Why Marvel's Replacement Actors Are Outshining Some Returning MCU Veterans In What If…?

By Julia Delbel Updated:
MCU What If Disney Plus Black Widow Steve Rogers

The first season of Marvel’s What If…? is three weeks into its nine-episode run, and fans have enjoyed seeing the alternate adventures some of their favorite MCU characters play out on screen.

One of the biggest draws of the show has been the fact that the majority of the characters are voiced by their original onscreen actors, but since several did not participate, a few beloved characters are being played by veteran voice actors. Some of these replacements include Josh Keaton as Steve Rogers, Lake Bell as Black Widow, Mick Wingert as Tony Stark, and Alexandra Daniels as Captain Marvel.

Many fans initially expressed disappointment that iconic MCU actors like Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., and Brie Larson did not return for What If…?, but now that the series is airing, the reception to the voice actors has become much more positive. There have been a number of comments about how closely they have managed to mimic the voices of the original actors, and a lot of people not in the know haven’t even noticed the change in performers.


Chris Evans Brie Larson Marvel

The benefits of having these veteran voice actors on the show go beyond their abilities to recreate the voices of the original actors, though, and their presence has been a showcase of the value of having voiceover specialists take on voiceover jobs.

While it has been exciting to hear the voices of so many actors that have been in the live-action MCU in What If…? the performances from them have been a bit of a mixed bag. Some, most notably those who’ve done voiceover roles in the past like Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury) and Tom Hiddleston (Loki), have really been delivering, while others with less experience in this field have struggled a bit to fire on all cylinders.

Some viewers have been confused by these difficulties, but it’s important to remember that voiceover performance is different from on-camera acting. As What If…? voice actor Josh Keaton himself explained in his recent interview here at The Direct, voice actors have to convey all the tone and emotion their character is presenting with their voices.

Body language is often the most important aspect of communication, and therefore important in regular acting, but isn’t part of voiceover work. Knowing this, it’s no surprise that some actors who are experts at storytelling through visual means aren’t able to do the same in a voiceover studio. They just may not have the training and experience that professional voice actors do.


Marvel Studios What If

Marvel has actually hired some well-known voice actors for Phase 4 projects, most prominently Tara Strong as Miss Minutes in Loki. Grey DeLisle, another voice work veteran, was brought on to do the Lagos commercial voiceover in the 1980’s episode of WandaVision.

While the studio was probably more eager to bringing on experienced voice actors for these parts because they didn’t already have live-action counterparts, both show what the skills of a talented voice professional can bring to a project.

The positive side of this is that all the experienced voice actors brought on for What If…? have been expertly bringing life to their characters through performances with plenty of strength and depth, so much so that they've become the standout performers of the show.

Lake Bell and the aforementioned Josh Keaton managed to get their voices to embody Natasha Romanoff and Steve Rogers as they took on main roles in their respective episodes so far. Even actors with smaller roles like Fred Tatasciore as Drax and Corvus Glave in the second episode have brought a ton of energy to their characters.

It will also be interesting to see Mick Wingert’s Tony Stark in more of a central role in future episodes since he didn’t have much to do in the one he’s been in so far, especially since his voice for the character is perhaps the least similar of the cast to his live-action counterpart.

It’s been exciting to know that so many MCU actors are on board for projects like What If…?, but so far the main benefit from having them involved has more so been the novelty of their presence than the performances themselves. While some have done quite well, it’s the newcomers in the form of voicework veterans that have been the real stars of this show so far.

New episodes of What If…? premiere every Wednesday on Disney+.

- In This Article: What If...? (Season 2)
Release Date
December 22, 2023
Jeffrey Wright
- About The Author: Julia Delbel
Julia Delbel joined The Direct when the website launched in 2020. She is primarily a features writer for the Marvel section of the site, though she has also dabbled in the DC Universe. Besides these, Julia covers other major franchise content, particularly those under the Disney banner.