The second episode of Marvel’s What If…? debuted today, and this otherwise comedic animated adventure was leant an unexpected dose of poignancy thanks to the involvement of Chadwick Boseman. As the Black Panther star passed away last year, the series marks his final time playing T’Challa, even if it’s a very different version of the Wakandan hero.
But it turns out that Boseman was “excited” to get the chance to play this fun, looser variant of his most famous role. Director Bryan Andrews spoke with Looper and revealed how the much-missed actor felt about voicing T’Challa-as-Star-Lord, as well as revealing why he thinks this character is still the same as the Panther we all know and love at his core.
“You know, he was excited about it. He liked the prospect of playing this version of T’Challa that didn’t have the weight of the crown on him,” Andrews said. “And you can get a little jokey, a little fun, a little flirty with the on-again, off-again love interests, and stuff, but still in his core, and the soul of that young man, that 8-year-old or 9-year-old who gets taken by Yondu, it’s still, he still has all of the things that will be eventually the T’Challa that we know and the whole notion of like, ‘Oh, well you remove that person, and to bring them to the greater galaxy, they don’t get crushed by that galaxy.'”
Episode 2 asks what would happen if Yondu abducted T’Challa from Earth and not Peter Quill. The result is that he became one of the galaxy’s greatest heroes, making the cosmos a much safer place due to his generosity and heroism, even managing to reform Thanos. It ends up being an unexpectedly perfect love letter to the power of the character. Andrews explained that this was partly a happy accident, but also something that Boseman was keen to bring to it.
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“The galaxy starts changing because of him — the bright shining star, in a galaxy of billions,” Andrews added. “It’s so dang true, and for us, that was an important sentiment to state just because that’s how we feel about T’Challa. And that’s how we felt about Chadwick, not even knowing where it was going with him, but also he saw that to a certain degree. He wanted to bring that forth to an audience so we can have a slightly different version of T’Challa.”
In the same interview, Andrews confirmed that Boseman reprised his role for “a couple more episodes” later this season, though episode 2 is the only one that’s mostly focused on his Star-Lord. It’s unknown if these later installments will be set in the same alt-universe, though it’s possible, as today’s episode ended on a major cliffhanger that paved the way for a retelling of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
T’Challa’s legacy will be explored in next summer’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. In the meantime, Marvel’s What If…? continues with its third episode next Wednesday.