Chadwick Boseman Delivers Final T’Challa Performance in Marvel’s What If…?

Credit: Marvel Studios

What If…? is the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe series on Disney+, and it is an animated series with a twist. What if Peggy Carter got the Super Soldier Serum instead of Steve Rogers? What if Yondu took in T’Challa instead of Peter Quill? What if the Avengers were assassinated? The result is a different world compared to the ones we’re used to, and there’s potential to really play with the premise. During the What If…? press conference, the cast and crew chatted about the new series, its inspiration, Chadwick Boseman’s last performance as T-Challa, and more.

“To be honest, it was a stroke of inspiration that happened on the drive home from work one day,” said Executive Producer Brad Winderbaum. “And I found myself in my driveway just texting with Kevin Feige, back and forth, about what this show could be. By the next day, the wheels were in motion and we were on our way to making this thing. It was obvious from the beginning that it needed to be animated because of all the locations and sets and characters and elements from the MCU. We were going to revisit it. It had to be in a medium that would allow us an infinite scope of whatever we could conceive of.”

Credit: Marvel Studios

Jeffrey Wright voices The Watcher, a cosmic being who sees all but cannot interfere unless it’s really dire. The actor explained his role and how his similar to Rod Sterling, the host of The Twilight Zone.

“I’m playing The Watcher, who is described in his first appearance in Marvel Comics, I think it was in 1963, something like the most dramatic being in all the known universe,” Wright said. “This is something like this. He’s a fairly dramatic guy. He’s a fairly powerful guy. He’s overseeing the entire MCU. He’s overseeing the multiverses and he plays somewhat of a Rod Sterling role here. Kind of narrating, kind of not. In some ways, as [he’s] maybe the biggest Marvel fan there is, watching all that transpires and dealing with certain temptations to involve himself. But at the same time, just kind of living vicariously through these characters, these stories, this mythology, and taking it all in. He’s got probably the highest cable bill that you can possibly imagine.”

Captain Carter in Marvel Studios’ What If…? Credit: Marel Studios

Bryan Andrews is the director of the anthology series, who described the format as similar to the Twilight Zone.

“It’s like, you never know what you’re gonna get,” Andrews said. “You might get an episode that’s a comedy, and you might get an episode that’s kind of dramatic and serious, like super emotional and full of action. All of us, A.C., Brad, I myself, Kevin and Victoria, love cinema. We all love movies. We love everything in it and all the genres, and this gave us an opportunity to apply a little taste of a variety of genres into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So, one can maybe go a little bit darker. One gets even funnier. It’s written in the book itself. Just what if? You know, what if this, what if that? Things are so different, so weird, so crazy. It just opens the floodgates. We can do whatever we wanted to, and that was quite exhilarating to be able to play in that way.”

Attached as the head writer is AC Bradley, who has the responsibility to come up with different stories for the series.

“When it came to creating an episode, like figuring out the story of “What If…?”, the last thing we thought about was the what if,” Bradley said. “I think what we all looked for was what’s the heart behind the hero? How do we get behind the shield? What’s a part of the story we haven’t told before? For me, these characters are iconic. We recognize their silhouettes. We recognize their taglines. But what’s important is how we connect to them. So, it was finding new ways to connect to Peggy Carter, to Thor Odinson, to Dr. Strange. And, luckily, we have The Watcher to be our guide because he, too, is looking for a connection. Because that’s really what drove everything, the character. And then we kind of figured out the what if.”

Chadwick Boseman voices T-Challa in the episode where he becomes part of the Guardians of the Galaxy. It marks his last performance as the Wakandan hero, and the cast and crew talk about their experience working with him.

“It was amazing being able to work with him,” Andrews said. “We only got a small moment because our episodes are so short, compared to everyone who was able to enjoy his presence, like on Black Panther or even on Civil War. We had him for a little moment, to do our thing, and we’re so grateful for it. I think he may have been even one of the first actors that signed on and said, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m gonna do that voice.’ And we were so excited because we really, really, really wanted to work with Chadwick and we just loved Black Panther and we love him.”

“Something that was kind of fun is he’s theatrically trained,” the director added. “And sometimes you get the actors in the booth who like to work differently. Based on the needs or the wants of the particular actor at play, sometimes they don’t want to just hit the line, hit the line, hit the line, be done, move on to the next one. It’s cool, but some read it like a scene, and he really wanted to do it like a play. Like, reading the scene descriptions in between, really build it out like a play, because that’s how he’s trained. That’s what he’s comfortable with and that’s what he wanted to do. And it was so much fun being able to do that. It’s like, we got to basically read lines with Chadwick Boseman.”

“I actually met Chadwick for the first time, I think at Comic-Con in the bathroom as he was about to introduce the first Black Panther film,” Wright said. “And I was there with Westworld. We had a really wonderful exchange. He said some wonderful things. Then we’d run into each other here and there, after. In fact, we were going to do Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. I was asked to be a part of that and I couldn’t do it because I was tied up with another film, unfortunately. Because I’ve worked with George Wolf, of course, many times in the theater and he’s a very, very close, collaborator and friend of mine. So, I didn’t have a chance to work with Chadwick on that.”

“So, it was a lovely surprise to find that we would have the opportunity, at least, to be in the same space with What If…?,” the actor added. “And this being his the last performance that we’ll get from him, I find very moving. I guess the thing that strikes me most, what he does here and what he’s done with these films is that, obviously, these are films about heroism and all the complications of that. And what we all discovered was that the kind of mythic quality that he brought to these performances kind of paled, in some way, to the mythic quality that was his life. In terms of the way that he was going about doing this work, the grace, the dignity, the power. I’m really pleased to share a little bit of time with him on this”

“When we started talking about The Watcher early on before Jeffrey signed on, I originally was always joking that it was the Pizza Rat meme,” Bradley said. “I was like, he’s a guy watching this rat pull a slice of pizza across a New York City subway platform. He does not want to pet the rat. He is not going to take the rat home. He is not going to become best friends with the rat. But it is fascinating for him to watch. That’s The Watcher watching humanity and our heroes. And then, when Jeffrey joined and we were talking.”

The MCU is a big universe that is beloved by millions, resulting in lots of discussions and theories. Winderbaum described What If…? as a series that brings a few of these discussions to life.

“You watch the movie or you read the comic, and whenever you’re with your friends, they’re like ‘Oh, did you see the thing?’ Winderbaum said. ‘Yeah.’ ‘Well, what if… what happened in this-what-what-blah.’ Everyone’s nerding out about the thing after the fact. They’re living it, right? And The Watcher does that. We do that with some of these fun stories that we watch in various entertainment, things and stuff, with the Marvel movies. So, in a way, he is us, which is great. I think that’s fun. We get to nerd out with him. And especially with what came out of the writing, throughout the season, and then what Jeffrey brought to the table as we went through it, I think people are going to be pretty happy and surprised with where it goes with The Watcher. I mean, he really, he digs it just like we do, which is great.”

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