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The latest series in Marvel Studios’ 2021’s cavalcade of content is called What If..?, a nine-part animation project that imagines stand-alone episodes of slightly to not-so-slightly altered versions of Marvel Cinematic Universe stories we should all be familiar with. Many major cast members, including Josh Brolin as Thanos, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury are returning to voice their characters, but some may have noticed that the first episode finds a new actor portraying Steve Rogers for the first time in the MCU.
Chris Evans, along with a number of other stars, are among those not returning for What If…? As the series continues, it may be worth checking whose voices are the same and whose are not. But while we may not know the exact reason that some of the voices are change-ups from the MCU films, there is a bit of information out there that can help us at least thing about it and contextualize it.
Why wasn’t Chris Evans voicing Steve Rogers in the first episode of What If…?
It’s easy to speculate why Evans doesn’t return to voice Steve in the first episode of Marvel Studios’ first foray into both animation and speculative fiction. It’s even easier to speculate after just watching this first episode, when basically every other key Captain America character—including Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Stanley Tucci, and even Jeremy Renner and Samuel L. Jackson—all return.
But Evans isn’t alone. The episode shifts things up a little bit, and at least two other key The First Avenger characters are at least somewhat different. Tommy Lee Jones’ character, Colonel Chester Phillips is gone from this reality, replaced instead by Colonel Flynn (voiced by Bradley Whitford). And Hugo Weaving is no playing voicing Red Skull, with Walking Dead actor Ross Marquand once again playing the character after doing so in both Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Marquand has been busy in superhero animation this year, as he also provided a number of voices for Amazon Prime Video’s excellent Invincible series.
They’re not the only ones not returning either. While most of the MCU’s biggest names will be returning to voice their characters in What If…?, a handful of major players also including Robert Downey Jr., Elizabeth Olsen, Scarlett Johansson, Brie Larson, and Benedict Cumberbatch will get the Chris Evans treatment.
The show wasn’t fully planning to get everyone, though.
“All of these people are extremely talented and they’ve got a lot of stuff going on,” director Bryan Andrews told Uproxx in an interview “We figured we probably wouldn’t be able to get everybody—but we got a lot, and that was great. So yeah, it’d be awesome to have everybody, but you’ve got to deal with what you’ve got to deal with. And if someone’s too busy and they can’t make it, it’s a bummer.”
Andrews elaborated in an interview with GamesRadar that he didn’t want to shortchange some of the replacement voice actors by calling what they do an “impression.”
“The thing is, it’s trying not to bump the audience too much and have it be as much of the person they remember from the show, but having the actor bring a little something to themselves,” he said. “I’m not just doing an impression. It’s not about impressions, right? They have to actually act the moments and deliver some of the emotional intent.”
The “scheduling” explanation doesn’t entirely check out, though. The character of Drax the Destroyer plays a small role in Episode 2 of What If…, which imagines T’Challa (voiced by Chadwick Boseman in his final performance) becoming Star-Lord instead of Peter Quill. But Dave Bautista, who’s played Drax in the MCU since 2014, says that he was never even approached to be in the series.
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