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Why The Watcher In What If? Sounds So Familiar

After finally, officially bringing the Marvel Cinematic Universe to TV with "WandaVision," "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier," and "Loki," Disney+ took a bit of a breather to allow fans time to rest before jumping back into the complex, world-expanding events of Phase Four. The animated series "What If...?" reimagines major moments from the franchise, further priming fans for a deep dive into the multiverse after the events of "Loki" changed the fabric of the MCU forever.

For instance, we'll get to see what might have happened if Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) had been given the Super Soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers (voiced by Josh Keaton in the show as Chris Evans did not return), thus turning her into Captain Carter. Each half-hour episode of the series focuses on different Marvel heroes, most of whom are actually voiced by their live-action counterparts, but the many different adventures are all tied together through the presence of a single character: the series' narrator and the audience's guide through the story, who is known as The Watcher.

Jeffrey Wright lends his voice to The Watcher, an all-knowing, all-seeing being who observes everything but is sworn to never interfere with what he witnesses. Wright has appeared in some of the biggest shows and movies of the last two decades, so if his voice sounds familiar, here is where you have likely seen and heard him.

Jeffrey Wright won an Emmy for his turn in Angels in America

HBO's excellent adaptation of Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning play "Angels in America" was the first program in Emmy history to sweep every eligible category. Set in 1985, the 2003 miniseries chronicles the interconnecting lives of six individuals, detailing the rise of the AIDS epidemic and the changing social and political climate of the era. Wright portrayed Norman "Belize" Arriaga, the same role that had won him a Tony a decade earlier. Belize is a former drag queen and the best friend and ex-boyfriend of Prior (Justin Kirk), a gay man living with AIDS who has been visited by an angel. 

Wright also portrayed Mr. Lies and the Angel Europa in the series, which was directed by the late Mike Nichols. For his performance, Wright was nominated for and won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie (the award is now known as Limited Series or Movie). He beat out Kirk, as well as co-stars Patrick Wilson and Ben Shenkman.

He's a friend of James Bond

Beginning in 2006, Wright took on the role of CIA operative Felix Leiter in the "James Bond" films starring Daniel Craig as the infamous 007. He first portrayed the character, who also appeared in Ian Fleming's novels and is a friend to Bond, in the 2006 film "Casino Royale," which rebooted the long-running franchise and allowed Leiter and Bond to meet for the first time. Wright then reprised the role in 2008's "Quantum of Solace," and although the character was only mentioned by name and not seen on screen in 2015's "Spectre," Wright will make his return to the franchise in the next film. 

Wright is slated to appear in "No Time to Die," which has been delayed multiple times, first by the departure of director and co-writer Danny Boyle and then again by the COVID-19 pandemic. It's slated to open in theaters in fall 2021.

He also took part in the Hunger Games

The James Bond franchise isn't Wright's only major movie franchise. He also had a supporting role in the popular Hunger Games films, which were based on a trilogy of post-apocalyptic novels by Suzanne Collins that followed a teenaged heroine named Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence in the films) who was forced to fight to the death during a televised battle royale in a dystopian version of America known as Panem. Wright made his first appearance in the second film, "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." 

He portrayed Beetee, one of the past winners of the Hunger Games who was selected to compete against Katniss in another Hunger Games made up entirely of former champions. Exceptionally skilled at electronics, he became an ally to Katniss during the Games and after. Wright would also go on to appear in the final two films of the franchise, which were known as "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1" and "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2."

Wright portrayed one of the best villains on Boardwalk Empire

From 2013 to 2014, Wright lent his talents to HBO's Emmy-winning period drama "Boardwalk Empire," which starred Steve Buscemi as gangster and prominent Atlantic City political figure Enoch "Nucky" Thompson. Wright joined the series in Season 4 as the main antagonist, Dr. Valentin Narcisse, a highly educated philanthropist from New York with aspirations of taking over the heroin trade in Atlantic City. The character, who also appeared in the fifth season, was inspired by Casper Holstein, who was a real life mobster from New York and active during the Harlem Renaissance. 

Although Wright was only on the show for two seasons, the character is remembered by many "Boardwalk Empire" fans as being one of the show's best villains — he possessed no empathy, which made him incredibly dangerous, and also orchestrated the downfall of another fan-favorite character, Chalky White (Michael K. Williams).

He is also a co-founder of Westworld

Wright's relationship with HBO continued in 2016 when he took on the role of Bernard Lowe on the sci-fi Western "Westworld," based on the 1973 movie of the same name. At the beginning of the show, Bernard is the head of the Programming Division of Westworld, a themed park where guests can pay money to experience the Wild West. He programs the software of the hosts in the park, though he does not know that he himself is a host who has been programmed to believe he is human. 

At the end of Season 1, the audience and Bernard both learn that he is a replica of Westworld co-founder Arnold Weber (Wright also portrays Weber in the series) who was created by the park's other founder, Dr. Robert Ford (Sir Anthony Hopkins), because the human staff of the park struggled to program the hosts' emotions. Wright has portrayed versions of Bernard through all three seasons of the show and is set to reprise the role for Season 4.