As excited as I was about the return of Futurama, FOX has once again ruined that experience by their callous actions. According to no less than cast members John DiMaggio, Phil LaMarr, and Maurice LaMarche on their Facebook pages, a casting notice has gone out to replace actors DiMaggio, LaMarche, Billy West and Katy Sagal.
Is Futurama being recast? Several outlets, including EW.com, are reporting that apparently 20th Century Fox, who produce the series, are currently auditioning actors to take over all of the major roles on the series, replacing Billy West ("Fry", "Hubert J. Farnsworth", "Zoidberg"), Katey Sagal ("Leela"), John DiMaggio ("Bender"), Maurice LaMarche ("Kif Kroker"), and Tress MacNeille ("Mom").
20th Century Fox is quoted as releasing a statement which reads, "We love the Futurama voice performers and absolutely wanted to use them, but unfortunately, we could not meet their salary demands. While replacing these talented actors will be difficult, the show must go on. We are confident that we will find terrific new performers to give voice to Matt [Groening] and David [X. Cohen]'s brilliantly subversive characters."
With the show being brought back, certainly it wouldn't be surprising if the voice actors asked for raises – and considering Futurama is now being produced for Comedy Central, not FOX, it's also possible those salary requests were too high for 20th Century Fox and Comedy Central to justify, since cable series typically operate at lowers budgets than network series.
However, there are some interesting things to consider here. Several weeks ago, the details of the Futurama panel at Comic-Con were revealed, and they read:
Futurama: Life or Death?! BE A PART OF SCI-FI HISTORY! Join Executive Producers Matt Groening and David X. Cohen, and stars Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio and Maurice LaMarche for high-stakes thrills as a top-ranking Fox executive decides live, on stage, whether Futurama will make yet another triumphant return, or whether it is gone forever! The very fate of Futurama hangs in the balance! Paramedics will be standing by in case the intense excitement causes any panelists to collapse. Raucous celebration or abject despair to follow the news."
Obviously, the whole "life or death" thing is a joke, since the show has officially been brought back. And then there's the fact that three of the cast members said to be among those being replaced are scheduled to be on the panel. Certainly, salary negotiations could have fallen apart since the panel was first set up, but it makes you wonder… One thing's for certain, it will make the Futurama Comic-Con panel even more of a big deal. If the original cast is there, then fans will no doubt be very relieved. If they're not, and they are indeed being recast, then it's not hard to imagine plenty of not-so-happy fan questions on the subject, to say the least.
Personally, I'm betting that FOX doesn't want to pay for these talented folk and would much rather cast "sound-alikes" at a much lower rate. A similar incident happened on Matt Groening's other series, The Simpsons, which resulted in a hefty raise for the voice actors.
Nevertheless, any attempt to recast these talented folks should be the first indicator that the new season is poorly executed and just a cheap attempt to push out product.
Read the full call sheet after the jump and if you want, send Casting Director an email telling him how much you enjoy the recasting idea by clicking HERE
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Im hoping they dont go through with this and the VA's accept a lower pay.