‘What If…?’ Director Bryan Andrews On Creating The Evil Doctor Strange And How The Next Seasons Will Be “A Little Bit Wilder”
When executive producer Brad Winderbaum had the idea for an animated Marvel anthology series, he knew he needed director Bryan Andrews for the job. Based on the Marvel comic series of the same name, What If…? explores how small changes at pivotal moments in the MCU could change everything. While they began with small moments in the first season, Andrews says the series, which is renewed for two more seasons, is going to get more and more wild. What If…? is nominated for three Emmys, including a Outstanding Animated Program for the fourth episode, “What if… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead Of His Hands?”
DEADLINE: Where did the idea for a Marvel anthology series come from?
BRYAN ANDREWS: It came from Brad Winderbaum, who was like, Hey, maybe doing What If…? would be awesome? Those comics were pretty cool and we could probably do it in animation, so it doesn’t cost, you know, a trillion dollars like it would if they did it all live action, with each episode being different and on that same scale.
DEADLINE: Was it easy to narrow down the first nine episodes into those specific stories or was that a huge process?
ANDREWS: It was a process, but it was pretty amazing coming up with them all once we got our head writer involved. She brought in one of her partners, Matt [Chauncey], so it was AC [Bradley] and Matt and then Brad and myself, and we would sit and just spitball. And we just got an embarrassment of riches. We got so many episode ideas, and Kevin [Feige] was like, “Just gimme a list of like 30.” And then Kevin couldn’t even whittle it down. I think it ended up being 14, and we had to kill the last few to try to get it down to the actual number. But funnily enough, there were ideas that just kept staying around, so a couple of those ideas make it into season two and then there’s a few that might be showing up in season three. So many good ideas, so many fun ideas, some that were just way too crazy. They’re just like, “We’re not ready for that yet.” So I think that’s why in season three, we’ll see some of the crazy stuff that we were pitching out of the gate.
DEADLINE: Why was the Doctor Strange episode chosen for Emmy consideration?
ANDREWS: It’s a very strong episode, but we also felt that it just kind of ended darker. We knew even before we had a full story that we wanted to do something dark with Doctor Strange. We wanted to do something where he messes up and fails at the end. AC was able to find an in that really worked based on some personal experiences that she went through dealing with loss – to have him be unable to deal with that loss mixed in with Doctor Strange’s built in hubris.
There’s a lot of other episodes that were really great, but this one overall had such an emotional core. It just made the whole thing really strong and cohesive, but I think the strongest thing is the ending. He blew it and it marks a pivotal point in the whole season where The Watcher actually is looking at the guy and the guy could actually see The Watcher and they have a slight dialogue. That’s the first tease that a connection like that could be made.
Another reason is that Benedict Cumberbatch did an amazing job playing evil Doctor Strange, and that was long before Multiverse of Madness was really getting started. They had kernels of ideas, so Kevin had them watch our stuff and was like, “You guys better watch out, cause this shit’s good.” And they came out of that meeting just going like, “Oh my God, what are we gonna do for a movie?” [Laughs] I think they borrowed a lot from what we were trying to do in that episode, which is crazy.
DEADLINE: What’s next for the What If…? series?
ANDREWS: Obviously more unique stories that slowly get a little bit wilder. The first season Kevin wanted to keep it a little bit closer to the vest, have a little thing that was different and that little thing made these things different, but still tied very much to either a moment in the movies or a particular film itself. Now there’s more films and things to pull from, so we don’t have to have just a tiny moment. We can expand out and things can get a little bit wackier. We take it up a notch in season two and then in season three we just go even wackier. In season two, we have different characters that we haven’t really got a chance to play with before and we see how they’ll integrate with some of the favorites that come back. There’s lots of really cool stuff and I can’t wait for people to see it.
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