Marvel’s What If…? episode eight included something similar to literally breaking the fourth wall as our keen observer friend the Watcher (Jeffrey Wright) decided to witness a reality where things went terribly wrong more often than not. In this universe, Tony Stark’s highly developed artificial intelligence (A.I.) used extreme measures once more to achieve its goals, but this time it was much more successful: as the episode’s title indicates, Ultron defeats the Avengers and then attacks the Watcher because it has advanced to a level of consciousness where it is aware of the existence of other multiverses and the Watcher himself.
James Spader, a ’80s legend and prolific film and television actor, provided the voice of the titular killer robot army in the movie Avengers: Age of Ultron, on which this episode is based. The actor who stepped in to play Ultron has a very special set of experiences when it comes to playing characters that were originally portrayed by other actors. It’s possible that Spader was too busy with The Blacklist or that he wasn’t asked. However, when that show did a quasi-animated episode at the beginning of the pandemic, he did manage to find the time to play his character in that.
A seasoned film actor best known for playing zombie apocalypse survivor Aaron on AMC’s The Walking Dead, Ross Marquand is also a well-known voice actor for series including Robot Chicken, Invincible, and Family Guy. However, he made his MCU debut by filling in for Hugo Weaving when he was unable to reprise his role as the Red Skull in Avengers: Infinity War. Red Skull, who is now the being in charge of guarding the Soul Stone on Vormir, played a significant role in both that movie and Endgame, meaning that Marquand had work in both of them as well as What If? He co-starred as Red Skull in episode one, “What If… Captain Carter Were the First Avenger?” (albeit in his earlier, more Earth-bound state).
If this wasn’t Marquand’s first time playing Ultron, it might have came as more of a surprise that he was chosen to step in for Spader. Alongside returning MCU stalwarts like Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man, Letitia Wright as Shuri, Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne/Wasp, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange/Doctor Strange, he also played the character in the 2019 video game Avengers: Damage Control.
Now, not only has Marquand fully assumed the role, but he is also set to play a pivotal role in the upcoming season finale. Although the title of the episode is unknown at this time, it is highly likely to feature the Watcher finally getting his chance to defeat Ultron, possibly with assistance from Doctor Strange and other survivors from previous What If…? stories. Although the possibilities aren’t actually limitless, they are only limited by the writers’ imaginations and the potential of the multiverse as a concept. Consequently, there are numerous possibilities for what might be in store.
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