Marvel’s ‘What If…?’ Host The Watcher Was Inspired by Pizza Rat, Writer Says

What If…? turns the Marvel Cinematic Universe on its head. Animated episodes retell classic Marvel stories if they happened just a little bit differently. At the center of each story is The Watcher (voice of Jeffrey Wright), observing the multiverse and telling the viewer these alternate stories. What If…? head writer A.C. Bradley said she drew on an unlikely source for The Watcher. 

Bradley and Wright spoke at a Zoom press conference for Marvel’s What If…? on Aug. 1. Here’s why they said Pizza Rat inspired The Watcher, as did other influences. What If…? premieres Aug. 11 on Disney+ with new episodes every Wednesday.

The Watcher is the Pizza Rat of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Remember when Pizza Rat captured the world’s attention in 2015? A video of a rat pulling a slice of pizza in a subway platform went viral. Bradley thought about Pizza Rat when writing Marvel’s What If…? 

“When we started talking about The Watcher early on, before Jeffrey signed on, I originally was always joking that it was the Pizza Rat Meme,” Bradley said. “He’s a guy watching this rat pull a slice of pizza across a New York City subway platform. He does not want to pet the rat, he’s not going to take the rat home, he’s not going to become best friends with the rat. But, it is fascinating for him to watch. It’s the Watcher watching humanity, our heroes.”

‘What If…?’ makes The Watcher Marvel’s Dad, too

If Captain America has America’s ass, The Watcher may be Marvel’s Dad. That was another influence Bradley cited along with Pizza Rat.

“When Jeffrey joined and we were talking, what struck me was the way you talked about your son and watching Marvel movies with him,” Bradley said. “And I was like oh my God, The Watcher’s a dad. There’s this connection. There’s this notion of you do grow to care about these characters. We all care about the MCU now. Either you grew up reading comic books or you’ve been alive for the past 15 years and this has become our pop culture lexicon. So when it came to write The Watcher was he goes from Pizza Rat meme to our dad.”

Jeffrey Wright’s take on The Watcher in ‘What If…’?

Wright has experience in fan favorite properties. He’s been in James Bond movies and stars on HBO’s Westworld. Wright shared how he approached The Watcher.

Obviously, there’s infinite possibilities to what tone he might use, but there are limitations because I only have one voice. Obviously, incredibly powerful character, omnipotent in some ways, mythic, dramatic. So that’s already very interesting colors to play with. I also wanted to make it as personal as I could. I talked a little bit about trying to go away from some of the stereotypes of the wise, sagely, larger than life character and try to ground him in rhythms and music that are closer to my own. So what you hear is what we came up with.”

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