‘Bender Is Part of My Soul’: John DiMaggio Says Missing ‘Futurama’ Reboot Would Have Been Like Missing ‘Thanksgiving Dinner’
Matt Groening’s beloved animated sci-fi comedy came roaring back into the future today with the release of a Hulu-produced 11th season, which comes 10 years after Fry and his friends said goodbye to the 31st century and wandered off into the great time loop in the sky. Then, in February of last year, Hulu announced the revival season, only with one notable absence from the cast list — DiMaggio, the master behind Bender “Bending” Rodriguez, had not yet agreed to terms, as he and his new bosses at Hulu/Disney were deadlocked in contract negotiations.
Soon after the season announcement, reports leaked that Hulu had put out a casting call for a new Bender, prompting the voice-acting community and the Futurama fandom to explode in anger, even calling for a boycott if Bender — the real Bender — wasn’t a part of the new season. Eventually, DiMaggio acquiesced, signing a contract that he felt was inferior to his worth, for the simple reason that Bender without DiMaggio is like Bender without booze — f-ed up.
“When they made the announcement, it wasn’t like I had said no,” DiMaggio told Variety in an interview released yesterday. “We had been negotiating for a long time.” DiMaggio called the contract talks a “stalemate,” though he insisted that he never considered the prospect of walking away from the project entirely.
During that time, DiMaggio tweeted, “Bender is part of my soul and nothing about this is meant to be disrespectful to the fans or my ‘Futurama’ family,” explaining that his fight was for the sake of his castmates as well as himself as they battled changing conditions in the way artists are compensated in “an industry that’s become far too corporate.”
However, when push came to shove, DiMaggio realized that his bosses were far more prepared to dilute their product with a DiMaggio imitator on the microphone than DiMaggio himself was to watch Futurama fall apart without him. “I didn’t want, nor did my agent want, me standing outside of a house that I should have been having Thanksgiving dinner in,” DiMaggio told Variety. “It was just like, ‘Okay, I gotta say yes, because I don’t want the demise of the show on my shoulders.’ They were ready to bring in other people. It was what it was.”
Now, with an entire entertainment industry ground to a halt as artists like DiMaggio join together to protest undercompensation from companies like Hulu and their parent Disney, DiMaggio looks back on his fight with pride, even though he couldn’t topple the corporate BS by himself. Said DiMaggio, “When you’re David with a sling and you’re standing up to Goliath, you try to do what you can to get your side heard. I think I did.”
“Now it’s not just me versus them,” DiMaggio added. “Now it’s everybody versus them.”