Marvel's What If...? team previews Chadwick Boseman's final MCU appearance as T'Challa
Marvel's What If…? was never meant to be Chadwick Boseman's final MCU appearance as T'Challa/Black Panther. A Black Panther sequel had already been in development for years, centered around the iconic hero. But when the 43-year-old actor died of complications from a secret battle with colon cancer in 2020, plans for the upcoming film had to change. Thankfully, he'll be heard one last time as T'Challa thanks to his voiceover work in What If...?, beginning with his arrival in Wednesday's episode.
And while the episode was written and recorded long before his death, it's a surprisingly emotional and uplifting end for the character as T'Challa is picked up by the Ravagers, led by Yondu (Michael Rooker), and becomes Star-Lord instead of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt). While this is a different story on a different timeline entirely from what we've seen of the hero in the MCU so far, it's still the same character and the ways in which T'Challa influences the Ravagers might even bring a tear to your eye.
What If...? head writer A.C. Bradley tells EW that Boseman took great care to make sure his episode stayed true to who the character is despite all the pivotal changes to his background and upbringing. "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," she says. "He read the scripts beforehand, he would pass on some notes or thoughts. They were always smart, articulate, brilliant."
And he brought that same level of care into the recording booth. "He wanted to make sure he had the accent right, that it matched the movies, because he knew that because we're animation, there's going to be kids watching this," Bradley says. "It was super important to him to make sure T'Challa is always presented as a role model and a hero. And luckily we were all on the same page."
What If...? director Bryan Andrews reveals that Boseman was actually one of the first actors to officially sign on to reprise his MCU role in the animated series, and his enthusiasm for the project blew them all away. "His excitement level was awesome because he knew what he was going through — we didn't, similar to everybody except his closest inner circle," Andrews says. "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."
According to Andrews, Boseman loved this Star-Lord version of T'Challa so much that "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, 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."
Introducing this new version of T'Challa that didn't have the weight of the world on his shoulders allowed Boseman to take the character to new heights. "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 says. "That was exciting to see that he was nerding out about that aspect. It was great and he gave us amazing stuff."
What If...? debuts new episodes Wednesdays on Disney+.