10 Times MCU Actors Appeared In-Character Outside of Marvel Studios Movies

By Trey Tobias Updated:
Carol Danvers, Peter Parker, Thor

The Marvel Cinematic Universe consists of twenty-three interconnected movies, which has allowed Marvel actors to portray their characters for a large number of films. For avid MCU fans, it was exciting to see familiar superheroes populate various solo films and crossovers throughout the last decade. Unfortunately, now that the Infinity Saga is over, heroes like Iron Man and Captain America will likely stay off the big screen for years, if not forever.

As Marvel fans continue living through the longest drought of new MCU content since the two-year gap between The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2 , many are going back to the already released films in order to see their favorite heroes once again. Marvel Studios films aren’t the only place Marvel actors have reprised their roles, however, and fans may still have a chance to discover some smaller doses of MCU content in the hidden corners of YouTube.

Over the years, Marvel has partnered with other companies and directors to bring their iconic characters to various commercials, short films, and cameo television appearances. While these hidden gems of MCU content may not all be canon, fans will undoubtedly treasure the brief opportunities to experience some never-before-seen (and some familiar) appearances of their favorite superheroes. So without further ado, here is The Direct’s compilation of ten times Marvel actors reprised their roles outside of MCU films

1. Peter Parker Gets His Driver's License

Marvel Studios’ long partnership with Audi has led to the car brand populating many MCU films, but the corporate relationship goes both ways, and sometimes Marvel heroes have appeared in a few Audi sponsored shorts. In this Spider-Man: Homecoming Audi tie-in released a month before the film’s premiere, Peter Parker nervously takes his driver’s test under the watchful eyes of the comically-strict driver’s license examiner played by J.B. Smoove (who would go on to portray a teacher chaperone in Far From Home ).

The short has a few fun nods to MCU continuity. The opening shots show Peter watching YouTube footage of the time he stole Flash’s car and swerved into a bike rack from the end of Spider-Man: Homecoming . When the examiner points out how a 15-year-old kid has such a “sweet ride,” Peter responds by saying “It’s actually my friend Tony’s.” While this promotional short is mostly meant to sell the features of that year’s new model, it’s still a surprisingly charming episode in the life of Peter Parker.

2. Scott Lang Gets Interviewed From Prison

Before the release of Ant-Man in 2015, Marvel partnered with Google to produce a series of short in-universe news segments about the MCU. Fronted by Leslie Bibb’s Iron Man and Iron Man 2 character Christine Everheart, the WHIH Newsfront series reported on the events of Sokovia and the release of Scott Lang after his infamous heist against VistaCorp.

The series was released on YouTube and on Ant-Man ’s Blu-Ray release, which included a Wired interview with Pym Tech CEO Darren Cross, and an exclusive satellite interview between Chrstine Everheart and Paul Rudd's Scott Lang. Set days before the events of Ant-Man , the interview features a heated exchange between the clearly biased news anchor and a defensive Scott Lang, who was attempting to justify his actions against VistaCorp.

It was an ingenious way to reveal the character’s motivations before the film’s release, and Marvel later produced even more WHIH shorts for the release of Captain America: Civil War . The WHIH Newsfront series was an incredibly interesting look into the day-to-day lives of people who live in a world where Avengers exist, and here’s hoping that someday Marvel decides to bring it back.

3. Thor Moves In With Darryl

“Team Thor” was initially revealed at San Diego Comic-Con ahead of Thor: Ragnarok , and it features Thor Odinson living in Australia with his sheepish new housemate Darryl. The short focuses on Thor’s struggles with adjusting to normal life on Earth while being left out of the exciting Civil War team-up event, as he meets up with Bruce Banner for coffee, sends emails to Steve Rogers, and tries to pay his rent with Asgardian Gold that is apparently worth “a gazillion human dollars.”

Existing somewhere just outside of official canon, the short is filled to the brim with Taika Waititi’s signature sense of humor, and features some of the funniest gags in the MCU. Through a fantastic set of shorts with limited locations, a few actors, and no CGI, Taika Waititi was able to show fans that his storytelling skills would add a completely new element to the Thor franchise and the MCU as a whole.

Team Thor consisted of a follow-up after the Blu-Ray release of Thor: Ragnarok titled “Team Darryl,” which featured Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster moving in with Thor’s former housemate as the Celestial begins his newfound quest to take over Earth. The three-part series is a ridiculously hilarious episode in Thor’s MCU journey, and I’ll be the first to say it, Darryl deserves a show on Disney+.

4. Peter Parker Attends Tony Stark's NBA Finals Party

Another Spider-Man: Homecoming promotional tie-in, these three-minutes worth of commericals features many MCU and real-life cameos that create a breezy Spider-Man adventure centered around ABC’s upcoming NBA Finals. Starting off with the genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist himself, the commercial shows Tony Stark checking over his NBA Finals party guest list with his dear friend Happy Hogan.

Both Robert Downey Jr. and Jon Favreu make appearances in this short, which is a bit surprising for the A-list actors they are, but the surprises don’t stop there. After getting notified that he’s been invited to Mr. Stark’s NBA Finals watch party, Tom Holland’s Peter Parker arrives at Avengers Tower only to be sent on an errand at the request of Happy.

The rest of the promos feature cameos from DJ Khaled, Magic Johnson, Tim Duncan, and even Stan Lee. While the whole short is just a blatant transmedia promotion by Disney, it’s still very entertaining to see Peter Parker, Happy Hogan, and Tony Stark on a day when they aren’t preoccupied with saving the world.

5. Captain Marvel Catches Up on the MCU

Carol Danvers missed a lot in her thirty-year absence from Earth, and this Audi commercial attempts to quickly catch her up before she joins the Avengers. Taking place sometime between Infinity War and Endgame , this short has a mysterious organization (SHIELD maybe?) debriefing Captain Marvel on how the world has changed since 1995.

The agent not only explains the new heroes that have popped up in the last decade, but she also provides Carol with important information about avocado toast, iPhones, and Snapchat filters, all obviously ending with how cars have changed as well. The comical short clears up the question of how Carol Danvers learned about everything that’s happened on Earth since she left.

It’s pretty funny to see the stoic heroine react to the absurdity of the Avengers, how everyone needs to take pictures of their food now, and the “unwinnable war against gluten.” The promo just serves as a reminder as to just how insane our society can really look to an outsider, as well as telling fans that hey, if you had to explain the entirety of the Infinity Saga in three minutes, you’d sound a bit crazy too.

6. Nick Fury Visits The Agents of SHIELD

The MCU's first venture into television was ABC’s breakout success Agents of SHIELD . Centered around Clark Gregg’s fan-favorite character Phil Coulson, who was mysteriously brought back to life after his tragic death in The Avengers , the series promised to show a completely new perspective on the MCU.

Audiences were constantly speculating which other characters from the films would eventually cross over into the show, and while characters like Maria Hill, Sif, and Peggy Carter would eventually make cameos in the series, none were more prolific than the Director of SHIELD himself. Samuel L. Jackson appeared in the show's second episode, during a post-credits scene in which Nick Fury reprimanded Phil Coulson for wrecking their team’s plane.

Jackson later returned for another cameo in the show's first season finale, after the events of The Winter Soldier , in which he handed over the reins of SHIELD to Coulson. The Nick Fury cameos made the series truly feel like it was a part of the MCU’s official canon, and as Agents of SHIELD enters its final season, it’s worth looking back on the surprise cameos that used to make us Marvel fans oh so excited.

7. Ant-Man Steals The Hulk's Coca-Cola

Marvel fans have always looked forward to the Super Bowl’s brief but exciting TV spots for upcoming MCU films, but in 2016 fans were given a delightful surprise in the form of this Marvel-centric Coca-Cola commercial. In the spot, Scott Lang’s Ant-Man (voiced by Paul Rudd) steals a Mini Coke from Bruce Banner’s lab. This of course turns Banner (unfortunately no Mark Ruffalo here) into the Hulk, and the giant green hero chases Ant-Man through the streets of New York.

Christophe Beck’s Ant-Man score is used throughout, and for a one minute commerical, it surprisingly has some great visual effects. Paul Rudd’s voiceover makes it all the more entertaining to watch, and while the ad isn’t MCU canon (by the time Scott Lang became Ant-Man the Hulk was already on Sakaar), it’s still amusing to think that this is exactly how an Ant-Man/ Hulk meetup would go. Fans of this commercial know the true reason why Smart Hulk gave Scott Lang his tacos in Endgame ; it all goes back to the Mini Coke.

8. Trevor Slattery Makes New Enemies in Prison

Produced between 2011 and 2014, The Marvel One Shots were big-budget short films that expanded on the events of MCU films. One of the most popular One Shots (and unfortunately the last) to ever be produced was 2014’s All Hail the King , included in the bonus features of Thor: The Dark World . The short film features Ben Kingsley’s Trevor Slattery, who is in prison after his stint as the Mandarin. Slattery has become one of the most infamous names in the MCU after the events of Iron Man 3 , which is why a documentarian has come to get all the answers on the man behind the fake terrorist.

Written and directed by Iron Man 3 co-writer Drew Pearce, the short begins with the ridiculous tone of Trevor Slattery sitting down for an interview, and soon completely shifts with the chillingly dramatic twist that the documentarian is actually a member of the real Ten Rings. For people who weren’t a fan of the Iron Man 3 Mandarin twist, this short reassured them that the controversial plot point didn’t mean an iconic Iron Man villain would be forgotten forever.

Marvel Studios will finally be making good on that promise with 2021’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings , almost seven years after All Hail the King was released, which makes this short all the more fun to revisit.

9. Peter Parker and Ned Leeds Compete in a Science Fair

Boy they really make Tom Holland work for that paycheck, huh? Audi partnered with Marvel and Sony once again for this Far From Home tie-in from 2019. Featuring Tom Holland as Peter Parker and Jacob Batalon as Ned Leeds, the short follows the high schoolers competing in Midtown High's science fair, only to realize that their electric motor is nowhere near the caliber of everyone else’s projects. Peter then makes a quick phone call to SHIELD (I think) and asks for access to the Audi 2025 e-Tron model, since it’s the “greatest electric motor of all time.”

While not as discreet of an advertisement for Audi as the 2017 driver’s license short, this still provides a fairly entertaining story of yet another way the worlds of Peter Parker and Spider-Man can collide. Even though it may be a bit out of character that Peter would A) not be able to make an amazing science fair project on his own, and B) resort to cheating so that he can win a first place medal, at the end of the day it’s just a commercial.

The Far From Home suit looks amazing as ever, and the world always needs to see more of Peter and Ned’s sitcom-esque high jinks. With Sony and Hyundai recently announcing a partnership for the next Spider-Man films, however, it looks like Peter is done with his Audi adventures for the time being.

10. Rocket Takes the Guardians of the Galaxy for a Ride

Being owned by Disney has its perks. “ Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: Breakout!” is an attraction at Disneyland California Adventure. Replacing the iconic “Tower of Terror” ride, “Mission: Breakout!” opened in 2017, just a few weeks after the release of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 .

The attraction takes place inside the Collector’s fortress, and follows Rocket Raccoon as he attempts to break the rest of the Guardians free after they were captured by the Collector. Bradley Cooper, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, and Benicio del Toro all reprise their Guardians roles, and the scenes featuring the actors were directed by James Gunn himself.

Though the ride exits within Disneyland’s burgeoning Avengers Campus continuity , it still provides an incredibly fun and immersive experience for MCU fans. The waiting queue is littered with MCU easter eggs in the form of the Collector’s “artifacts”, which include an Ultron sentry, Terrigen crystals, and even a tablet from Atlantis.

With all the painstaking attention to detail in “Mission: Breakout!”, there’s no doubt that the rest of Disneyland’s Avenger Campus will contain the same sort of gratifying experiences and entertaining appearances from other iconic MCU heroes.

- About The Author: Trey Tobias

MCU Writer