WHAT IF...? Director Bryan Andrews And Jeffrey Wright Get Emotional Discussing Chadwick Boseman's Episode
Talking at the global press conference for What If...?, director Bryan Andrews and Jeffrey Wright discuss the impact of Chadwick Boseman's work on the series and his very special performance as T'Challa.
Earlier today, Marvel Studios and Disney+ held the global press conference for What If...?, and we were fortunate enough to be able to ask director Bryan Andrews and star Jeffrey Wright about being part of the show's incredible second episode. That sees the late Chadwick Boseman deliver an absolutely breathtaking performance as a version of T'Challa who became Star-Lord in his reality.
We asked Bryan what some of his favourite memories of working with Chadwick were and what it meant to Jeffrey to play The Watcher in such a special instalment of the animated series.
"It was amazing being able to work with him. We only got a small moment, because our episodes are so short, to enjoy his presence," the director explained during the event. "We had him for a little moment to do his thing and were so grateful for it. I think he may have even been one of the first actors that signed on and said, 'Oh yeah, I'm going to do that voice.' We were so excited because we really, really wanted to work with Chadwick and love Black Panther and him."
"About the [recording session] specifically, something that was fun...he's theatrically trained. Sometimes, we work differently based on the needs or wants of the actor in play. If they just want to hit the line and move on to the next one, it's cool. Some, they read it like a scene, and he really wanted to do like a play, reading the scene descriptions and really build it out like a play because that's how he's trained, what he's comfortable, and what he wanted to do. It was so much fun being able to do that. We basically got to read lines with Chadwick Boseman in our non-actor trained way. We'd do the best we can, but doing a performance with Chadwick? Amazing?"
"None of us knew what he was going through at the time, of course, but he came and he brought it. He had a lot of fun and it was really great to hear him talk about why he was excited to play this particular version of T'Challa because it was different and a version of him being able to play the King without the mantle of royalty and all the other things that go with it. It's a completely different spin. He could lighten it up, he could get more jokey with it, and he was excited to bring that flavour to T'Challa and give it to the audience so we can see a slightly different version of T'Challa. He was really excited about it and we're blessed to have him in the show. He did an amazing job."
Jeffrey narrates What If...? and while the nature of the series - and animated projects in general - means he didn't get to record his lines alongside Chadwick, being part of the same episode meant a lot to him. In fact, the actor got emotional while discussing the impact that experience has had on him.
"I actually met Chadwick for the first time I think at Comic-Con in the bathroom as he was about to introduce the first Black Panther film. We had a really wonderful exchange. He said some wonderful things," Wright recalled as Head Writer AC Bradley, and executive producer Brad Winderbaum watched on. "We'd run into each other here and there after, and, in fact, we were going to do Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. I was asked to be part of that and I couldn't do it because I was tied up with another film, unfortunately. I've worked with George Wolfe many times in the theatre and he's a very close collaborator and friend of mine, but I didn't have a chance to work with Chadwick on that."
"It was really a lovely surprise to find that we would have the opportunity at least to be in the same space with What If? This being his last performance we'll get from him [is something] I find very moving. I guess the thing that strikes me most with what he does here and with these films...obviously, these are films about heroism and the complications of that, but what we all discovered is that the mythic quality he brought to these performances paled in some way to the mythic quality that was his life in terms of the way he was going about doing this work with the grace, the dignity, and the power. I'm really pleased to share a little bit of time with him on this."
Bryan then decided to share a few final thoughts on getting to work with Chadwick on the series.
"Working on the show to finalise it in post-production, we were doing the score and music and he had already passed since then. We had to make sure nothing went wrong with these episodes because it's his last [performance]," the director said, explaining how the actor's death impacted their work on What If...?. "Even down to the music and everything and making sure everything in it can honour what he brought to the table as the character and honouring Chadwick as well. We got emotional at times. Making sure the music that plays out at the end represents him meant so much to us. What would be a normal work meeting - 'notes on this,' 'notes on that' - would become emotional because it mattered more. I'm on the verge of being emotional now. It's still rough."
Needless to say, we want to thank Jeffrey and Bryan for the thoughtful, touching answers they gave to our question during this press conference. The news of Chadwick's passing hit all of us hard, but for those lucky enough to have known him in this way, we can only imagine how they felt after what happened. This offers us some insight, though, and for that, we really can't express enough gratitude.
What If...? premieres on Disney+ on August 11.