Following the success of WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Loki, Marvel is back with its latest show, What If...?, which premiered yesterday on Disney+ Hotstar. While the Marvel Cinematic Universe has made it clear that Phase Four will concern itself with the idea of the multiverse, What If...?, an animated anthology series, is set to take that journey up a notch. Created by AC Bradley and directed by Bryan Andrews, the series will explore alternate timelines in the multiverse that show what might have happened had major moments from the MCU films occurred a tad differently. Jeffrey Wright stars as the Watcher, who narrates the series, alongside many MCU film actors reprising their roles.
Show creator Bradley and director Andrews spoke with us about this unique idea. Bradley began by sharing that he got the idea while driving back home from work. “It was a stroke of inspiration, really. I found myself in my driveway texting Kevin Feige about what this show could be. It was obvious from the beginning that it needed to be animated because we had to revisit all the locations, sets, characters and elements from the MCU and it had to be in a medium that would allow us infinite scope of whatever we conceived of,” says Bradley, also the co-writer for Marvel’s upcoming series, Ms Marvel.
Bryan Andrews, who did the storyboarding for Jackie Chan Adventures, Samurai Jack and Star Wars: Clone Wars as well as Marvel films like Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, says that the best part about What If...? is that it’s an anthology. “It’s like, you will never know what you are going to get. You might get an episode that’s a comedy, or one that is dramatic and serious, or why, one even emotional. All of us who worked on this project love cinema and all genres of it, and this gave us an opportunity to apply a little taste of a variety of genres into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.”
On choosing the right moments from the MCU for the alternative timelines, Bradley says, “The last thing we thought about was the what-if. I think what we looked for was the heart of each hero. How do we get behind the shield? What’s a story we haven’t told before? These characters are iconic. We recognise their silhouettes and their taglines. But what’s important is how we connect to them. So, it was about finding new ways to connect to Peggy Carter, to Thor Odinson, to Dr Strange. Luckily, we have The Watcher (voice by Jeffrey Wright) as our guide because he, too, is looking for a connection.”
The series will also feature the voice of late actor Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa. “It was amazing being able to work with him though we only got a small moment, as our episodes are so short. We were so excited because we really wanted to work with Chadwick; we loved Black Panther and we love him,” says Andrews. “As he was trained in theatre, he was keen that he do it like a play: like reading scene descriptions in between. It was so much fun being able to do that as we got to read lines with Chadwick Boseman. This version of T’Challa was different because he is without his mantle and royalty. So, he was able to lighten up and even add some jokes in. He was as excited as we were, and we are blessed to have him in this show,” he adds. “During post-production, when he had passed, we were cautious to make sure nothing went wrong with his episodes. Even down to the music and everything else, we wanted to make sure we did everything to honour his participation.”