John DiMaggio Undertakes a Villainous Icon as The Joker in “Batman: Under the Red Hood”

Tue, May 25th, 2010 at 11:37am PDT

Comic Books
CBR News Team, Editor

Official Press Release

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 the all-new DC Universe animated original movie, Batman: Under the Red Hood.

In the 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 the next entry in the popular ongoing series of DC Universe Animated Original PG-13 Movies from Warner Premiere, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation. The full-length film will be distributed by Warner Home Video on July 27, 2010 as a Special Edition version on Blu-Ray™ and 2-disc DVD, as well as being available on single disc DVD, On Demand and for Download.

But before you race to Amazon to pre-order your copy, take a minute to get to know John DiMaggio.

QUESTION:
What were your initial thoughts about assuming this iconic role?

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 wonderful opportunity.

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 this Joker?

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 business. 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 acting gigs. 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.

TAGS:  batman, under the red hood, john dimaggio

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