After that exciting first episode of What If…?, it feels like a whole universe of opportunity just opened up. We spoke with executive producer Brad Winderbaum, director Brian Andrews, head writer A.C. Bradley, and Jeffrey Wright, who voices The Watcher to talk a little bit about not only the creation of the series, where we might see recurring characters, and about working with Chadwick Boseman in his final performance.
Revisiting Characters in Season 2
What If…? has already been in greenlit for a second season, with a plethora of potential paths to walk down. However, executive producer Brad Winderbaum talked about the potential of returning to back to one of the characters in future seasons.
“We realized, I think, early on in development, as we were starting to get A.C.’s scripts and starting to look at the arc of the series, that there was gonna be a character that bubbled up and became more important. Not more important than the rest, but had a strong relationship with The Watcher, who is really our driving force behind the series, and that’s Captain Carter.”
“We realized, as we started developing the second season, that Captain Carter was gonna be the character we would revisit in every season and continue that adventure. Obviously, we’re telling a story on a giant, multiversal canvas so you never really know who’s gonna pop up where and when. It’s very much an anthology, but there’s always opportunity for fun connections to be made.”
Does this mean that we might see Hayley Atwell‘s Captain Carter appearing in other episodes in future seasons? Winderbaum seems to imply that The Watcher has developed a special connection with the character so perhaps this will lead to his own involvement in the future?
“It’s no coincidence that this show picks up right after Loki,” said Winderbaum. “The multiverse has now erupted in every possible direction. What If…? gives us a chance to explore that. I think you can tell that in this next saga, the multiverse is gonna be crucial.”
Wright himself explained that The Watcher watches all that transpires and deals with the temptation of involving himself in the happenings. “He’s a fairly dramatic guy. He’s a fairly powerful guy. He’s kind of overseeing the entire MCU. He’s overseeing the multiverses, he plays somewhat of a Rod Serling role here. Kind of narrating, kind of not.” But will he remain as narrator throughout the series? That is still up for debate.
Creating the Anthology
For the creators, the question was actually not what but who. Head writer A.C. Bradley revealed that the last thing they thought about was the actual what if of it all. “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 Doctor Strange.”
Director Brian Andrews also explained that the animated quality of the series allowed for them to revisit massive set pieces within the MCU. He also added, “This gave us an opportunity to apply a little taste of a variety of genres into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.”
“It is an anthology. There are standalone stories,” Winderbaum added. “We are trying to create stories that exist on their own terms. So, if you were to watch any episodes of What If…? and that was the only episode you watched, you get a full experience, hopefully, with the character that lives a rich life and changes dynamically, and is entertaining, and emotionally satisfying.”
But, when it comes to how they might all connect in the future, Winderbaum wasn’t ready to rule anything out. “It is also Marvel. And, as we know, there’s always strange alchemy at work. So, you never know. They could all connect. We’ll have to see.”
The episode this week features T’Challa, who is voiced by Chadwick Boseman in his final performance. Although this is not his only appearance as T’Challa, the episode does focus around this alternate universe T’Challa who has now taken Peter Quill’s place as Star-Lord. Speaking to the creators, this idea came simply from the fact that the two characters are similar in age and therefore, the what if becomes, what if the Ravagers picked up the wrong kid from earth?
“[T’Challa is] a character that changes the world around him. And he doesn’t go through a transformation, he transforms the world. So, then, taking a step back would be, well, how would T’Challa transform outer space? And that’s how you get that episode,” explained Bradley.
“It was amazing being able to work with him. We only got a small moment ‘cause our episodes are so short, compared to everyone who was able to enjoy his presence 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 ‘cause we really, really, really wanted to work with Chadwick Boseman and we just loved Black Panther. And we love him,” said Andrews.
“And about the [recording], specifically, something that was kind of fun is, he’s theatrically trained and, you know, sometimes you get the actors in the booth who like to work differently,” Andrews explained. “He really wanted to do it like a play. Like, reading the scene descriptions in between, like, really build it out like a play. ‘Cause that’s how he’s trained, that’s what he’s comfortable with and that’s what he wanted to do. It was so much fun being able to do that. We got to basically read lines with Chadwick Boseman.”
He continued, “He came and he brought it and he had a lot of fun. It was really great to hear him talk about [how] he was excited to play this particular version of T’Challa because it was different. Because it was a version of him being able to play the king, but the king without the mantle, without the mantle of royalty and all the other things that go with it. Completely different spin. He could lighten it up, he could get a little bit more jokey with it and stuff. He was excited to bring that flavor to T’Challa and give it to the audience so we can see a slightly different version of T’Challa.”
Wright, who first met Chadwick Boseman in a bathroom at Comic-Con (while Boseman was introducing Black Panther and Wright was there for Westworld), nearly had a chance to work with the actor for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. After missing that opportunity due to filming schedule, Wright spoke on being able to be in What If…? alongside Boseman.
“[It] was really a lovely surprise to find that we would have the opportunity, at least, to be in the same space with What If…?. And this being his 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.”
New episodes of What If…? are available for streaming Wednesdays on Disney+.