Billy West brings the animated characters of Fox’s Futurama to life through his voice acting, playing the show’s main character Phillip J. Fry as well as Prof. Farnsworth, Dr. Zoidberg, Zapp Brannigan and many others. Mr. West had a conversation with PCM’s Allison Ebner to discuss Futurama’s upcoming 7th season airing on Comedy Central.
Futurama is the story of a 20th century pizza delivery guy named Phillip J. Fry who is accidentally cryogenically frozen and awakened in the 31st century. The show follows Fry and his co-workers/friends as he works for an interplanetary delivery company called Planet Express and embarks on ridiculous adventures. The show received the Guinness World Record for “Current Most Critically Acclaimed Animated Series” in 2010 and has earned 10 Emmy nominations with 5 wins. The show’s 7th season will air this summer on Comedy Central with the season premiere on June 20th.
Q: How are you feeling about the upcoming 7th season?
“I’m thrilled that people are excited about it, it goes without saying that I’m excited about it. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my opinion, it’s my favorite show to do. We read and record these episodes and everything is as funny as it ever was because the writers are so good at what they do and most of them have been here since the beginning. It’s something that is greater than any one person involved and everyone is great.”
Q: Do you think it’s that combination that makes the show such a hit with fans?
“I think there’s a comedy and humor that hits on different levels; Fry with his randomness and awkwardness, Zoidberg with his 1930′s bravado, the Professor who is a combination of sci-fi fantasy movie wizards, and Zapp Brannigan with his surrealism and pride.”
Q: As a voice-over actor, what is the process of recording episodes like?
“We get together for the most part and go through the episode at the recording studio. We record from like 9 to 5 and for the most part we’re all together as an ensemble. Sometimes someone is out of town, but we try to all get together.”
Q: Since you record as an ensemble, what is the process like for you to transition between characters who are having different and sometimes even opposing emotions?
“I know how to keep it all straight in my head. I had the reputation of never getting characters confused but then one time I blew it and I was doing the wrong character and everyone just stopped dead. It’s not that bad, but it’s a black mark in my book.”
Q: When you first get a script and you’re about to do a table read, what is the first thing you look for?
“I do a quick scan of the script and then go back and reread the whole thing, looking for my lines and trying to make sense of what I’m saying. Looking at brand new scripts is always exciting, you never know if the script you’re holding could win an Emmy. They’re all great scripts as far as I’m concerned.”
Q: Futurama has a cult-like following with die hard fans, are there any particular episodes that you’re excited for the fans to see this season?
“Yea, there is one episode that has some really tender moments in it, those are the ones that I favor, where you feel like you want to cry and then you realize you’re watching a cartoon. I can’t reveal too much, but there are some things that happen this season that are surprising.”
Q: Futurama has had some great guest stars, are there any guest stars that you were particularly excited about this season?
“I grew up in Boston and we had the Boston Celtics, and when we were younger we had this dream team, and Larry Bird was like a god. After all of these years he is in an episode of Futurama, it was great.”
Q: Do you find that there are new challenges for you with each new season that keep things exciting?
“Yes, its always the twists on the writing, I really enjoy what the writers do and I thoroughly respect it. It’s an honor to work with them because I think they’re the best, Futurama to me is one of the funniest shows to be on TV and I love every aspect of it.”
Q: Is there anything you can’t get enough of these days in pop culture?
“Well I haven’t watched TV in decades, I watch the occasional Youtube video. It helps you to stay pure, when you’re not saturated with other things.”
Q: Any final message for your fans and the Pop Culture Madness audience?
“Yes: I hope that everybody will be watching when the premiere comes on; I know you won’t be disappointed. I want to thank the fans for bringing the show back because they’re the ones who brought it back. Their passion and love has kept the show alive, thank you.
Thanks again to Billy West for taking the time to talk to PCM! Be sure to catch the 7th season premiere of Futurama with two back-to-back episodes on Wednesday, June 20th at 10 p.m. on Comedy Central.
Futurama TM © and 2010 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.