When announcing the new series, What If…?, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige promised that most of the MCU’s actors would reprise their respective roles in the animated series. While actors like Haley Atwell (Agent Carter), Samuel L. Jackson (Captain Marvel), and the late Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther) reprised their roles, many of Marvel’s well-known alumni did not return for the animated series.
One of those absences from this week’s episode was Guardians of the Galaxy star Dave Bautista, who plays Drax the Destroyer. In this week’s episode, “What If… T’Challa Became a Star Lord?”, Drax was featured in the episode as a bartender at a space bar who fanboys over Boseman’s T’Challa. However, Drax was voiced by Fred Tatasciore (Ultimate Avengers: The Movie). In addition to Boseman, the episode saw Josh Brolin (Avengers: Endgame) returning as a reformed Thanos and Karen Gillian (Guardians of the Galaxy) returning as a femme fatale-like Nebula.
What If…? executive producer Brad Winderbaum (Item 47) recently spoke to Variety about Bautista’s absence and the difficulty of casting for the series.
“It’s my understanding that everybody was asked in some way, shape or form, either through their agents or directly,” Winderbaum told Variety. “I don’t know really what happened behind the scenes there, but certainly, we would have loved for him to be in the show. So there’s probably some miscommunication somewhere.”
Winderbaum also discussed other actors that were unable to return including Chris Evans (Avengers: Endgame), Robert Downey, Jr. (Avengers: Endgame), Brie Larson (Captain Marvel), Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Far From Home), and Elizabeth Olson (WandaVision). “Part of it, I think, was literally the schedule — maybe. I mean, I don’t know,” Winderbaum told Variety, reportedly with a shrug. “We didn’t push that hard.”
When casting replacements, the team behind What If…? made it a point to make sure to find the right talent over finding the exact same voice as the original character. The casting team made sure that the actors did not define the series.
Bautista has also been open about not returning to the MCU after he finishes Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. When speaking on Ellen, he said that the journey for him has come “full circle” being that he will be 54 by the time Guardians 3 releases. The firing of James Gunn in 2018 could also play a part in Bautista’s decision not to return as he threatened to quit Marvel when the controversy occurred.
What If…? streams every Wednesday exclusively on Disney+.