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Chadwick Boseman returns as T’Challa — but not Black Panther — in Marvel’s ‘What If...?’

A man posing in a patterned shirt
Chadwick Boseman attends the 2018 premiere of “Black Panther” in Los Angeles.
(Chris Pizzello / Invision/AP)

The latest episode of Marvel’s “What If...?” is dedicated to “our friend, our inspiration and our hero” Chadwick Boseman, who reprised his role as T’Challa for the animated series before his death last year.

Released Wednesday, the second installment of the speculative saga — which imagines alternate story lines for various MCU players — ponders the question, “What if T’Challa Became a Star-Lord” instead of Peter Quill (portrayed on the big screen by Chris Pratt)?

That’s right: In this imaginary timeline, T’Challa makes his mark on the universe not as Black Panther, king of Wakanda, but as a widely beloved and renowned guardian of the galaxy.

And Boseman isn’t the only Marvel star who lent his voice to a cartoon version of his character for the new Disney+ program. In Episode 2, Boseman’s T’Challa — a.k.a. Star-Lord — is joined by Karen Gillan’s Nebula, Djimon Hounsou’s Korath, John Kani’s T’Chaka, Josh Brolin’s Thanos and Michael Rooker’s Yondu, who kidnaps a young T’Challa from Wakanda and raises him to become the famed space scavenger.

Marvel’s first trailer for upcoming Disney+ series ‘What If...?’ captures Chadwick Boseman’s final performance as his ‘Black Panther’ character T’Challa.

Unlike the mischievous Peter Quill, however, T’Challa brings his signature selflessness, innate goodness and advanced wisdom to Star-Lord — an honorable title by which he is universally recognized. (In the “Guardians of the Galaxy” films, it takes some nagging on Quill’s part for the Star-Lord moniker to catch on.)

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“Me, I am just an ordinary Junker. But there is one name you may know me by,” says Boseman’s humble Star-Lord — a Robin Hood figure intent on restoring balance to the cosmos.

The remainder of the episode sees T’Challa embark on a mission with Nebula, Korath, Thanos and Yondu to rescue the Embers of Genesis — “nutrient-rich cosmic dust” with the power to save entire planets — from the villainous Collector (reprised by Benicio del Toro).

Actor Chadwick Boseman, who played real-life icons Jackie Robinson and James Brown before finding fame as the regal “Black Panther” in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has died of cancer.

Wednesday’s installment of “What If...?” marks Boseman’s first appearance in the Disney+ spinoff — but not his last. Fans can anticipate three more Season 1 cameos from T’Challa in episodes 5, 8 and 9.

“I was the one who told you I wanted to see the world,” Boseman’s T’Challa tells Rooker’s Yondu in this week’s episode. “All you did was show me the universe. ... But now, knowing everything, I’m not quite sure where I belong.”

Boseman’s next “What If...?” cameo premieres Sept. 8 on Disney+.


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