AP Breakthrough Entertainer: Iman Vellani, in marvelous form

DETROIT (AP) — With countless auditions, constant rejection and a calendar that’s often in flux, acting professionally can be anxiety-inducing. Once success comes, there can then be added pressure to keep the momentum going, book more jobs, be seen in the right places, and strike while the iron is hot.

Iman Vellani, who had her big break earlier this year as the star of “ Ms. Marvel ” on Disney+, and will next appear in “The Marvels” movie alongside Brie Larson and Teyonah Parris, is pacing herself and not concerned with the Hollywood rat race.

“I am taking a bit of a break right now,” said the actor over Zoom. “’The Marvels’ was extremely stressful on my body, physically and mentally, and it was a lot. I was away from home for like two years and I was only 17 when I left. I am spending time with my family right now and living the nice, calm Ontario life.”

Vellani’s maturity, enthusiasm and acting skills have led to her becoming one of The Associated Press’ Breakthrough Entertainers of 2022, alongside stars including Sadie Sink, Simone Ashley, Daryl McCormack and fellow Marvel standout Tenoch Huerta.

Now 20, Vellani could attribute some of her Zen perspective to wise words from Samuel L. Jackson while filming “The Marvels.”

“I remember when Sam Jackson was on set, I had this whole laundry list of questions for him. And I was asking him like, ‘What are the best characteristics of an actor?’ And he was like, ‘Patience.’ I was like, ‘Yes, Sam, you’re right, patience.’ After that, I never complained, ever. If anything took longer than 5 minutes or 10 minutes or coming to set and not even working, you know, it’s all part of the job. You have to understand, there’s so many moving parts.”

While she wants to continue with showbiz beyond Marvel, Vellani remains open to possibilities and has two criteria: “I just want to meet cool people and do cool things.”

“I have so much to learn … I feel Marvel Studios compared to the rest of Hollywood is such a different world. I want to experience what’s out there. I’m in a very lucky position where I’m able to do that, and I’ve built so many incredible connections at this point. So yeah, I don’t know where life is going to take me, but I’m excited and obviously I will work for Marvel until the day I die. I’m loyal.”

She’s not kidding about being a Marvel fan. Vellani read the comics and watched the films before the opportunity to act in “Ms. Marvel” was even on her radar. Because of her own fandom, she’s especially encouraging and open to those who recognize her and want to chat.

“I’ve lost my anonymity now. I don’t really mind,” said Vellani. “Yes, it’s annoying to kind of lose the ability to have a first impression, but it means so much when people tell me how much the show meant to them. I’ve had so many great conversations with people. I just like to picture them watching the show.”

Vellani says she had “a two-year countdown” to prepare her for fame. “I got cast during the pandemic. How rare is that that someone actually gets to mentally prepare for two years to know how their life is going to change? Because I’ve seen it happen to like the Tom Hollands and the Chris Hemsworths of the world, I kind of knew what to expect.”

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