Watch Peggy Carter become the first Avenger in sneak peek at Marvel's What If…?
Step aside, Captain America — Captain Carter has arrived, and she's bringing in a whole new era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Debuting Aug. 11, the Marvel and Disney+ animated series What If…? is going back to the earliest moments of the MCU to rewrite the story of the first Avenger, along with many other major events from the movies. (That's all possible now that the Loki season 1 finale kicked off the multiverse.) In the video above, EW has an exclusive sneak peek at Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) taking up the mantle originated by Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and charting a new path for the MCU.
"She's such a powerhouse of a woman," What If…? head writer A.C. Bradley tells EW. "With Captain Carter, it was our way of taking one of the most popular and known moments in the MCU, which is The First Avenger, the rise of Steve Rogers and Captain America, and really going for the heart of the MCU and giving it a big twist, and also making a statement of 'This is going to be a female-led adventure, and we're going to see how this would ripple across history.' It's a fun, swashbuckling story."
Telling the story of Captain Carter becoming the first supersoldier in the premiere "starts everyone off on the right foot," Bradley says. "Every episode after has a different tone, a different genre. So we're going World War II, we're going to the heart of the MCU, and we're going to a character that audiences have loved from the first movies and from Agent Carter, and getting to see her kick ass in a new way."
What If…? director Bryan Andrews reveals that an early idea for the first episode was to make Steve Rogers the villain, but that didn't come to pass. "Way early on we were kicking around all these different ideas, just weird stuff," he says, noting that he felt like the ultimate fan brainstorming each episode. It was Bradley who came up with the idea to have Peggy Carter receive the supersoldier serum instead of Steve in the premiere. "Then it was off to the races," Andrews says, adding that the series continues to build other stories from that point forward. "We're going weirder and crazier, just nerding out on what we would want to see. Just wait. You have no idea what's coming."
Both Andrews and Bradley can barely contain their glee over being given free rein with the MCU in unprecedented ways now that the multiverse is their playground. "After 10 years, the MCU has become its own cultural touchstone for generations, from older millennials like myself to Gen Z," Bradley says. "We all know them backwards and forwards, so being able to remix them has been one of the greatest joys." And where previous Marvel movies and shows were beholden to the larger plans of the MCU, Bradley laughs at how What If…? actually "had the opposite problem."
"We kept walking into the movies — we ended up seeing Endgame over two months early because it was getting cruel, because a few times we were told no for an idea and I wasn't given a reason, and then finally we'd learn it's definitely going to be in a movie," she says. "So then the mandate became 'Whatever you think is never going in the movies is our show.' [Marvel chief] Kevin [Feige] gave us a lot of freedom. It's kind of like you're like a kid with your action figures: What's the story I want to tell? Where do I want to throw Hulk? What story do I want to put him in?"
And with most of the MCU live-action actors coming in to reprise their characters through voice-over, Bradley reveals that many of them were shocked by just how different these new versions of their iconic characters are. "The biggest compliment we ever received is when they'd be like, 'This is weird. This is a weird story. This is not something I'd ever got to do in the movies,'" Bradley says. "Sebastian Stan was like, 'I don't get to make jokes in the movies, are you sure this is for me?' He was surprised. We were like, 'Yeah, you get to make jokes. That's your what-if: You're funny.'"
"There were some [actors] that had that kind of reservation at first, but then by the end of it they were digging it and riffing and trying to play and bring some new stuff to the material," Andrews adds. "It's funny, they all had a blast once they got through it, but some were definitely like, 'Why am I here?' But then it switched for them and they're like, 'Oh, this is cool!' It's that stigma of animation that it's always just for this age range, but now that they know, 'Oh wait, you guys are like the movies, that's great. This is exciting.'"
Bradley remembers Cobie Smulders and Samuel L. Jackson especially having a lot of fun in the studio recording their lines, but she calls out Paul Rudd as the MVP voice actor of the season. "He was in for like three hours and he almost won office employee of the month," she says. "He came in second [place]. That's how much fun Paul Rudd had — he doesn't even work here."
What If…? also features the final appearance of the late Chadwick Boseman's T'Challa, a.k.a. Black Panther, as the actor recorded his lines before his death from colon cancer in 2020. Bradley reveals that when Michael B. Jordan came in to record his lines as Erik Killmonger, "He felt like we were still doing justice to both T'Challa and Killmonger, while also taking the story in new directions," which gave her and Andrews a real sense of pride. "We're very careful to make sure that we stay true to what people loved about these characters and the heart of them," she adds. "You want to reward the audience for being on this journey for so long."
When it comes to the show's animation style, Bradley and Andrews wanted to push the medium into new cinematic territory, playing up subtle facial expressions to go along with the voice work. "It was challenging, but really rewarding," Andrews says. "The Doctor Strange episode is a tour de force. It ends in a particular way, you'll know it when you see it. When they actually see it, they're going to be like, 'I can't believe they did that s---!'"
As for what Bradley is most excited for fans to see from the first season? "Zombies," she deadpans. Because when the sky is the limit, why not adapt something as wild and out there as the Marvel Zombies comic run? Welcome to the Marvel multiverse.
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