Billy West? Who, you ask?
Just a voice in one of the best animated TV series ever, Futurama. He wasn’t just Philip J. Fry. He was also the voices of Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth, Dr. Zoidberg, Zapp Brannigan, and even Richard Nixon. Now based on the diverse characters he brought to life with his voice in the list there, I would opine that Billy West is one of the best voice actors in the business. Earlier this week he was interviewed by The Onion, which cast some light on how Fox Network saw Futurama (which ultimately killed the show) and how movie producers treat voice actors, which is shameful. Especially the part about the Space Jam premiere party at Grauman’s Chinese Theater at the end of the article.
Here is an excerpt of the interview:
The Onion: At what point did you realize Futurama wasn’t going to make it?
Billy West: When they’d say, “Seven o’clock, Futurama. At 8 o’clock, The Simpsons. At 8:30, Malcolm In The Middle. Remember, it all begins at 8 on Fox!” [Laughs.] That’s about the size of it. Matt [Groening] had total autonomy, pretty much. They let him do what he wanted to do, and the show was becoming a success. People were finding it, and Fox kept trying to hide it because they couldn’t have control over it. How are you going to explain to the media world, “It’s a success, obviously, because we had nothing to do with it. We didn’t put our seal of death on it.”
O: Couldn’t they have said they were simply repeating the Simpsons formula—letting Groening doing his thing?
BW: No, not really, because people are pains in the ass. You know, if you created a show, and it became a huge, huge cultural phenomenon, you could have an idea for another show, and everybody would be lining up to lick your ass. Then, when you tell them what you want to do, “Okay, here’s my idea: I want to do a show about people in space, you know, like in the year 3000. But they’re not space, they’re on Earth, and it’s a delivery boy who winds up cryogenically frozen in the future.” And people just look at you with that face of no breaks and a smile, going “But we want another Simpsons.” You can’t have another Simpsons; there already is a Simpsons!
And for the record, Fox Network was also responsible for the cancellation of the excellent genre series Firefly and Space: Above and Beyond. Hit the link above to read the entire article.