By Zach Johnson
Marvel Studios’ What If…? flips the script on the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), reimagining famous events from the films in unexpected ways. Creating a multiverse of infinite possibilities, the anthology series will debut exclusively on Disney+ on August 11. Directed by Bryan Andrews with AC Bradley as head writer, What If…? is executive produced by Brad Winderbaum, Kevin Feige, Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Andrews, and Bradley. Ahead of the series premiere, Andrews, Bradley, and Winderbaum joined Jeffrey Wright, who voices The Watcher, for a virtual press conference over the weekend.
The animated series features dozens of cast members reprising their roles from the MCU, including Hayley Atwell, Paul Bettany, Chadwick Boseman, Josh Brolin, Don Cheadle, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Douglas, Disney Legend Jon Favreau, Karen Gillan, Jeff Goldblum, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael B. Jordan, Evangeline Lilly, Rachel McAdams, Natalie Portman, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, Mark Ruffalo, Disney Legend Kurt Russell, Sebastian Stan, Emily VanCamp, and Taika Waititi.
Here are five things you need to know before What If…? debuts on Disney+:
1. What If…? explores new corners of the multiverse.
“It’s no coincidence that the show picks up right after Loki,” Winderbaum said. “Spoiler alert, but the multiverse has erupted in every possible direction and What If…? gives us a chance to explore that. I think you can tell that in this next saga, the multiverse is going to be crucial.” Winderbaum added that What If…? is just as vital as the MCU’s live-action stories: “Without going into great detail, I can tell you that What If…?—as a project, as a story that exists in the MCU—is as important as any other and is woven into that tapestry.”
2. Captain Carter plays a pivotal role in the future of What If…?
Early in the development process, Winderbaum said Captain Carter (voice of Atwell) “became more important” to the overall story, as she has “a strong relationship with The Watcher, who is really our driving force behind the series.” As they began developing the second season, they realized Captain Carter “was going to be the character who 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 going to pop up where and when.”
3. The Watcher can observe the multiverse, but he cannot intervene.
“The Watcher is a kind of cosmic character,” said Bradley, before comparing him to the viral “Pizza Rat” video from 2015. “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’s not going to take the rat home, and he’s not going to become best friends with the rat. But he is fascinated by it.”
4. One action can change a character’s destiny—just as it does for T’Challa.
Boseman was “one of the first actors to sign on” for What If…?, according to Andrews, and the filmmakers were “so excited” because they “really, really wanted to work with Chadwick.” In his What If…? storyline, the Ravagers accidentally abduct T’Challa, not Peter Quill, and the future king of Wakanda becomes known as Star-Lord—not Black Panther. “T’Challa is interesting because he’s not a character who arcs himself,” said Bradley. “He’s a character who changes the world around him. He doesn’t go through a transformation; he transforms the world. So, how would T’Challa transform outer space?” Andrews added Boseman was excited to put a “completely different spin” on his character, who no longer feels the weight of the crown in What If…? “He could lighten it up. He could get a little more jokey with it,” Andrews said. “He was really excited to bring that flavor to T’Challa.”
5. The possibilities for What If…? are endless.
An award-winning actor of the stage and screen, Wright’s casting excited fans around the world. But is there a chance his character will ever appear in a live-action Marvel Studios production? “Well, What If…? is very much about the idea that all things are possible,” he said. “It’s a reasonable question. I guess the answer is, ‘Well… What if?’ I’ll leave it at that.”