Marvel’s animated What If imagines a Marvel Cinematic Universe where lots of things went a little differently — and a new trailer surprised fans Thursday who weren’t expecting to hear a voice performance by Chadwick Boseman.
In the official MCU, Boseman played T’Challa, aka Black Panther, the ruler and protector of Wakanda. But the conceit of What If, based on the long-running, mind-bending Marvel comic, is that history could have changed radically if just a few things hadn’t happened as they did.
For example: What if Killmonger had rescued Tony Stark before he was captured and built his Iron Man armor? What if Peggy Carter had received the super serum instead of Steve Rogers?
And, in the story most relevant to Chadwick Boseman: What if Yondu had taken T’Challa, rather than Peter Quill, into space?
You can watch the What If trailer above to get a taste of a reality in which T’Challa, rather than Quill, becomes Star-Lord. Don’t worry: T’Challa’s Star-Lord, like Quill’s, is still constantly escaping by the skin of his teeth, if the trailer is any indication.
“Hearing Chadwick Boseman’s voice in the What If trailer was something I wasn’t prepared for today,” tweeted BuzzFeed TV editor Nora Dominick, one of many who shared that sentiment.
“Chadwick” quickly became a trending topic as fans sought out the trailer to hear T’Challa again.
Chadwick Boseman voicing T’Challa wasn’t meant to be a surprise: Marvel chief Kevin Feige told Emmy Magazine last year that Boseman “came in about four times and recorded numerous episodes” of What If before his death. A previous What If trailer released in December included only four words from Boseman as T’Challa: “Give me the tour.”
Boseman died unexpectedly in August 2020 after a secret, four-year fight with colon cancer. He was subsequently nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and some Oscar viewers were stunned when it went instead to Anthony Hopkins, who won for The Father. The awards ceremony had made Best Actor the final award of the night, wrongly predicting that Boseman’s win would be an emotional capstone to the evening.
Black Panther was the top-grossing film of 2018, making Boseman one of Marvel’s biggest stars. A Black Panther sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, started production just days ago at Pinewood Studios in Atlanta.
“It’s clearly very emotional without Chad,” Marvel chief Kevin Feige said of Boseman, speaking to Variety. “But everyone is also very excited to bring the world of Wakanda back to the public and back to the fans. We’re going to do it in a way that would make Chad proud.”
What If, Marvel Studios first-ever animated series, is directed by Bryan Andrews with AC Bradley as head writer. It arrives on Disney+ on Wednesday, August 11.