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Why Muneeba Khan From Ms. Marvel Looks So Familiar

The Disney+ series "Ms. Marvel" has proven to be a major hit for both the streaming giant and Marvel Studios, with it introducing fun and incredibly interesting South Asian characters, as well as important details related to the MCU. For many of the show's cast members, "Ms. Marvel" ultimately serves as their first big dip into the Hollywood creative pool. Iman Vellani, who had never appeared in anything before the 2022 series began, is one particularly notable example of a young actor getting their first big break on the show — she does, after all, play the titular character. 

On the other hand, the cast of "Ms. Marvel" boasts some seasoned acting vets with decades in the entertainment industry. This is especially the case with the actress who plays Muneeba Khan, the mother of Vellani's Kamala Khan. Although she is mostly known for her work in her native India, the actress behind Muneeba has gained a fair bit of attention outside her home country, oftentimes playing South Asian mothers, as she herself admitted in a recent interview. And if you can't help but think that you've seen her pop up in a major film or TV show as of late, you aren't alone — here's where you may have seen her before.

Shroff played Kumail Nanjiani's mother in The Big Sick

The actress who plays Muneeba Khan on "Ms. Marvel" is Zenobia Shroff, and she has more than three decades of experience in the entertainment business. It wasn't until 2017, though, that Shroff's American movie and TV career would begin to skyrocket thanks to a performance in one of the year's most critically acclaimed films. This role is also arguably her most recognizable, as it came in the Judd Apatow-produced hit "The Big Sick." It also marked one of the many times — 14, to be exact, as she told Entertainment Weekly in June 2022 — she played a South Asian mother in a film or television show.

"The Big Sick changed the game for me...after 31 years in this business," Shroff told Variety in 2017. "I have grown up surrounded by women like Sharmeen [Kumail Nanjiani's mother] ... There is not a mother on the Indian subcontinent who does not want her son to marry within their religion or community and get a 'real job'! So, in a sense, she is very much in my blood so to speak. I have met her million times. So I really drew on those encounters and experiences, which I too have personally encountered so many times."

In "The Big Sick," comedian Kumail Nanjiani plays a fictionalized version of himself who is also a stand-up comic in a relationship with someone outside the Indian race named Emily, played by his actual wife and creative collaborator Emily V. Gordon. In the film, Nanjiani's parents Azmat (former "New Amsterdam" star Anupam Kher) and Sharmeen (Shroff) both disapprove of their inter-ethnic courtship, going as far as to momentarily disown him. Critics hailed Shroff for her largely improvised performance, with Variety calling her a "scene stealer."

Shroff portrayed the Indian prime minister in the CBS series Madam Secretary

Appearing in just one episode of the canceled CBS political drama "Madam Secretary," Zenobia Shroff got to play fictional Indian Prime Minister Vanya Kharti in her first follow-up role after "The Big Sick" (via IMDb). The episode came during the show's 5th season and was titled, "E Pluribus Unum." It involved a deadly terrorist attack at the White House that went down while leaders from India and Pakistan were there to sign a memorandum of understanding between them (via TVLine). According to Shroff, she was able to land the part of the Indian prime minister and others during that same time period thanks to all the critical acclaim she received for "The Big Sick," which echoed into the 2020s.

"I have really good representation," Shroff told Variety in her 2017 interview. "I'm auditioning for networks and platforms." In 2018, the same year she appeared in "Madam Secretary," the longtime entertainer wound up landing a part on another major television program, which was her first recurring role on an American TV series.

Shroff is the mother of Dr. Devon Pravesh in The Resident

Once again proving her worth as Hollywood's "go-to" South Asian mother — as Zenobia Shroff previously described herself to Entertainment Weekly — the seasoned actor got a role as Himaya Pravesh, aka Dr. Devon Pravesh's mom, in "The Resident" on Fox. She appeared in three episodes of Season 1 in 2018, which focused on the overarching marriage storyline between Devon and his now-former fiancée Priya Nair (Tasie Lawrence). 

According to Shroff, she was still riding high off the success of "The Big Sick" when the opportunity to appear in "The Resident" was basically plopped in her lap. "I got [The Resident] without even auditioning — and this was truly unprecedented," Shroff told Elle in a 2018 interview. "I finally felt like all the years of hard work and sacrifice were paying off." 

After her appearance in "The Resident," it was time for Shroff to set her sights on an even lengthier gig, which would involve a multi-episode arc on one of Showtime's most popular programs of all time.

In yet another motherly role, Shroff played Dr. Vik Ullah's mom in The Affair

It was — and still is — her longest television role to date other than "Ms. Marvel," with Zenobia Shroff playing the controlling and overbearing immigrant mother of Dr. Vik Ullah (Omar Metwally) in Showtime's "The Affair" over the span of six episodes between 2018 and 2019 (via The Daily Beast). Her appearances came during the show's 4th and 5th seasons. Shroff's character, Priya Ullah, has to later deal with the cancer prognosis and eventual loss of her son, which she takes out on Helen Butler (Maura Tierney).

"I know I'm not your favorite person, Helen, but I am a person. A person who lost her son," Priya says to Helen in an emotional scene from Season 5, Episode 5, which was Shroff's very last appearance on the Showtime series. "[Vik] said that you were such a good person, such a selfless person," Priya concluded. "You really had him fooled. You have everyone fooled."

After "The Affair," Shroff went on to do some voice work and also appeared in the 2021 film "7 Days" as the mother of Geraldine Viswanathan's Rita character before eventually landing her role on "Ms. Marvel." As with her previously mentioned projects, the veteran actor said that all her career work with great ensembles and casts like the ones she acted alongside in "The Affair," "Madam Secretary," "The Resident," and "The Big Sick" has ultimately prepared her for taking on the MCU. "You're only as good as the people you play with," Shroff told Looper in a June 2022 interview. "Any actor who thinks that they are good on their own is delusional."