John DiMaggio is the famed voice actor behind Bender in Futurama, Jake the Dog in Adventure Time and dozens of other iconic animated roles. Most recently, he starred in the Audible fiction podcast Vroom Vroom, in which he plays a ruthless car salesman looking to put his rivals in upstate New York out of business.
In Rolling Stone‘s Voice Acting 101, DiMaggio explains that his technique all comes down to knowing the character inside and out.
“There’s a lot of things laid out for you within the show — at least, they should be,” he says. “There’s the character Bible, which tells you all about the character, where it’s from, what their story is, how they feel about other characters within the show, where they reside in the storyline, all that kind of stuff…Basically, you’ve got to deal with the crafting of that character. It’s like trying to draw a circle with an Etch-a-Sketch. You’ve got to make sure you know where it is, and dial it in.”
DiMaggio notes that it’s OK — and even crucial — to get vulnerable in the vocal booth, and to always be aware of the specific intricacies of your own voice and how it changes over time. Most importantly, he says, vocal acting is work, so act accordingly — but find the joy in it as well.
“You need to find the play in it, the sense of childlike emotions and energy that you get from the play of performing,” he says. “That’s really where it’s at. I love that part of what I do.”