The season finale of Disney+’s Loki ended with the God Of Mischief witnessing the expansion of the multiverse, with infinite timelines spiraling out of infinite realities. We know the repercussions of that are going to play out in the next Spider-Man and Doctor Strange movies, but we’re actually going to see the payoff much sooner: Marvel’s What If…? series, premiering on Disney+ on August 11, is all about what’s happening in that multiverse and all the wacky and/or horrifying realities contained within. During a press conference today with the show’s creators, plus star Jeffrey Wright, producer Brad Winderbaum teased that it’s “no coincidence” that the show is coming out right after Loki. While everyone involved was predictably cagey about whether or not any of the characters introduced would ever make the transition to live-action, he did tease that a second season is in the works and that it will feature the return of Hayley Atwell’s Captain Carter—who makes her debut in the show’s first episode and was all over the trailers that have been released.
The basic setup of the show is that it’s an anthology of alternate reality stories in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with multiple people involved referring to it as an MCU version of The Twilight Zone. If that’s the case, then Jeffrey Wright’s Watcher is the Rod Serling: He’s an extra-dimensional being who sits back and watches the various realities and is never supposed to intervene in what happens within them, narrating the beginning and end of each episode. Wright describes him as “the biggest Marvel fan there is,” because his entire existence is about watching superheroes and seeing how they respond to different situations in different timelines, and while Wright’s performance is somewhat intense, he doesn’t view people like Captain Carter as a novelty who exist just to be observed. He “adores them,” Wright says, because they give his life purpose by giving him something to watch and care about and trust—much like how Marvel fans might be drawn to the MCU because its characters are dependable and the real world isn’t necessarily easy to depend on.
Writer A.C. Bradley says her initial impression of The Watcher was that he looked at the superheroes of the multiverse the way we looked at pizza rat, in the sense that we love seeing it and may root for it to get that pizza, but we would never step in and touch it or really care about what happens to it. Once Wright came on board and talked about seeing Marvel movies with his kid, though, Bradley says the writers realized The Watcher should be more devoted to the regular people of the multiverse and be more of a dad than an emotionless observer.
But aside from The Watcher, the most exciting thing about What If…? is that it will feature Chadwick Boseman’s final performance as T’Challa. This is the multiverse, though, so T’Challa doesn’t grow up to be the Black Panther and the king of Wakanda on this show. Instead, he gets accidentally picked up by Yondu’s Ravagers when they go to kidnap young Peter Quill (because all humans look alike, you see) and—in one of What If…?’s more unexpected turns—he ends up becoming Star-Lord. Bradley says they broke this story by looking at a big poster of all the MCU characters they wanted to include and realizing that T’Challa and Peter Quill are basically the same age. From there, they recognized that T’Challa is a character who changes the world around him, rather than being changed by it, so sending someone like that into a completely new and different environment would be a good way to shine new light on T’Challa.
It was such a good way, in fact, that it apparently convinced Boseman to be one of the first MCU actors to agree to sign on for What If…? (there are many others, but Marvel Studios is being quiet about the official cast). Director Bryan Andrews says Boseman was drawn to the idea of playing T’Challa as Star-Lord because “he was the king without the mantle” and could have a little more fun as a distinctly sillier version of the character. Wright, meanwhile, seems very touched that he had an opportunity to work on a project that Boseman also worked on, saying they had met for the first time at a San Diego Comic-Con bathroom and were initially supposed to be appear onscreen together in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom until Wright had to back out. He also notes that the “mythic quality” of Boseman’s work as T’Challa “paled in comparison to the mythic quality of his life.”