Marvel Studios' What If...? marks the first animated project set in the MCU, and many of the actors from the live-action films have returned to voice their characters in the anthology series set in different versions of the MCU timeline. However, not every original cast member provided their character's voice in the series, causing Marvel to search for voice actors able to closely replicate the vocal mannerisms of the absent actors.
One of these voice actors is Josh Keaton who took over the role of Steve Rogers from Chris Evans for the series. The Direct sat down with Keaton to discuss the process of getting the part and the response from fans since the series premiered on Disney+ last week.
JOSH KEATON BRINGS MCU STEVE ROGERS TO ANIMATION
Josh Keaton, the voice of Steve Rogers in Marvel Studios' What If...?, shared that the process of getting the role "was just an audition like anything else" at first and that he was not aware it was for What If...?, but he did know "it was [for] a Chris Evans sound-alike:"
“Basically, it was just an audition like anything else where they sent out the audition to all the agents, and I got the email where it said what they were casting in [but] it didn’t have the name What If…?, it was like some other codename... But they did say it was a Chris Evans sound-alike... I did what I always do with voice matches where I go and I try to find everything that I can that has that person’s voice and I’ll splice together [a sort of] reference of just stuff they’ve said, different intimate stuff, called out stuff, just a bunch of different things just to kind of hear everything, and basically just auditioned with that [to work off of].”
Keaton also revealed that his audition material consisted of a scene from 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger:
“The diner scene was my audition scene, essentially. I think it was the dialogue, actually, from the movie [Captain America: The First Avenger] that they had me audition with. And so I really just kind of did my best to get into that vein.”
Not only was Keaton unaware that the audition was for What If...?, he didn't even know the project was part of the MCU until he started seeing "all of the build-up for it:"
“I didn’t know it was gonna be part of the MCU. I figured, you know, it was just gonna be another animated series. They do a lot of this kind of stuff where they want it to sound sort of like this, but it’s not necessarily gonna be MCU. So, I didn’t even really know it was gonna be part of the MCU until I was watching all of the build-up for it and I started to see the posters and all this, and then I think I read an article somewhere that confirmed ‘Yes, this is part of the MCU.’ I was like, ‘What?’
Keaton shared that he initially "approached it like any other job" and "went in pretty confident" but "started to get nervous" once he discovered that the show was part of the MCU:
“At first I just kind of approached it like any other job, like I approached it pretty much anything else that I’ve done. And I went in pretty confident; I was like, 'Alright, I got the job, cool, they liked what I did.’ And it wasn’t until I found out that it was gonna be part of the MCU after I had already recorded everything that I started to get nervous, and I was like 'Oh man, what are the fans gonna think? Because everybody else pretty much is coming back to reprise their roles and it’s really just Chris [Evans] that’s not gonna be in it - at least, you know in this [episode].’"
Marvel fans can be intense at times, something Keaton was well aware of as the premiere approached, saying "they're not really that cool with changes and all that" but that fortunately "the response has been so overwhelmingly positive:"
“I was like, ‘What are they gonna say?’ Because I know how MCU fans are [and] I know how comic fans are, I’m one myself, I [knew that] a lot of times they’re not really that cool with changes and all that, so I instantly started to get super nervous and I was like ‘Oh man, I think I might’ve made a huge mistake... I definitely had nerves when it first premiered. But the response has been so overwhelmingly positive; everybody’s made me feel [really] welcome.”
Keaton detailed his enjoyment of interacting with fans on social media since the premiere, noting that "there's been a lot of really, really beautiful art" that the fans have created based on his character in the episode:
“There’s been a lot of art, there’s been a lot of really, really beautiful art that people have made, like somebody tweeted out something that I retweeted where it was just this beautiful black-and-white pencil drawing of Steve in the HYDRA Stomper suit; like, his head kind of popping out of it. It was gorgeous, it was really just beautiful art. And I love to see that kind of stuff, I love to see how people use this as a springboard for their own creativity. It’s amazing to see. So I’ve definitely seen a lot of love from the fans.”
Being a fan himself and knowing how iconic Chris Evans as Captain America has been in the MCU, Keaton explained that he "didn't wanna stray too far away from that" when voicing the character in the series:
“I really wanted to do the character and [Evans’s] portrayal justice because that’s the Cap that people have known for ten years, that’s the Cap that people are gonna know for as far into the foreseeable future as I can imagine, because it was such an iconic set of movies and such an iconic performance; he’s kind of defined that role. So I didn’t really wanna stray too far away from that.”
So far, Keaton has only been involved with the show's first episode, and while he didn't make it clear whether he'd be back for more this season, he did share how "they're really secretive over at Marvel" and how the process of reading and recording his lines made him feel like he "was logging into SHIELD:"
“I hope that the response was good enough to, you know, get me in some more. I’d love to be in the show some more, it’s an amazing show from what I’ve seen, which is this first episode, and the trailers for the next ones; they’re really secretive over at Marvel. Basically, when I got the script, I didn’t even get the script, I only got the pages that had the lines for the scenes that I was gonna be in, and only those. And they didn’t even send me PDF’s, I couldn’t download anything. I had to log into their server, and they would know exactly when I logged in and when I logged out, and I had to read it while I was logged into the server. I felt like I was logging into SHIELD. I thought they were gonna come in with a retina scanner or something so they could really make sure it was me. [It’s] absolutely insane how locked down everything is over there. But I guess it’s working because I haven’t seen any leaks of anything.”
Stay tuned for more of The Direct's exclusive interview with What If...? voice actor Josh Keaton.