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JOHN DIMAGGIO Bend It Like Bender

John Dimaggio cover

Actor John DiMaggio started his career as a comedian in the ‘90s before transitioning to acting, even landing a role on the successful medical drama, Chicago Hope. Yet he is best known for his work in voice-over acting, lending his vocal chords to such characters as Bender from Futurama, Jake from Adventure Time, and even making Aquaman cool. With DiMaggio heading to Perth for Supanova Pop Culture Expo, X-Press catches up with him for a word.

“I like to work from the outside in. See what a character looks like and the physicality of it. Then things can change, and you play against type. You have to be able to switch on a dime. It’s challenging work that happens fast.”

Futurama provided one of those moments. For Bender, DiMaggio was the only audition that didn’t perform the character like an emotionless automaton.

“I came up with this,” he says as he effortlessly switches to the voice of Bender Bending Rodriguez, “I think Matt Groening described him as a punch-drunk fighter. I beat out 250 people for that gig. It was a once in a lifetime gig.”

Although, in all fairness, lightning really has struck twice for DiMaggio, with him voicing two breakout characters in immensely popular shows. Almost the polar opposite to the beer, blackjack and hooker loving robot, Bender, DiMaggio also provides the voice of the ever-faithful Jake in Adventure Time. “Jake the Dog is kinda my voice with a hug around it. It’s very comfortable, like a blanket. It’s weird when you do it,” exclaims DiMaggio, not used to using something so close to his own voice.

“In TV you never expect immediate success. You never know what is going to pop. I love Adventure Time, it just keeps getting better. I am stunned by the world wide success. There’s a bullet train in Korea with Jake the Dog on it! At conventions you’ll get mum dressed up as Princess Bubblegum, dad dressed as The Ice King, you’ve got the baby dressed as Lumpy Space Princess, you’ve got the oldest daughter dressed up in a BIMO outfit she made, and then the boy is dressed as Finn. It’s awesome! Everyone is into this show, from one to 92. It’s really something special.”

In fact the industry has become such a part of DiMaggio’s life that in he was Executive Producer of the 2013 behind the scenes documentary on voice actors, I Know That Voice, which looks at many of the big names in the industry (including DiMaggio).

Animation hasn’t been the only forum for DiMaggio’s voice. With computer games becoming more and more cinematic, DiMaggio has found a lot of work voicing games, most notably Marcus Fenix in Gears Of War. “Computer games are brutal work. There’s so much stuff you have to record compared to animation. You have to record anything and everything that your character would possibly do. For Gears Of War I remember I had to get cut in half with a chainsaw. That was a fun Friday!”

DAVID O’CONNELL

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