John Di Maggio Talks About Voicing The Joker in Batman: Under the Red Hood

John Di Maggio talks about taking on the iconic role in this upcoming DVD / Blu-ray release available July 27th

Known to adults as "Bender" in Futurama and tweens as "Dr. Drakken" in Kim Possible, John Di Maggio 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.

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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.

John Di Maggio 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.

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 [2 Discs] [Includes Digital Copy] Blu-ray and Special Edition [2 Discs] DVD, as well as being available on single disc DVD, On Demand and for Download.

We recently caught up with John Di Maggio to find out more about this exciting new animated feature-length film. Here is what he had to say:

What were your initial thoughts about assuming this iconic role?

John Di Maggio: 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.

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 Di Maggio: 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?

John Di Maggio: I wanted to cover what I saw on the paper, and I wanted to ensure the 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?

John Di Maggio: 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.

You've certainly done more than your share of villains. Do you prefer to go to the dark side?

John Di Maggio: 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?

John Di Maggio: 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 Orth - 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?

John Di Maggio: 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.

Batman: Under the Red Hood arrives on July 27, 2010 as a Special Edition [2 Discs] [Includes Digital Copy] Blu-ray and Special Edition [2 Discs] DVD, as well as being available on single disc DVD, On Demand and for Download.