As Marvel's Avengers is set to be released this week, a lot of focus is being put on the Kamala Khan version of Ms. Marvel as the main character. Unlike many other Marvel games in the past where they throw you into the shoes of longtime established heroes, Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics took the Inhuman teenager and put her front and center into one of the most anticipated games of the year. The lucky actress who scored the role was Sandra Saad, who we had a chance to chat with about taking on the role and being the focal point of the game, along with her thoughts on the story and putting her voice to the character.
BC: Before you'd ever signed on for this video game, how much had you read about the series, and how much had you learned about Ms. Marvel prior to all this?
SS: I didn't know very much about Ms. Marvel. She's still kind of a new character, I'd definitely heard of her before. But when I initially auditioned, of course, I didn't know what I was auditioning for. I didn't know what the character's real name was or anything. So I feel like, for me, it was really nice to get to know her without kind of knowing who she was, like her history or anything like that. Just knowing her from the scripts that I had was really nice and kind of forming my own relationship with her character DNA was it was really nice and important for me before I actually even booked the role and found out even what her real name was.
When you officially got booked, did you go back and look and learned as much as you could about the character you just kind of fly into it to see how it felt off the bat?
I definitely got really excited really fast and found. I went to the nearest comic book shop and picked up whenever I could. I do a lot of comedy, so every time I was at the theater there was a comic book shop that was right next door and there was a [another] comic book shop that was a block away. I would go back and forth between those and get whatever I could. Eventually, I got Marvel Unlimited and just kept going. I read some Avengers stuff, I'm really into like Hulk as well, and then the movies—I tried to do as much research as possible and it wasn't hard to cause The Avengers are very, very fun. But when I showed up and started working, I was reminded that I'm already a lot like Kamala. So I didn't need to make too many changes to achieve that goal. And working with Sean and with all the other actors, we form our own Crystal Dynamics version of Kamala. So there was a lot that went into that creation.
After you got the script, how did you feel to find out that she was pretty much the main character of this game?
It was really awesome. I didn't expect it, of course. You're going into an Avengers project, you would think that "Okay, so Cap's going to be the leader", right? That's what I thought and I feel like what everyone might assume, and I was right there with them. I didn't know right away, even like after a couple of shoots or a couple of scripts that I had, I wasn't too sure until, Shaun [Escayg] had to be like, "Yeah, you're the main protagonist." So for me, I had never really auditioned for a lead like this before, and now that the opportunity has come and I am this lead, I'm really excited for more of the same opportunities and to keep playing lead women of color who have this power behind them. You have like a really amazing backstory and character dynamic and character arc. It's just it's amazing. It's super fulfilling. I just can't wait for more.
I've already played Marvel's Avengers a bit, and I really enjoyed the character interactions and the way that it kind of flows more naturally. Did you have a chance to do voice work alongside everyone, or was it a more traditional voice acting session where it was just you in a booth?
So this is a lot of this was motion capture. So thankfully, what a dream that is to work alongside people like Nolan North and Troy Baker and all of my amazing castmates. What a dream! Yes, I got to work with everybody. I have done ADR stuff and those video games that don't have MOCAP to them, and there's something very awesome and imaginative about not only having your script and the director to kind of help you through the lines. That's really great. But there's nothing like working with another actor face to face because what you don't get just working in the booth by yourself is the fact that just a single glance can change your entire scene. There's something really special about that, just as well as putting on the MOCAP suit and a headcam and all that other stuff. So, yes, I got to work with everybody on the stage and we had a couple of ADR sessions where we got to work together as well. But mostly ADR it's just been me and Shawn and a couple of other folks from Crystal and our awesome audio engineer.
Gotcha! Was that your first time doing MOCAP?
Yes. I love it so much. I want to do it, I want to go back, I wanna go back to the MOCAP stage. It was so fulfilling, I learned so much. I got to truly learn from the best. Watching these legends who it seems like it's so easy for them to walk around with all of this stuff on them, and they're just walking around like regular humans. Whereas like my first time I was like, "Okay, so I'm wearing a headcam and have lights in my eyes and dots on my face and we're going to just pretend that I'm not? Awesome, awesome, awesome." I learned a lot. That first day was just me kind of learning what it's like to have all the stuff on. As soon as I understood it, I was like, "Alright, cool, now I'm good." I seem to have soaked that experience up like a sponge in the learning process. But as soon as I got it, I was like… now let's work. And we worked. Those are the best two days of my life. When can I come back? And then the next month we came back and did it again. Now I just want to go back.
That had to be a lot of fun working with Troy Baker and Laura Bailey after they had just come off The Last Of Us Part II.
Yeah, they were working on those two games at the same time.
So now that you've fully recorded the game and know everything, what do you think of the story that's been produced in and what it does for The Avengers as a whole?
I think you get to know The Avengers in a way that you've never got to know them before. Of course, like in the comics, in the movies, and in other games as well, you've got to know them and it's been very fun and everything. But with this, I feel like you really see everyone's individual struggle and how that comes into play when they're working with this new person. It's different because Kamala is a 16-year-old, and that's very special because she's a teenager coming into her own. But she's also a girl, and she's also a first-generation American, and she's also all of these things that make her very special. Often you see it in young women of color, and just in Kamala, that these things that make her very special and very cool are things that she sometimes tries to stifle because she just wants to blend in. She just wants to be normal. She just wants to be accepted for the same reasons that other people are accepted. The Avengers try to teach her, of course, like her parents had a teach her, that that's how it works. Just own who you are and be who you are because you're special. She, of course, like no teenager wants to hear that from their parents and they're not going to get it. But when her heroes tell her that, she listens. Not only do they accept her for who she is and for all of her quirks and all of the things that make her different, but they want her to embrace it as her power. Of course, now she has superpowers that she's got to embrace the same way, and she relates to the Avengers. Because they all have these things about them that make them feel bad and responsible for A-Day. They all have powers that they kind of like internally fight with. Especially the Hulk, he often like feels like he's a monster, and she does, too. She's trying to figure out these powers for the first time. So I think the dynamic between The Avengers and this new Avenger is very special. I can't wait for people to see how they truly, truly affect her from start to finish before even meeting them. How much she loves them and then when she gets to know them for who they are. It just kind of takes off in such a very special way.
What do you hope people take away from this particular game? Not just for the storyline, but also having you as a lead. You've touched on it earlier a bit being a woman of color in a lead role. So what do you hope that people take away from the game overall?
I'm really honored to be part of the Marvel Universe. I never thought that would be possible. I love The Avengers so much, just me as Sandra. Now that this has happened and now that I am the lead of Marvel's Avengers… Being like such a strong, powerful, lead of color is very exciting and it's something that I truly treasure. It shows me that this is the start of something truly beautiful that I can get these leads and that I will continue to have these leads, and I look forward to continuing to play these amazing, powerful roles. I feel like seeing that in Kamala being who she is and going through a very similar process and becoming a hero herself will give people the strength to know that they can do the same, whether it be being a young actor or being anything. If you want to be a doctor, you can do it. I think what I've learned from Kamala is no matter what, no matter what you want to be, you can do it. If you work hard and if you come about it right, if you come about it from a good place, you can do whatever you want. So I hope that people see that in Kamala as much as I do and take that and run.
Are there any thoughts on the game you want to express that we didn't get a chance to touch on?
There's just so much talent in this project. I could go on forever about every single person and what they have taught me. But I hope that people see how hard we worked on this. If it's the devs, if it's the actors, if it's the people working on a MOCAP stage, every single person who worked on this really, truly cared about it. And for me, it's telling this amazing story from every single perspective was very powerful. I hope that people see that whether you're playing with the Hulk or with Kamala or with anybody, I hope that you guys just appreciate all of the talent and hard work that went into it.