Travina Springer on connecting with her ‘Ms. Marvel’ character

Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios.
Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios.

Travina Springer will join the Marvel universe appearing in Disney+ and Marvel Studios’ highly anticipated, brand-new series “Ms. Marvel.”

Life gets better with superpowers, right? The series follows Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), a Muslim American teenager growing up in Jersey City. An avid gamer and a voracious fan-fiction scribe, Kamala is a Super Hero mega-fan with an oversized imagination — particularly when it comes to Captain Marvel. Yet Kamala feels like she doesn’t fit in at school and sometimes even at home — that is, until she gets superpowers like the heroes she’s always looked up to. Travina shines as Tyesha Hillman on the show, who has a strong sense of confidence, style, and power. She is based on the comic book character who loves video games, comics, and was raised Catholic. Travina’s character is a convert to Islam and is very devout to her faith. “Ms. Marvel” marks a new chapter for Disney as the studio explores these character’s Muslim and Pakistani heritage, putting diverse storytelling at the forefront of this title. 

While “Ms. Marvel” marks Travina’s highest profile role to date, she has also appeared in CBS’ “Life in Pieces,” Paramount+’s “Strange Angel,” and the Clint Eastwood helmed feature film, The Mule. In comedy Travina was a performer in the 2017 CBS Diversity Sketch Comedy Showcase, and her stand-up was featured on the reboot of BET’s “Comic View.”  Over the years she has been an active member at UCB Comedy, performing on the Maude team, Mama.

Fluent in American Sign Language (ASL), Travina has volunteered as an ASL interpreter over the years, supporting the Senior Smiles organization through regularly appearing at their bingo nights. She has also worked at Los Angeles based non-profit arts organization Deaf West Theatre, performing in their regional tour for children titled “Shell Stories.” When she isn’t on set you can find Travina at the beach, horseback riding, and spending time with her family and friends.  She is a practicing Muslim who converted to the Islam faith, like her character in “Ms. Marvel” and found that she connected with that role on a very organic level.

Check out my interview with Travina!

How excited are you for the premiere?

Travina: Oh, I’m so excited. I’m so thrilled for everyone to see this thing that we worked on a while ago and we’ve been holding really close to our chest. I’m really thrilled for everyone to see it.

Photo Credit: Kim Newmoney
How does it feel to officially be a part of the MCU?

Travina: I think I’m still processing it, maybe. It feels a little surreal to be a part of the MCU and I think I feel really overwhelmed and grateful. All of those things. I’m really overwhelmed and I’m grateful and really honored to play such a special role.

For those who aren’t familiar with the story of “Ms. Marvel,” what can they expect from the show?

Travina: Let’s see, without saying too much, people can expect to see a teenage coming of age story. I think the cool thing about Ms. Marvel is that her family is an important part of her life. And so I think that will be more present with her storyline. People should also expect to see maybe a lighter version of Marvel and it will be something unlike anyone has seen before, like the way that we have a Pakistani American hero, with the diverse cast of colors that are used, the music is great and having Islam be a part of the story, like it’s not hidden or pushed back and it’s not pacified, it’s definitely visible in the series. So I think people can come to expect to see culture, heritage, her religion, and just like a relatable teenage coming of age story.

Who do you play in the show?

Travina: My character is Tyesha Hillman. She is the fiancee to Aamir Khan (Saagar Shaikh) who is Kamala’s brother. I just love her, she’s this strong, confident, intelligent black woman who is also a very proud like black girl nerd. And I haven’t seen a character like this before. She’s also convert to Islam, and she’s unapologetic about her love for her faith and how she carries it and also her love for all nerd culture stuff, which is great.

And you have a very special organic connection to Tyesha. Can you explain that connection?

Travina: Yes, I am also really honored to play this role because I am also a convert to Islam and I have never, in my professional career, read for a role that felt so aligned with who I am. And having the opportunity to bring her to life with the material that I read, which was so well written, and to play a Muslim character, not only that, but she’s a convert, and for her faith to be portrayed in a way that isn’t apologetic or dismissive, I think is really important and powerful for that visibility for that community, which also happens to be my community. So it just feels incredible to have the honor to play this role.

There’s so much erasure of converts and usually when people talk about Muslims, they don’t look like me. And so I’m really excited to play a character that looks like me and looks like a lot of people that I actually know in my real life.

Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios.
What does it mean to you to be able to be that representation for your own community?

Travina: It’s something that I don’t take lightly, and I feel very protective of Tyesha and how she is portrayed and how I chose to carry her in the show. I feel like I do feel the weight of it and I just really hope that I’ve done her justice and that people love it. I think they will because I love her so much and I think she’s just so important to be seen. For her to even exist, I think people, I think non Muslims may not clock and maybe non Black Muslims might not even clock how important her existence will be, just for the sake of existing in the world. 

What are you most excited for viewers to see?

Travina: I’m really excited for viewers to meet our Kamala Khan. She’s so good and perfectly created for this role. So, I’m really excited for people to meet her and fall in love with her and her family. I’m really excited for people to see a Muslim family being happy and a Muslim girl playing a superhero and for that to be normalized for people, especially young folks. I’m really excited for young folks to see that in one day or just to be not special.

Is there anything else that you would like to add about Ms. Marvel?”

Travina: I think it’s just important to note that I don’t think that I’ve ever seen a character like this not on this scale, and it’s gonna be really special to see how she dresses and how she carries herself and she’s fun and she’s smart and all of these different things. I just think there’s never been a character like this that I’ve seen.

And I think the gift of getting to play Tyesha is something that I really can’t even fully describe into words. It’s really a gift and an honor and a blessing and I just cannot wait for people to meet her and meet the rest of the family.

Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan in Marvel Studios’ MS. MARVEL, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.
Ms. Marvel” will stream weekly on Disney+ from June 8 through July 13.