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Why Red Skull From What If? Sounds So Familiar

"What If...?" Episode 1 imagines a version of World War II where Steve Rogers (voiced by Josh Keaton) never became Captain America. Instead, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) is the one who gets the Super Soldier Serum. This occurs because Steve is shot by Heinz Kruger (Richard Armitage) and the experiment needs to happen straight away — And Peggy is the only other suitable candidate in the room. And much like in "Captain America: The First Avenger," the world's first Super Soldier goes up against Johann Schmidt and Hydra, the Nazis' occult division.

But this version of Johann Schmidt — A.K.A. the Red Skull — isn't played by Hugo Weaving like he is in the 2011 film. The star revealed to Time Out in 2020 that he enjoyed chewing the scenery as the over-the-top villain, and he was meant to return for two other films, but the studio changed the original agreement. He explained " the money they offered me for 'The Avengers' was much less than I got for the very first one, and this was for two films." Also adding "And the promise when we first signed the contracts was that the money would grow each time."

Weaving also noted "I would've done it," but sorting the contract out with the studio irritated him. "I actually found negotiating with them through my agent impossible. And I didn't really wanna do it that much." So that's why Hugo Weaving never returned to play the villain. However, Ross Marquand is well up for the task in "What If...?" Here's where you've heard and seen him before.

Ross Marquand played a version of himself in Impress Me

After having minor roles in a slew of shows and movies over the years like "Mad Men" and "Dog with a Blog," Ross Marquand played a version of himself in the Rainn Wilson-produced series "Impress Me" in 2015. The show revolves around two celebrity impressionists Ross Marvin (Ross Marquand) and Jim Marshall (Jim Meskimen) who decide to leave their comedic roles behind in pursuit of serious roles. The 14-episode series sees the duo as fictionalized versions of themselves while also throwing out their best impressions as they try to keep making a living.

It's a meta role for Ross Marquand, but it works as something of a highlight reel by showing off just how many voices he's capable of — as well as proving he can deal with serious roles. His specialty with impressions later led to more work on shows likes "Family Guy" and "American Dad." But the star is probably best known for his role on one of the biggest TV shows of the last decade.

Ross Marquand goes up against zombies in The Walking Dead

In 2015, Marquand joined "The Walking Dead" Season 5 as Aaron, a member of the Alexandria community. He's the one who brings Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and the rest of the group into the safe zone. He and his boyfriend Eric (Jordan Woods-Robinson) both worked as recruiters for the haven in the post-apocalypse, while also scavenging for items that could be of use to the rest of the community. Aaron met Eric pre-apocalypse, and they both find solace in each other after feeling like outcasts for their entire lives.

But obviously no one can stay happy forever in "The Walking Dead" and Eric is shot in Season 8 Episode 2, "The Damned" before succumbing to his wounds and dying in Episode 3, "Monsters." So there's that dramatic role Ross was looking for in "Impress Me." Eric's death pushes Aaron into a depressive spiral. Although he still retains his humanity and refuses to become a bitter person, Aaron is much more reserved than he previously was. It's clear he struggles with his own inner demons, but even in the face of the brutal band of Whisperers, he still tries to be a good person. He later loses his hand when its crushed by a mountain of logs in Season 9 Episode 2, "The Bridge." He's later given a spiky prosthetic, which he uses to fight off Walkers and humans alike. Nice.

This isn't the first time Ross Marquand has played the Red Skull

Of course, diehard Marvel fans might already know that "What If...?" isn't Ross Marquand's first time playing the Red Skull. He first surprised audiences in "Avengers: Infinity War" as a vastly different version of the villain. Marquand's Hugo Weaving impression is perfectly intimidating, so clearly his vocal skills are highly valuable. But how did the character return? When Red Skull holds the Tesseract at the end of "Captain America: The First Avenger," he's sucked through a wormhole opened by the Cosmic Cube. "Infinity War" finally reveals where the portal spat him out: the planet Vormir. Instead of granting the villain an Infinity Stone, he's forced to become the Keeper of the Soul Stone.

He gives an ominous warning to anyone who ventures to Vormir that they have to sacrifice someone's life to get the stone — "a soul for a soul," as he puts it. Oh, and he can float now too. He's introduced when Gamora (Zoe Saldana) takes Thanos (Josh Brolin) to Vormir for the stone, before the Mad Titan hurls his daughter off the cliff. Marquand later reprises the role in "Avengers: Endgame" when Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) also travel to Vormir.

Red Skull acts as a cautionary cosmic force, but it would be easy for him to return now that "Loki" has opened up the multiverse. In 2020, the actor told Nerds4Life that the villain can return to Earth now that he's free from Vormir. "I would imagine the first thing he would do if he still has a vendetta, or if any part of him still has ambition, would be to go back to Earth," he explained. So it'll be interesting to see if Marvel has any other plans for the Red Skull. How about "Captain America 4?"