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Chadwick Boseman relished playing a more cheerful T’Challa in What If...?

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It was the actor’s final performance as Black Panther

T’Challa aka Star-Lord in What If...? Image: Marvel Studios

The second episode of What If…? is one MCU fans have been waiting for with excitement — but also certain sadness. “What If... T’Challa Became a Star-Lord?” is Chadwick Boseman’s final performance as T’Challa, the Black Panther.

The actor completed recording on the episode before his unexpected passing in 2020, roughly a year before it was released. And now that the episode is out, it’s clear that What If... T’Challa Became a Star-Lord?” is a true ode to the Black Panther. Across the galaxy, people are better off than they are in the main Marvel Cinematic Universe — T’Challa even got the galaxy’s greatest tyrant to turn over a new leaf.

When Polygon spoke with What If...? director Bryan Andrews earlier this month, he said that T’Challa’s powers of inspiration were not a part of the episode’s “what if?” but a core aspect of his character.

“We wanted to use [the story] as an opportunity, to show a different side of of T’Challa,” Andrews said, “but not change him in some crazy What if..?-y you way. It’s everything else that changes around him.”

According to Andrews, that “we were being careful with the character and not taking him to some weird place,” appealed to Boseman as well. “It was just one other way for Marvel and Chadwick to reiterate how wonderful this character of T’Challa is. That he doesn’t necessarily need to have the official mantle of the king to accomplish all these great things, [he can do it] just by being this amazing person. This one drop of light in a dark universe can change it.”

Andrews says that Boseman was one of the first actors to sign on to voice their live-action character in the animated series, and that was galvanizing to the team behind What If...?

“He read the script and he dug it, he liked the fact that he could play a version of the T’Challa that we know that was without the mantle, so he can be a little bit lighter, a little bit jokey-er, and have this slightly other life, but still at the core — it’s still that awesome, great person. I think that’s wonderful, and the fact that he was into it, gave us all the feels, for sure.”