The next Marvel What If…? episode features what will sadly be Chadwick Boseman’s last performance as T’Challa/Black Panther. Although the creative team behind the animated show didn’t know at the time that he was fighting terminal colon cancer, director Bryan Andrews and head writer A. C. Bradley shared how special their experience was working with Boseman.
"He cared about T'Challa so much — all the actors care about these characters but Chadwick Boseman understood the power of Black Panther and his role as an icon," Bradley recently told Entertainment Weekly. "He read the scripts beforehand, he would pass on some notes or thoughts. They were always smart, articulate, brilliant."
Some, but not all, of the voices on What If…? are played by the MCU's live-action actors. According to Andrews, Boseman was one of the first big names to sign on. “His excitement level was awesome because he knew what he was going through — we didn't, similar to everybody except his closest inner circle," he told EW. "He wanted every chance he could to get T'Challa out there, and this was going to be one of those last chances. He was a super pro and wonderful and super amazing and we had no idea, you know? He brought so much to the role and he was into it and fun."
In keeping with the spirit of What If…?, the animated version of T’Challa is different from what we’ve seen in the movies. The latest installment asks what would happen if Yondu (Michael Rooker) picked up a young T’Challa instead of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), as was the case in Guardians of the Galaxy.
According to Andrews, Boseman had such a great time voicing this Star-Lord version of T’Challa that there was consideration of creating other stories with this new version of the character. “We were already thinking of finding a way to do spin-offs and stuff like that of him and his crew to have these wonderful adventures,” Andrews explained. “Because [while] the character was so different, you can keep some of the virtue and some of the integrity and all the other important aspects of T'Challa as we know him, Black Panther, without necessarily the pressure of the kingdom Wakanda."
Not being the leader of Wakanda and not having that associated pressure is apparently what especially appealed to Boseman about What If…?’s T’Challa. "He liked the fact that we can take some aspects of the moral compass but deliver some of those lessons in a different way, with more of a wink and a smile and more, 'I'm out here, I'm having fun, I'm cool!'" Andrews said. "That was exciting to see that he was nerding out about that aspect. It was great and he gave us amazing stuff."
Boseman sadly never got to delve into those potential spin-offs or even film Black Panther 2, as the actor sadly passed away in 2020. You can see his last performance as a more lighthearted T’Challa on What If…? this Wednesday on Disney+.