Why original Futurama star John DiMaggio won't voice Bender in the Hulu revival... for now
While the news of a Futurama revival coming to Hulu may entice fans of the adult animated series, there's one name curiously missing from the call sheet.
John DiMaggio, who voiced Bender on the original show, in addition to various other characters, is not presently returning with Billy West (Fry/Zoidberg/Prof. Farnsworth), Katey Sagal (Leela), Tress MacNeille (Linda van Schoonhoven), Maurice LaMarche (Morbo), Lauren Tom (Amy), Phil LaMarr (Hermes), and David Herman (Scruffy).
Sources close to the situation tell EW that negotiations with DiMaggio have hit a standstill, which has prompted Hulu and 20th Television Animation to search for another voice actor with the first table read looming this coming Monday. Though, both sides of the situation — DiMaggio's side and the studio side — want the actor to return.
EW reached out to representatives for Hulu and DiMaggio for comment.
Futurama followed Fry, a pizza-delivery guy from New York who accidentally gets cryogenically frozen, waking up 1,000 years in the future. His only descendent, Prof. Farnsworth, takes him in and puts him to work on his delivery crew, which includes Captain Leela, robot Bender, accountant Hermes, intern Amy, and lobster-like Dr. Zoidberg.
Hulu announced Wednesday that 20 brand-new episodes of the show, which originally aired from 1999-2013, were ordered for a planned premiere in 2023. Series creators Matt Groening and David X. Cohen commented on the announcement, expressing their excitement for the opportunity. An image of Bender, DiMaggio's alcohol-binging, cigar-smoking, cuss-slinging robot, was used by Hulu to promote the news of the revival — but DiMaggio's name was not mentioned among the returning cast.
Hulu and 20th Television Animation went out to West, Sagal, and DiMaggio at the same time last year to begin negotiations. This is an example of "favored nations," which is a pretty standard negotiation process in the animation field that seeks to pay series regulars the same. The goal was to close those deals before reaching out to other voice actors from the original show.
According to sources, an offer was extended to all three actors. West and Sagal accepted. DiMaggio's team did not, seeing it as a lowball and not competitive to the market or the legacy of Futurama. One source suggests the favored nations process fell apart with West and Sagal taking the offer without consulting DiMaggio. Another source refutes that notion.
DiMaggio's side counter-offered with more competitive quotes, but some sources suggest conversations with the studio ended in November and have not progressed since.
A search for a replacement voice actor is still ongoing, while the offer for DiMaggio to return remains on the table for the time being, EW has learned. The studio doesn't want to pay DiMaggio more than West and Sagal, which contributes to the standstill.
Meanwhile, the revival is moving forward, with Groening and Cohen, as well as Hulu, wanting to do it.
Fans of Futurama took note of DiMaggio's absence from the revival announcement, and the actor has been promoting those sentiments on social media, some of which propose a boycott of the new season. DiMaggio is still willing and available to return as Bender, assuming an agreeable deal can be reached. The original Futurama stars and crew also want him to return, per sources.
"Thanks for the concern and the props, everyone. I really appreciate it," DiMaggio tweeted Wednesday to his fans. "Don't worry, I'll keep you posted, but until then… CHEESE IT! #bendergate."
This isn't all to say DiMaggio won't be involved in the revival at all. The drawn-out development process for animation leaves tremendous room for him to join in some capacity, even after Monday's table read. Whether or not fans will hear his voice come out of an animated Bender in 2023, however, remains a question.
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