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Voice Actor John DiMaggio on His Career, the Beginning of ‘Disenchantment’ and the End of ‘Adventure Time’

September 1, 2018Ben MK

You might know him as Bender Bending Rodriguez on Futurama or as Jake the Dog on Adventure Time. But even if you aren't immediately familiar with the name, you've definitely heard John DiMaggio's voice.

Whether it's playing the heroic Marcus Fenix in Gears of War 4 or the Autobot Crosshairs in Michael Bay's Transformers franchise, DiMaggio has lent his considerable vocal talents to almost every conceivable type of project under the proverbial sun, from video games to television to feature-length films. And now he's reunited with The Simpsons and Futurama creator Matt Groening for what promises to be another fan favorite — Netflix's brand new animated series, the fantasy-themed Disenchantment.

I caught up with DiMaggio ahead of his appearance at this year's Fan Expo in Toronto to chat about his career, what it was like collaborating once again with his Futurama cast mates on Disenchantment, and his thoughts on the end of the beloved Adventure Time.

When did you know that you had a talent for doing voices?

DiMaggio: I think it was when I was a kid, when I used to do impersonations of people, and comedians that I thought were funny, and teachers, and people that I worked with. I guess it's just a thing you kind of have, and if you can make somebody laugh, then finding out how to do that is just golden.

Do you remember what the first voice you ever did was?

DiMaggio: It was Billy Crystal doing an impression of Howard Cosell and Muhammad Ali. I started doing that, cuz I thought that was really funny. I don't know if it went over well, but I loved it. [laughs] I don't know if that began my world of narcissism... [laughs]

So, in general, what's your process for creating and crafting the voice of a character?

DiMaggio: Well, you know, when you audition for these things, they will give you information about the character — a character bible — and you'll find out where they're from, what they're all about, and you'll get the images of it, you'll see what they look like. And you'll just go from there.

And sometimes they'll even give you what the characters are about, characteristics of them as well, [like] we want him to have a high-pitched voice or low-pitched voice, or he's the older, gruff guy or he's the young, excited person. It's all within the direction, it's all pretty much given to you. And then your job is to make it pop, make people realize that maybe that's not all that they need. Or maybe that is all that they need. You just have to figure out how to make it your own and stand out from the pack.

And you've embodied so many characters over your career. Which one has been your favorite to play, and why?

DiMaggio: They're all my favorites, really. I had fun doing every one of 'em. You could say that playing Bender on Futurama really opened a lot of doors for me, but it's just the way it is, I guess. I've loved every job I've had. It's kind of like asking somebody, "Which one of your kids is your favorite?" [laughs]

So in keeping with that analogy, have there been any kids that were more troublesome than others? Has there been a role that was kind of challenging to find that right performance?

DiMaggio: Well, they're all a challenge. That's the thing. They're all a challenge in their own way, because you have to find those moments. You have to nail the performance, you have to do right by the character, and by the script, and by the director and everybody involved in the production. So they all have their degree of difficulty, but as far as performance, doing Marcus Fenix was pretty tough, cuz that's kind of like gargling concrete, that voice.

But everything is a challenge, physically, when you're doing a performance. You have to make sure you have the right energy, you have to keep a performance up for a while. All that is involved.

Because you have to communicate that physicality through only your voice...

DiMaggio: Yeah, exactly, and that's the challenge. If you're playing a superhero and you're punching people out or you're doing some kind of a move that is a power move or whatever, or you're taking a beating, physically, you have to make that happen only with your voice and provide something for the character design artists to draw. And when it works right, it's brilliant.

Now you're currently in Netflix's Disenchantment. What was it like reuniting with Matt Groening and many of your Futurama castmates again?

DiMaggio: It's fantastic. It's really, really great. I'm really fortunate to be able to work on a show with Matt again and everybody from Futurama, and folks from The Simpsons as well. It's just a really great bunch of people [and] the show is unbelievable. Even though the first 10 [episodes] just came out; I can't wait for the second 10 to come out. I'm very excited about it. It's just pretty amazing. When you make someone like Matt Groening laugh, it's really a beautiful thing. I know I'm in the right place. [laughs] I know that I'm ok, I'm not some hack. I'm making one of the most brilliant minds in comedy get an uncontrollable giggle, and that makes me very, very happy. And to be able to do it on a second show, I don't know how the hell I won that lottery, but wow.

Have there been any memorable moments on Disenchantment so far?

DiMaggio: Oh, we've all had big laughs. It's a great bunch of people to record with in the studio. And [when you get] a bunch of guys like us together, there's always room for some really outrageous laughs. It's just a great bunch of people — Billy West, Maurice LaMarche, Dave Herman, Tress MacNeille, Nat Faxon, Eric André, Abbi Jacobson, Matt Berry, Lucy Montgomery, Rich Fulcher — on the show. I'm missing other people, but you'll be able to find 'em. It's a trip. We had a lot of laughs recording this thing, just playing around. And it was just a blast.

And, of course, you also play Jake on Adventure Time, which is coming to an end after 10 seasons. How would you sum up your experience on that show?

DiMaggio: There were ups, there were downs, but they were mostly ups. It was a pretty incredible ride. Those folks over there know how much I care for them, and how much the show means to me. The last episode was a real difficult episode to record. Very emotional. I didn't realize how difficult a time I'd have of it after the last recording. It was a special show, with a bunch of very special people, and I'm gonna miss it. But all good things must come to an end, so out with the old, in with the new, I suppose. But, yeah, the last episode is really gonna put a nice bow on the whole show, so that's a good thing.

Was that your most memorable moment from doing Adventure Time?

DiMaggio: Just working with the crew, and certain moments that we’re just goofing around, having a good time in the recording studio. I got to watch the kid grow up. Jeremy [Shada] was a 12-year-old kid; now he's in his 20s for crying out loud. We've all come a long way; we’re different people than we were when we started. It's somethin'.

So speaking of out with the old, in with the new, what are you working on next?

DiMaggio: Can't say. [laughs] We're still finishing up Disenchantment, but right now there's little things here and there cookin' — got my spoon in the pot of many kitchens.

Last but not least, do you have any advice for aspiring voice actors who are hoping to break into the industry?

DiMaggio: I would say rent or purchase my movie, I Know that Voice. That's the most shameless plug ever, by the way. But I would also tell them to check out Dee Bradley Baker's blog, called And I would just say go get a microphone at the Apple Store and connect it to your computer. Learn how to use a microphone and start recording yourself. And get some acting classes. And be prepared to suck for a long time and never get a job. It's next to impossible, so good luck! [laughs]

John DiMaggio appears this weekend at Fan Expo Canada and can currently be seen in Netflix's Disenchantment.

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