The latest installation of Disney+’s “Ms. Marvel” is a love letter to Pakistan. Director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy sought to bring the Marvel superhero out of the studio and into the vivid and colorful streets of Karachi, Pakistan and with it, she plants a giant Ant-Man easter egg on one of the locatoins.
In the episode, Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) and her mom Muneeba (Zenobia Shroff) fly to Pakistan for a long-overdue family visit where Kamala also learns more about her unique powers. However, due to the political situation in Pakistan, the show shot in Thailand.
Obaid-Chinoy worked with production designer Christopher Glass on everything from mood boards to sharing visual ideas as they faithfully recreated Karachi. During location scouts, they had looked at other cities around Asia before settling on Bangkok. Says Glass, “Sharmeen saw the photos we were getting from Thailand and she said, ‘That looks more like South Asia than any of the other places,’ and when we got on the ground, she was totally right.”
Obaid-Chinoy says, “When I was thinking about my episodes – Obaid-Chinoy directs ep. 4 and 5 – I was thinking about how to bring my experience of working outside as much as possible. In the end, my episodes are shot almost entirely outside.” Forgoing green screen and volume screens, she adds, “You have to make sure 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 a thing for us, we’d have to come up with ways of covering sets when it did rain. Luckily, the rain would come and go really quickly, But it definitely made the shoot more challenging, because you’d be in the middle of shooting, and then you have to stop, and then wait around and start again.”
In the episode, an intense chase sequence occurs where the Clandestine escape from the DODC’s supermax jail and make 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 through photos the director had shared with him, and the area where she lived. After scouting around, Glass found an ideal location that was colorful and matched close to the mood board vision – something that was hyper-real and colorful.
The hub of the story in the episode takes place at the home of Nani, Kamala’s grandmother. Despite going on location scouts to find the perfect home, the house was built from scratch from an empty old nightclub. Obaid-Chinoy gave Glass clear directions about what it should look like. “A lot of it came from the home that I grew up in,” Obaid-Chinoy says. “We spoke about the tiles I wanted on the floor, and even the swing set.”
A main set within the home was Nan’s “dusty room.” Says Glass, “It’s this room where Nani keeps all of her artwork and the newspaper clippings. We wanted that set to echo Kamala’s room back in Jersey.”
He adds, “The pinks we have earlier in the season in her high school, appear here, and we wanted to connect it to her here. It’s like she walks in and says, ‘My grandmother is really awesome.’”
And what would “Ms. Marvel” be without its Easter eggs? The episode plants an Avengers/Ant-Man reference when Kamala is at the train station, and she spots a giant mural of Ant-Man.
Glass says he sought local street artists to feature in the series. “Sharmeen gave me a list of artists and for this mural, we wanted Ant-Man and a throwback to the comic.”