Bye Bye, Bender - Voice Actor John DiMaggio On The End Of 'Futurama' [Interview]

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This week, "Futurama" returns (for the last time... again) to Comedy Central. And once again, John DiMaggio--who's voiced the shifty and shiftless Bender since 1999--has to say farewell to the beloved yet still ratings-challenged animated series.

"I think it's a little harder on the production staff," he tells me, simply because they outnumber the voice cast and each time the show is resurrected in some form, these animators, writers, and crew members have to adjust their lives for full-time work on a show. That's not to say it hasn't hit him and the other voice actors hard, although he's philosophical about the latest cancellation: "Hey, we've been doing this show since 1999. We've been very fortunate, we've got more than 100 episodes. It's a rarity to have a show these days that's lasted as long as it has and come back from the dead so many times."

DiMaggio holds out hope that "Futurama" will find a new home, but he almost seems beaten down by the question of what to do about saving the show. Write Comedy Central, write Cartoon Network, he advises. He says that the current season of the show (actually, the back half of season 7) maintains the high quality of the series while giving the cast the send-off it deserves.

We'll all miss Bender (you know, until some network is smart enough to pick up "Futurama"), but DiMaggio will be around. On one hand, he's got his role as Niblet in the Hub's animated "Pound Puppies," which just entered its third season earlier this summer, along with more "Adventure Time" and "Gravity Falls." In addition to that, the second season of "Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters" is underway today on the Hub, where he plays stuffy tough guy Master Nigel.

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DiMaggio's character "Nigel" in "Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters"

DiMaggio says that when he saw the character and his description, he says he immediately conjured up a trans-Atlantic accent for the schoolmaster-ly trainer. He sees Master Nigel as one of those roles where he's been able to just find the character right on the page without too much coaxing. Saying that he didn't draw on the character from any particular experience, DiMaggio jokes that he has had people with accents tease him before.

When the conversation turned to some of the voice actors out there who might have given him some inspiration or pointers, DiMaggio said that some of those voice over luminaries--the likes of June Foray and Stan Freberg--would be making their way into the doc he's executive producing, "I Know That Voice." "The reason I did the film was to highlight those people, to highlight my peers--to make a valentine to them. I think being around people like Billy West [...] the creativity can't help but rub off on you." DiMaggio hopes that the documentary can shine a light on some of the greats from the past and present--a chance to show viewers a world that's more than just "walking into a booth and talking."

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DiMaggio plays the fluffy hound "Niblet" in "Pound Puppies"

"I Know That Voice" is in its final stages of post-production (it should be wrapping up at the end of June), but DiMaggio implores you readers out there who are fans of the VO industry (or who just dig his work) to head to the film's site, iknowthatvoice.com and preorder the doc (hey, every hundredth preorder gets a signed poster). The doc is still in its PR cycle, and will be making its way through the festival circuit before the DVD release.

"Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters" enters its second season tonight at 6:30 ET on the Hub and new episodes of "Futurama" air Wednesdays at 10 on Comedy Central.