It may be easy to think of What If…? is just a series of one-offs and believe it doesn’t have much to do with the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), but fans should definitely keep a keen eye on what the series has in store.
Inspired by the Marvel comic of the same name, What If…? “reimagines famous events from films in the MCU” and creates “a multiverse of infinite possibilities.” Fan-favorite characters are featured, including Peggy Carter, T’Challa, Doctor Strange, Killmonger, Thor and more. It sees some of the MCU’s most iconic actors return to voice these characters, including Chadwick Boseman, who voices T’Challa / Black Panther in four episodes.
One character who appears through them all is Uatu / The Watcher, voiced by Jeffrey Wright. Uatu is a member of the alien race of Watchers, observing all of these different events that are taking place in these alternate universes.
“I had to go back and read the early comics to discover who The Watcher was,” Wright told Shadow and Act in a recent interview. “I also asked my son, who’s my Marvel encyclopedia [laughs]. And he was very excited about this character. For me, what was exciting was…well obviously the Marvel world is a really dynamic world, and of course enormously popular. And it’s always good to be invited into a place as an actor where there are passionate fans. But also, this character is coming into for the first time, a universe or multiverse that is populated by very well-known characters, that are well-developed.”
“For me what was exciting was that he distinguishes himself from those characters in some way, by just the nature of who he is” he continued. “He’s observing from the outside, he’s omnipresent. He’s seeing things that only he can see, and he has powers that are unique to him. That was attractive to me. And that this is an animated series, I had the opportunity to play voice to, and to give voice to this character in my own rhythms, my own musicality. And so everyone was open to exploring in that way. I was happy to jump in and see what I could come up with.”
While a character like this all-knowing narrator of sorts isn’t new to television and film canon, Wright made sure to leave his own stamp. “That was the whole point…to try to find what my voice would be,” he said. Still, he did have one character like this in mind.
“The one reference that I did have in my head was Rod Serling though, of The Twilight Zone, because The Watcher does have a bit of that quality to him in telling these stories and inviting the audience to go on this journey with him. I did have him in mind because also he’s super cool, [and] super interesting narrator, but as far as the voice, it was really just trying to play my own music, play my own rhythms, and create something that was contemporary, and American and fresh.”
Will Uatu stay back while everything plays out? We’ll have to continue to tune in to find out.
Marvel’s What If…? premieres Wednesday, August 11 on Disney+.