John DiMaggio Undertakes a Villainous Icon as
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 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
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
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.
What were your initial thoughts about assuming this iconic role?
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
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?
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.
Was there any particular direction you wanted to take this Joker?
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.
How do you interpret the Joker’s mindset?
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
You’ve certainly done more than your share of villains. Do you prefer
to go to the dark side?
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.
When you were a kid, did you ever imagine you’d be voicing cartoons
for a living?
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.
Your primary focus is voiceovers these days. Do you have any
inclination to do more live-action acting or stand-up comedy?
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.