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I Know That Voice! Toonzone Interviews Actor John DiMaggio about “Pound Puppies”

by on May 31, 2013

John DiMaggioJohn DiMaggio, how do we love thee? Let me count the ways. Or some of the roles. Or at least some of my personal favorites, anyway.

  1. Bender in Futurama
  2. Dr. Drakken in Kim Possible
  3. Rath in Ben 10: Alien Force
  4. Shnitzel in Chowder
  5. Aquaman in Batman: The Brave and the Bold
  6. Jake the Dog in Adventure Time
  7. Bobo Haha in Generator Rex

And, especially, as Niblet, the sweet but slightly dense sheepdog who provides the muscle and a lot of the laughs in Pound Puppies, and as Master Nigel Brightmore in Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters, both of which air on the Hub Network. In conjunction with the upcoming premieres of Pound Puppies and Kaijudo, Toonzone got to talk with John DiMaggio over the phone about his roles as Niblet and Master Brightmore in the two shows.

TOONZONE NEWS: I read one interview where you said that you got called in by the producers of Pound Puppies to audition. Is that right?

JOHN DiMAGGIO: Yeah. Absolutely. I audition for things all the time. That’s part of the process. I think everybody auditions. If you don’t audition …I don’t know. Maybe you’re too fancy pants to audition. Of course there are things that come in that are offers, but I audition for things all the time. It’s totally normal.

TOONZONE NEWS: Did they have you audition for more than one character or was it just for Niblet?

JOHN DiMAGGIO: It was just for Niblet. And it was fun. I love this character. It’s lighthearted, and it’s very funny. The character exercises my timing muscle. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a very goofy, goofy silly character. And he’s so lovable, you just want to hug him.

NibletTOONZONE NEWS: Are you channeling anyone or inspired by anything in particular to get Niblet’s character?

JOHN DiMAGGIO: You know, the voice…when you hear it you just want to hug him. That’s what I think. That’s what I was shooting for, really. When you hear something you just want to try and fill out the body of the character with the voice, and I think that’s the general directive when you get a role like Niblet. I think I kind of pulled that off. That’s really all I was trying to do. Make him cuddly, and I think he’s pretty cuddly (laughs).

TOONZONE NEWS: I think I also heard something about the sound of slobber was a big thing.

JOHN DiMAGGIO: Oh, yeah. That’s a big ol’ dog. Everybody loves a big ol’ dog, but that slobber is…WHOOF! (laughs)

TOONZONE NEWS: Are you a dog or a cat person?

JOHN DiMAGGIO: I’m a newly converted cat person, but I’ve always been a dog person. I got two dogs and two cats, and they live peacefully and in harmony. They’re actually in the room with me right now. My dogs, my girls…my pound puppies.

TOONZONE NEWS: Your have your own little rescue operation there?

JOHN DiMAGGIO: You know, it’s funny. I was just saying that the last round of publicity that we did, we all took pictures with our pets. I had pictures done with my two dogs and people were like, “Oh my God, they’re so cute!” They’re wolfhound mixes and I rescued them. A lot of the people on the show have rescue dogs, and that goes along with one of the main plot points of the show of getting puppies matched with owners, and that’s a great thing. Everyone who can should go out and adopt a pet, they shouldn’t go to pet stores and places like that. They should adopt a pet, and that’s what we’re talking about through comedy and storytelling. That’s really what I think is happening on the show. Love thy pet (laughs). But it’s cool because that’s what we’re continuing to do with this new season, trying to match new people with their pups. There’s some funny stuff happening. We have some great guest stars coming up, I’m not allowed to say, but there’s a 007 homage, and that’s really cool. It’s going to be a funny season.

Pound_Puppies_301_02TOONZONE NEWS: Do you guys do ensemble reads for the show?

JOHN DiMAGGIO: It all depends on who’s available. Usually, we do. Usually, we have a bunch of people in the room…Alanna (Ubach, voice of Strudel) is in the room, and Yvette Nicole Brown (Cookie) is in the room and I’m in the room, and sometimes M. Emmett Walsh (Olaf) is in the room. It all depends on who’s available. Eric McCormack (Lucky) used to be able to come in, but he’s been doing other stuff so he’s been in and around. Every once in a while he’ll be in. That always lends itself to a much more interesting sounding record when you have everybody in the same room together. You can still put it together with everybody separately, but I tend to think it has a better feel when you have everybody in the room. It all depends on the availability of the actors. With other shows, like with Futurama, we recorded ensemble. Kaijudo, we record ensemble. Kaijudo is a lot of fun. That’s an interesting and great cast. It’s been fun working for the Hub, man. They really have been doing a great job. They have great stuff, they have great projects, there’s a lot of industry veterans running the network, and it shows. They’ve come up out of nowhere…and POUNDed on people! (laughter) But yeah, it’s pretty cool. It’s a good gig. Can’t complain.

TOONZONE NEWS: Would you say that your take on Niblet has changed much over the show’s three seasons?

JOHN DiMAGGIO: You know, I don’t know. Niblet’s pretty cut and dried, you know? He’s got his pals, he’s got his prime directive “Once a Pound Puppy, Always a Pound Puppy,” trying to get puppies matched with humans, and food. He likes a lot of food. He’ll eat anything, and that’s what he’s all about. It’d be different if he were having inner struggles (laughter) but all he cares about is when his next bowl of slops is coming up. And as a matter of fact, if you’re not eating your slops, (in Niblet voice) “Can I have your slop please?” That’s where it’s going. I don’t think he’s that deep to be perfectly honest! (laughs) Not to say that he’s stupid, but that’s not important to him. He’s a good ol’ sheepdog. He loves his friends, and that’s all that counts. With other shows that have gone on,sure…things change and when plot points make things different and you have to go somewhere that you normally don’t because of the script, sure. Absolutely. But all Niblet cares about are treats and bacon and whatever else he can get his paws on to put in his mouth. That’s about it.

PUP201_143_ReducedTOONZONE NEWS: Do you guys get to improv a lot in the sessions?

JOHN DiMAGGIO: You know, I get to riff a bit, just for fun. I’ll do what’s asked of me in the script, and then as long as we have that, I’ll get to play. I think that’s the most important thing. People have this idea that some actors come in and start improv’ing and going off script, and it’s like, “No, dude, you can’t do that. You have to give them what they want, and then and only then are you really entitled to get your say,” you know? With this, there’s a lot of goofy things that I’ve been able to get in. Everybody gets to play a little bit. As long as it helps, and it doesn’t hinder, then it’s good.

TOONZONE NEWS: For Master Brightmore in Kaijudo, did the producers ask you to audition for that?

JOHN DiMAGGIO: Yeah, I auditioned for that as well. When they ask you to come in and they want to hear you, you go ahead and do it. I’d rather read something, and then go in and read for producers and have something to go with. The more they hear you, the better off you are to get a part in a show. It’s difficult when someone just calls you in and says, “Yeah, do your thing!” It’s like, “What, really? I don’t…really know what ‘my thing’ is that you’re talking about. I got a lot of things. (laughs) We gotta narrow this down, you have to get a little bit more specific.” When you’re able to read for something, you really get an idea as an actor what the production team wants, what the writing staff wants, what the producers want. What they want to come through in your character. I think that’s important. I was able to do that for both of these jobs, and I like that. I’m not somebody standing around going, “Will you just give me that!” You know? You gotta put in a little work.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice when they go, “We’ll just take him.” (laughs) I’m not complaining, by any means, but the more familiar you are and the better the vicinity you’re in about the choices you want for a particular role, the smoother sailing it is, you know what I mean? If they like you, they want to see you and talk to you about this. “OK, great, sure, let’s talk about this.” Let’s chat this up. Let’s play ball. It’s a good thing.

I Know That Voice PosterTOONZONE NEWS: What would be the advice you would give to someone who wants to break into the voice acting business?

JOHN DiMAGGIO: Well, it’s funny that you mention that because I’m executive producing a film called I Know That Voice and it’s all about animation and voice-over.

TOONZONE NEWS: I’m really looking forward to that, by the way.

JOHN DiMAGGIO: Oh, thanks! You can tell everybody to check out the website IKnowThatVoice.com, and right now we have about 1500 pre-orders. We’re in the very very last stages of post-production, and we’re going to be done by the very middle of June. We think it’ll be available in the fall. As soon as we have a distribution deal, we’ll know.

It’s hard. There are so many different ways to get into this job, or to get into the industry. My film talks about that: everything you ever wanted to know about animation voice over but were afraid to ask. But, you know, everybody’s journey is different to get to where we are. The most important thing to learn is how to keep the job. Can you keep that job, can you get other jobs? Can you parlay that job into other jobs? That’s hard. It’s hard work. People think, “Oh, I just go in and talk,” but it’s like, “No…that’s not it. That’s not it at all.” I don’t think people understand how hard it is for somebody to tell you that you suck, and to keep going and persevere. It’s hard. You have to learn how to take “No” for an answer (laughs), and that’s a huge thing about acting. So it’s heavy duty, there’s all kinds of ways to become a voice actor. You have to find your own way. Or you could go to IKnowThatVoice.com and check out the film. HEY! (laughter)

TOONZONE NEWS: In addition to the new seasons of Pound Puppies and Kaijudo, and I Know That Voice, is there anything else coming up for you that you can talk about?

JOHN DiMAGGIO: Well, Futurama, our last season…apparently…is appearing on Comedy Central this summer.

FuturamaBenderTOONZONE NEWS: (Laughter) Yeah, “The Last Season…So Far”

JOHN DiMAGGIO: So far…yeah, we don’t know. I’ve said it before, it’s died so many times I call it Zombie Futurama. It is what it is. If somebody wants to pick it up, they can have it. It’s a great machine. We’re a funny show. It’s sad to see it go if it goes, it’ll be great to see it come back if it comes back. It’s been one of my career highlights. I love it and I love the people involved. Hopefully everybody will get their fill. We’ll see. But that’s going to be the best season yet. As well as Pound Puppies this season, and Kaijudo this season. There’s a lot of good stuff happening, I’m very excited. I’ve got a good summer coming up, of John DiMaggio on the airwaves…of cable (laughs).

Toonzone would like to thank John DiMaggio for taking the time to talk with us, and to Dupe Bosu and the ever-awesome PR team at the Hub for setting it up. Pound Puppies season 3 premieres on June 1, 2013, at 9:00 AM (ET), and Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters premieres on June 21, 2013; both only on the Hub. You can check out the latest updates for I Know That Voice on the movie’s official website, and follow John DiMaggio on Twitter.

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