Of course, getting the heart of these characters right is important, but the stories themselves still have to matter.
“The multiverse is perilous because you want to make sure everything has stakes,” says Winderbaum, who echoes Bradley’s comments about What If…? being driven by the characters established in the MCU. “We realized early on that as long as you’re focusing on the characters, it really doesn’t matter if that character exists in a parallel timeline or in the town next door. If you care about them, you’ll follow the story no matter where they live and who they are.”
As for the voices behind those characters, Marvel got many of its live-action stable of actors to get into the sound booth and play their roles in the animated format, a feat that Winderbaum says he might not have thought was possible.
“If you would ask me how much of the original cast I thought we would actually get to return for the show, I would have said we’d be lucky at 50%,” he says. “The fact that we got up to about 85% goes beyond my wildest dreams of what I thought we’d be able to achieve.”
Winderbaum reveals that Marvel co-president Louis D’Esposito was crucial in getting many of the actors on board for the show, including Benedict Cumberbatch, Benicio Del Toro, Chadwick Boseman, Chris Hemsworth, Don Cheadle, Evangeline Lilly, Jeremy Renner, Josh Brolin, Karen Gillan, Mark Ruffalo, Michael B. Jordan, Michael Douglas, Natalie Portman, Paul Bettany, Paul Rudd, Samuel L. Jackson, Sebastian Stan, and Tom Hiddleston
There are plenty more MCU actors involved as well — too many to list — although some notable absences include Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Brie Larson, and Scarlet Johansson. “It didn’t work with some of our stars,” Winderbaum admits. “But we made a choice early on to not make the stories reliant on what actors we thought we could get.”