'What If...?' Writer And Director Discuss Working With Chadwick Boseman On The Actor's Last MCU Project

The Disney+ Marvel shows are already proving their significance in the wider MCU. The long-term implications of WandaVision and Loki are slowly revealing themselves, and are sure to become even clearer over time. Still, it seems pretty easy to dismiss Marvel's What If...? as a minor work in the grand scheme of a decade-spanning cinematic universe. Not only is it the only animated entry so far, but literally focuses on hypothetical events, each occurring in isolated universes outside of the stories we've already seen tie together. But true fans know better than to instantly dismiss the importance of the show.

Based on the popular Marvel comic run of the same name, the series takes audiences through various "what if" scenarios. Each episode looks at moments and characters we've seen through the MCU and reimagines their life with drastic alterations.

In the series premiere, get a look at the world if Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) had taken the super-soldier serum in Stever Rogers' place. In episode 2, we'll get to see the life of Wakanda's Prince T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) if Yondu (Michael Rooker) had abducted him instead of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt). And this is where What If proves its importance.

Sure, the series continues our exploration of the multiverse and hints at a grander impact on the world we know, but the second episode does something much more important than that. It serves as the final MCU showcase of the late Chadwick Boseman.

T'Challa in the MCU

Boseman first filled the role of T'Challa in Captain America: Civil War before going on to lead what's widely considered on the MCU's best films yet, Black Panther. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, What If...? writer A.C Bradley and director Bryan Andrews reflected on their experience working with Boseman.

"[Chadwick] really enjoyed the idea of being able to play this slightly different version of T'Challa. The events are so extremely different, but the galaxy doesn't change T'Challa; T'Challa changes the galaxy."

This should come as no surprise to Black Panther fans, given the immense strength of character T'Challa has proven in his every appearance. After all, this is the same man who refused to be consumed by revenge, despite the overwhelming pain of his father's murder. When confronted by his Black Panther antagonist Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), the prince eventually realizes his need to change for the better and learn from his enemies' grievances. T'Challa uses their confrontation as an opportunity for growth, changing himself and the wider world, for the better.

T'Challa consistently proves to be a good man with a good heart. Even in a world where he's raised by Yondu and his crew of Ravagers, it's hard to see the fundamental being of the character change.

Andrews also spoke on the bittersweet reality of working with Boseman just months before his August 2020 death. He said:

"There are a few more times where he pops up briefly in a couple other episodes, so we were able to record with him a little bit during the pandemic. Those records were over Zoom calls, and in the last record, when we were done, I, selfishly, was able to tell him how much I personally thought of him... He touched his heart and he was very thankful, but we had no idea he was going through what he was going through."

The Legacy of Black Panther

Boseman projected power and strength as T'Challa, in part because he understood the cultural footprint his performance would leave behind. Bradley spoke to this, saying:

"Chadwick Boseman understood the importance of Black Panther. He understood how important it is that young people see a Black man standing shoulder to shoulder with Captain America and Thor Odinson, so that they know a Black man saves the world just the same as anyone else."

Black Panther's premiere was a milestone for a myriad of reasons. Among them, the fact that the film embraced themes of race, identity, and spotlighted characters of African descent. Boseman stepped forward as the newly crowned prince, taking his place among the characters who reign supreme as heroes for fans across the world.

The weight of the character and his every second onscreen was never lost on Boseman, who put his all into every performance. Bradley indicated this was no less true when it came out voicing the role of T'challa, even for brief appearances in the series. Bradley added:

"He came in to record, and I joked that he didn't bring his A-game; he brought every damn sport there is. He made sure that this was going to be the episode that shined, but we did not realize why. And the world is a little sadder for it. "