Ever since the last trailer dropped of What If we’ve been hotly discussing the odd absence of actor Robert Downey Jr. Once the official cast list dropped, we noticed big names like Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Holland, and Brie Larson were noticeably absent. There was even the surprise mention by Dave Bautista that he was never approached to reprise the role, which also got featured in the previously mentioned trailer. In an interview with Comic Book, executive producer Brad Winderbaum gave some insight into their approach with the voices.
One early decision was we were not going to let the show be defined by the actors we thought we could get. Part of the fun of What If…? is being able to tell stories in any corner of the universe you want to and that means that you need that infinite canvas, you need that infinite potential. Also, I was afraid we wouldn’t get any actors to come back. The fact that we got as many as we did, 85% of the actors came back or something like that. It’s incredible and it’s a real honor and privilege to work with all of them
Interestingly, they don’t mention why specific actors didn’t join. There’s a chance that the dealings with the various returning voices were not done directly by the creative team, but rather by Marvel Studios directly. Winderbaum did discuss their approach to finding
In the cases where we couldn’t get the original voice actors back, and many of which were very iconic roles, very identifiable voices, we prioritized the performance over the soundalike. So you might be able to achieve a perfect Tony Stark voice, but if the depth of the character wasn’t there and the acting, the performance didn’t have dimensionality to it, it wouldn’t matter. You’d be taken out. That would take you out.
He also goes on to discuss that working within a parallel universe does help them sell the fact that the voices aren’t the same. It’s great their focus is on keeping the character’s spirit alive, but it would be nice to know why specific actors didn’t join. Especially Brie Larson’s absence is odd, as she seems to love playing the character, but she may not be comfortable doing voice work. We do have a theory on why Tom Holland isn’t included with the confirmed appearance of Spider-Man, which you can check out here.