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SYFY WIRE Futurama

Is Bender being recast on 'Futurama'? Fans rally as talks stall between Hulu & John DiMaggio

Right now, DiMaggio is the only original cast member not currently attached.

By Josh Weiss
John Dimaggio Bender Header GETTY YT

Futurama fans have rallied around actor John DiMaggio, the voice of Bender Bending Rodriguez, in the wake of Hulu announcing a revival of the classic animated sci-fi series co-created by Matt Groening and David X. Cohen.

Production on the latest iteration of the show is slated to kick off this month with a majority of the original voice cast on board: Billy West, Katey Sagal, Tress MacNeille, Maurice LaMarche, Lauren Tom, Phil LaMarr, and David Herman. DiMaggio — who also portrays a slew of supporting 31st century players — was not mentioned in the initial press release, which led to dueling narratives on what kind of situation was brewing behind the scenes vis-à-vis contract negotiation.

The Hollywood Reporter fell on the more optimistic side of the media spectrum, writing that DiMaggio and 20th Century Television were "finalizing" a deal for his return as the foul-mouthed, boozing, and cigar-loving robot programmed for bending girders. Deadline, on the other hand, was not as hopeful, reporting that the role was being recast in the run-up to the first table read taking place this Monday. Entertainment Weekly posits that while both parties are still hoping for a positive outcome, contract talks have "hit a standstill," which is not-so-good news, everyone.

For fans who have been with the series for decades, it's admittedly hard to picture a version of Futurama without DiMaggio, especially since Bender is one of the show's most beloved and recognizable characters.  

The Bending Unit himself might respond to that sentiment with: "Shut up, baby, I know it." Even Hulu seemed to grasp this fact when it specifically used a picture of the hedonistic robot (not to be confused with Hedonismbot) for the revival announcement on Facebook earlier this week, which sported one of Bender's famous catchphrases: "We're back, baby!" 

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That's a long-winded way of saying that some fans and industry vets alike have made it clear that if DiMaggio isn't paid his due, they won't be supporting the revival when it drops in 2023.

Tara Strong (longtime voice of Harley Quinn, Timmy Turner, Bubbles, and more iconic cartoon characters), for instance called the payment dispute a "bad move," going on to add that DiMaggio "is hugely responsible for the success of the show. Voice actors, loved by fans, are treated insanely unfair by Hollywood. They love making us feel replaceable and  get away with paying a fraction of what on camera celebs make. Time to close the gap."

"Futurama without @TheJohnDiMaggio is insanity!" chimed in The Book of Life director Jorge R. Gutierrez. "@Hulu is too smart and knows we need our old friends together for the magic to work again."

DiMaggio has made his position known by retweeting a number of these posts from disgruntled viewers ever since the news broke, eventually using the hashtag #Bendergate to describe the situation. "Thanks for the concern and the props, everyone," the actor tweeted Thursday. "I really appreciate it. Don’t worry, I’ll keep you posted, but until then… CHEESE IT!" 

His wife, Kate Miller, is also going to bat for him, describing her husband as "irreplaceable."

As of right now, new episodes of Futurama (20 have been ordered thus far) are scheduled to start premiering on Hulu sometime next year. Whether anyone will actually tune in, should DiMaggio not return as Bender, is another story altogether.