INTERVIEW: John DiMaggio (Bender on Futurama)

Published in The Music (WA & NSW) and on, June 2015


 Although Futurama wrapped up in 2013, voice actor John DiMaggio suggests we might not have seen the last of Bender’s shiny metal arse. Daniel Cribb chats Adventure Time and documentary I Know That Voice with the legend.

Having spent seven seasons voicing robot criminal Bender on animated hit Futurama, it’s not surprising to catch John DiMaggio engaged in conflict when he answers his phone. “I’m in the car,” DiMaggio says, erupting with laughter for seemingly no reason, and just like that, the evil chuckle he perfected during his time on the show breaks through. “Welcome to Los Angeles via phone. I already have somebody totally crossing the lane in front of me illegally like a jerk.

“I think a part of Bender is in me and a part of me is in Bender, absolutely. I think that if you are able to be in this business and be privileged enough to play a character this long — or as long as I was able — you can really dig into it and get inside it, and really inhabit that character both physically and mentally. I mean, he’s this incredible being, you know? And I just get to bring him to life. It’s a joy. And that’s one of the reasons why I love doing what I do so much.”

The last we saw of Bender was during the The Simpsons/Futurama crossover episode in 2014. With voice acting legend Harry Shearer — famous for Mr Burns, Smithers, Principal Skinner and a handful of other Simpsons characters — departing from the show recently after constant struggles with contracts and pay disputes, documentary I Know That Voice, which DiMaggio narrates, is playing an important role in bringing voice actors to the forefront of the conversation. “I think it’s starting to change. It’s not going to happen overnight, but I think it’s starting… we get recognised and we have that kind of cult-like status, which is kind of cool; I like it. I can go shopping and nobody recognises me, unless they’ve seen the documentary.

“I have a really interesting job, and people always ask me, ‘Hey, what’s your day like?’ [I Know That Voice] is basically a backstage pass into that. And the response has been really, really positive and a lot of my peers are in it and a lot of big people in the business are in it, and it’s just really cool.”

As far as current projects go, DiMaggio is still a part of Cartoon Network mega-hit Adventure Time, voicing main character Jake The Dog. With a bullet train in Korea with his character painted on it and a house dedicated to the show in Melbourne, the project has far surpassed his expectations. “People all over the world are into Adventure Time and that just blows my mind.

“The great thing is that they’re doing an Adventure Time feature film. They’ve just signed on to do it, and I haven’t been approached yet, but, I mean, I figure they’re gonna, you know,” he laughs.