The second episode of Marvel’s What If…? should be the zany, comic highlight of the series – but it comes with a tinge of sadness due to the death of Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman, who posthumously lends his voice to his regular character T’Challa for one last time in the story.
At the time that Boseman recorded his lines for this alternate version of T’Challa (who becomes a spacefaring hero in place of Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord), his illness wasn’t public knowledge but, in the context of his passing, the swashbuckling, upbeat episode is unusually poignant, showing another side to his performance in the role that struck a chord with millions.
And while the episode’s content wasn’t changed after Boseman’s untimely death in August 2020, it is still dedicated to his memory with a short message during the credits.
At the end of the episode, a touching tribute appears that reads: “Dedicated to our friend, our inspiration, and our hero: Chadwick Boseman.”
Boseman’s episode has been front and centre in the trailers for Marvel’s What If…?, while head writer AC Bradley has also discussed the work that went in behind-the-scenes.
“I have the sad honour of writing some of his last lines in the MCU. I obviously did not know that when I was writing them,” she told The Hollywood Reporter.
“Chadwick Boseman understood the importance of Black Panther. He understood how important it is that young people see a Black man standing shoulder to shoulder with Captain America and Thor Odinson, so that they know a Black man saves the world just the same as anyone else.”
She added: “He came in to record, and I joked that he didn’t bring his A-game; he brought every damn sport there is. He made sure that this was going to be the episode that shined, but we did not realise why. And the world is a little sadder for it.”
Reportedly, Boseman was first diagnosed with colon cancer in 2016, but kept his illness private and continued to make films during his gruelling treatment.
His death (from complications related to the cancer) on 28th August 2020 sent shockwaves around the world, with many fans and admirers heartbroken at the passing of the actor.
It has since been revealed that T’Challa will not be recast in future Marvel movies, with sequel Black Panther: Wakanda Forever instead focusing on other characters in the supporting cast.