense chase takes place with the clandestine ones escaping from the DODC’s supermax prison and making their way to Karachi. Obaid-Chinoy and Glass put together a mood board with images of shops, pushcarts and other things that were authentic to the streets of Karachi, which he then recreated.
Glass looked at the photos the director had shared with him, and the area where she lived. After doing some research, Glass found an ideal location that was colorful and fit the mood board’s vision – something that was hyper-real and colourful.
The core of the story in the episode takes place in the house of Nani, Kamala’s grandmother. Despite scouts on location to find the perfect home, the house was built from scratch from an empty old nightclub. Obaid-Chinoy gave Glass clear directions on what it should look like. “A lot of it came from the house I grew up in,” says Obaid-Chinoy. “We talked about the tiles I wanted on the floor, and even the swing.”
One main set in the house was Nan’s ‘dusty room’. Glass says, “It’s this room where Nani keeps all her artwork and newspaper clippings. We wanted that set to echo Kamala’s room in Jersey.”
He adds, “The pink we have in her high school earlier in the season shows up here, and we wanted to connect it here with her. It’s like she comes in and says, ‘My grandmother is really amazing.’”
And what would “Mrs. Marvel” without its Easter eggs? The episode schedules an Avengers/Ant-Man reference when Kamala is at the train station and she sees a giant mural of Ant-Man.
Glass says he sought out local street performers to star in the series. “Sharmeen gave me a list of artists and for this mural we wanted Ant-Man and a return to the comic.”