John DiMaggio Talks ABout Voicing The Joker in ‘Batman: Under the Red Hood’
Known to adults as Bender in Futurama and tweens as Dr. Drakken in Kim Possible, John DiMaggio takes an iconic step forward as the voice of The Joker, the pivotal villain in Batman: Under the Red Hood.
In the animated film, Batman faces his ultimate challenge as the mysterious Red Hood takes Gotham City by firestorm. One part vigilante, one part criminal kingpin, Red Hood begins cleaning up Gotham with the efficiency of Batman, but without following the same ethical code. And when The Joker falls in the balance between the two forces of justice, hard truths are revealed and old wounds are reopened.
DiMaggio gets free reign to play the iconic villain amidst a stellar voice cast that includes Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek) as the Caped Crusader, Supernatural star Jensen Ackles as Red Hood, and Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) as Nightwing.
Best known for his near-100 episodes as Bender, DiMaggio has parlayed his deep, gravelly tones and versatile acting style into a major force on the voiceover scene for the past decade. DiMaggio’s credits include roles in Kim Possible, Samurai Jack, Teen Titans, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, The Spectacular Spider-Man, Duck Dodgers, Jackie Chan Adventures, The Penguins of Madagascar and Chowder.
Voiceover has so dominated his time that DiMaggio has virtually abandoned his on-camera career – despite past work as a regular cast member on Chicago Hope and a number of guest roles in TV series such as Becker, N.Y.P.D. Blue, Felicity, Bones, Without a Trace and My Name is Earl.
Batman: Under the Red Hood is due out from Warner Home Video on July 27, 2010.
QUESTION: What were your initial thoughts about assuming this
JOHN DIMAGGIO: I was shocked when I got the role, shocked when I
came in to record, and shocked when I saw the finished product during
ADR. I just wanted to honor the real true lunacy of the character. I
didn’t want to make him campy, but I wanted to pay a little bit of
tribute to the past Jokers – and yet keep it original at the same time.
That’s walking a fine line, if there ever was one.
It was a little intimidating because it is such an iconic role. It’s an
honor to get this job — and especially to play the Joker in this
version because it’s so dark and twisted. I felt like I got a really
QUESTION: Can you remember your early connections with the Batman
mythology, and how any of the previous Joker actors might have
influenced your performance in this role?
JOHN DIMAGGIO: I think the thing that influenced me the most when I
was young is the television show, which is really sad because there have
been so many great comics and graphic novels and stories about the Dark
Knight that I haven’t been able to delve into yet – and yet I know
about them. I actually would’ve loved to see Cesar Romero take the role
to its darkness. There was a bit of Cesar Romero in what I did, but it’s
Cesar Romero if he was in A Clockwork Orange.
I guess my naiveté in my approach kind of kept it clean. I wasn’t trying
to do a Jack (Nicholson) or a Heath (Ledger). I respect all the folks
that have come before me, and their take on the character. Mark Hamill
is awesome, Heath Ledger was unbelievable, and Jack Nicholson – what can
you say? But I wanted to do my own thing.
QUESTION: Was there any particular direction you wanted to take
JOHN DIMAGGIO: I wanted to cover what I saw on the paper, and I
wanted to ensure Andrea (Romano, casting/dialogue director) got exactly
what she wanted. Usually if the script is good enough, you know where
your emotions should be, where your character lies. It should all be in
the dialogue, and it certainly was.
QUESTION: How do you interpret the Joker’s mindset?
JOHN DIMAGGIO: I think the Joker thinks of himself, quite literally,
as a necessary evil. And when I say that, I mean he really feels there
is a place for him, and that he somehow balances the chaos with the
non-chaos. It’s a yin and yang thing. And it’s really not personal, it’s
Although he can get personal and he enjoys it. That makes it that
much more twisted.
QUESTION: You’ve certainly done more than your share of villains.
Do you prefer to go to the dark side?
JOHN DIMAGGIO: I love playing the villains. I’ll play anything, I
don’t care. As long as its not tons of walla or gasping, I’m good. I
hate the inhale.
QUESTION: When you were a kid, did you ever imagine you’d be
voicing cartoons for a living?
JOHN DIMAGGIO: I was a class clown – I basically started acting when
I was a kid. I wanted to play drums, but I couldn’t afford a drum set.
It was easier to be in a play, so it just kind of happened. I walked
into voiceover in New York in 1994. I was doing stand-up (comedy) at the
time, and was looking to get out of it and into acting. An actor buddy
of mine, Zak Orth, said it was a way to make a good living between
I moved to LA, because there’s more animation here, and the rest is
history. So yeah, thanks Zak – give me a ring.
QUESTION: Your primary focus is voiceovers these days. Do you
have any inclination to do more live-action acting or stand-up comedy?
JOHN DIMAGGIO: On-camera acting is fun, but I don’t miss it.
Voiceovers are quicker, and you get to work with such amazing, talented
people – it’s a blast to play in the studio with these actors and
writers and directors.
With (on-camera) acting, there so much more waiting around, and my
patience has run thin. Plus it beats the hell out of slinging jokes six
nights a week at a Chuckle Hut in East Bumbleblard.