How Futurama Became A Career-Defining First For John DiMaggio

Watch any American cartoons (and/or play some video games) made in the 2000s-2010s and you'll notice some familiar voices across the shows. One voice you're bound to hear is that of John DiMaggio.

Born and raised in New Jersey, with the accent to prove it, the 6'4 DiMaggio has a deep voice that's as imposing as his frame. Don't think that he lacks range, though. He can play lovable heroes (Jake the Dog in "Adventure Time" or Aquaman in "Batman: The Brave and the Bold") and tough guys who are more emotional than they let on (Marcus Fenix in "Gears of War" or the short-tempered humanoid tiger alien Rath in "Ben 10"). He's just as good at playing villains, if not more so due to his baritone. DiMaggio's bad guys range from serious bad news (The Joker in "Batman: Under the Red Hood," where he used a stripped down and sinister voice closer to Heath Ledger than Mark Hamill) to incompetent comic relief (Dr. Drakken in "Kim Possible").

He's also been in most of the "Transformers" films, voicing a succession of husky Autobots (Leadfoot, Crosshairs, and the Scottish-sounding Stratosphere). However, DiMaggio remains most famous for voicing a different robot — Bender, the vulgar, hilariously misanthropic breakout character on "Futurama." When DiMaggio was considering not returning for the latest "Futurama" revival after Disney's offer undervalued him, panic naturally ensued.

DiMaggio himself considers Bender to be his breakout part, as he told the A.V. Club in March 2013 (shortly before Comedy Central canned "Futurama" and the show entered a decade-long hibernation).

John DiMaggio's road to Futurama

DiMaggio said Bender was the role that made him realize he could make his voice acting into a career:

"'Futurama' was a big deal. People had already started to hear about me a little bit here and there, but that was the first series I booked to be a regular on. I did a bunch of other things, and I was definitely getting into the loop. You have to get your foot in that door. There's a certain community of actors that usually do a lot of the stuff. And I got my foot in that door, but I'd say 'Futurama' definitely broke that door down."

Case in point, all of DiMaggio's roles that I previously mentioned came after he started playing Bender in 1999. It wasn't his first foray into performing though. As he told the AV Club, his first voiceover gig was making a PSA for New York Public Radio as part of a school trip fundraiser. He also dabbled in anime dubbing during the late 1990s to early 2000s, most notably on "Princess Mononoke." If that sounds like just more voice acting to you, it's actually trickier. As DiMaggio explained to the AV Club: "You had to work backward on that gig. You had to match the mouth flaps. It's anime, and it's originally animated with a Japanese voice."

DiMaggio didn't limit himself to voiceover, either. In the 1990s, he had a recurring part on "Chicago Hope" and he was also part of the MTV comedy duo "Red Johnny and the Round Guy" — his humor skills from stand-up have definitely carried over into his voice acting. He still occasionally appears on camera ("Perry Mason" cleverly cast him as a radio show host) but voice acting is where you'll hear him the most, Bender included. I, for one, don't mind.