Within our industry most people would agree that The Simpsons is certainly one of the top shows ever made. Creator of The Simpsons Matt Groening later brought out another show called Futurama which shared much of the same success as its predecessor. Futurama ran for four seasons ending in 2003 on the Fox network. Later, in 2010 through to 2013 Comedy Central reprised the show bringing out new episodes and content. Now 19 years since the initial end to the series on Fox, Hulu are looking at reprising the show once more and have announced much of the former cast will be returning to the screen.
In recent months it has become more apparent there could be one huge missing factor with the show’s return to television and that is the absence of John DiMaggio from the cast list. John had successfully played and delivered on the iconic lead role of the robot ‘Bender’ throughout the show’s existence and that left a large gap in its return; the show would be missing its lead voice actor.
What has emerged in recent weeks is that in late 2021 the rates offered to the cast by Hulu were ‘lowballing’ the actors. DiMaggio allegedly offered a counter proposal at a more industry standard and competitive level. From that point talks appeared to have ended between DiMaggio and Hulu.
Since then, DiMaggio has promised to keep fans and followers updated and has continued to tweet on an irregular basis when the situation has called for it. Multiple publications have suggested DiMaggio simply wanted more money to reprise the role but in his recent Tweet he shares that he feels the entire cast deserves more money, not just him. He goes on to share that the fundamental root of his issue lies in that the industry itself is looking to disparage the performers by taking advantage of them. Cautiously, DiMaggio did not give away much more than this in his Tweet, however most of us can use our own observations to identify that the industry is on weak footing now when it comes to appropriate rates and fair treatment.
Hulu later announced that should DiMaggio decide not to return to the show then the role of Bender will be recast. This has caused outrage amongst peers and fans alike. Fans and artists have stated they will not watch the show and talent cannot simply be replaced. Thousands of artists have come to support DiMaggio including fellow cast members from the show. The reach expands far beyond Futurama and has impacted voiceover artists from other hit shows such as Sean Schemmel who is the lead in Dragonball Z; his response, showing support, can be viewed on the replies to DiMaggio’s February 16th Tweet.
It would have been easy for DiMaggio to have conformed to the demands in front of him and continue playing a character he loves. However, fighting against lowballing and standing up for fair rates not only benefited his own career but elevated voice actors worldwide. He has become an industry pillar not only for his amazing talent as a voice over artist but as a symbol of strength, commitment, and perseverance. In recent days Hulu has confirmed DiMaggio’s return to the show.
John DiMaggio through honest conversation, commitment and conviction was able to challenge, educate and convince Hulu that standards needed to be higher. Hulu have bettered themselves by working more closely with the cast and listening to not only the industry but their fan base too. This goes to show that when one person steps out against an injustice others will follow. This process has been a beautiful reflection of actors coming together, fans backing them and channels changing their behaviours to better the industry.