I’ve actually been sitting on this news since last Thursday. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it, since I heard the news direct from Diedrich Bader while on the set of the upcoming LifeTime TV series Drop Dead Diva which I’m currently working on as a background performer.
For those who have never worked on a TV or film set before, there are certain protocols that must be followed involving what one can and cannot share outside of the set. Oftentimes, both cast and crew are required to sign a non-disclosure agreement regarding what they see and hear on set. People who have leaked such details have been fired off projects for that very reason.
However, since this particular news item isn’t related to the show’s content, and I feel it may be of help to Diedrich to bring this to the attention of fans, I’m going to break news on this.
Last week, I had the opportunity to (briefly) meet Diedrich Bader on the set of Drop Dead Diva (Bader is guest starring in episode #103 of the show following the debut of the pilot episode July 12th on LifeTime). Most TV fans recognize Deidrich (FYI, his name is actually pronounced dee-trick) from his role as the hilariously dimwitted Oswald Lee Harvey on The Drew Carey Show, but cartoon fans and voice actor enthusiasts know him from his volume of work as a voice actor on such shows as Chowder, Grim & Evil, Kim Possible, The Zeta Project, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, Hercules, Gargoyles, and most recently as the voice of Batman on Cartoon Network’s hit show Batman: The Brave and The Bold.
As a fan of Batman: The Brave and The Bold, it was amusing to me to overhear him talking about the series to others on the set, because whether he was aware of it or not his voice would immediately go into character as Batman every time he mentioned it. And his enthusiasm for the series was very apparent, even going as far as to tell the show’s director that “it’s a great show” and encouraging him to “check it out.”
Late Thursday afternoon, Deidrich returned to set from a break and he was visibly upset about something, and I was within a few feet of him when one of the cast members asked him what was wrong. Following a call from his agent, he was furious to learn that they (Mattel) had cast a soundalike to record the voice of Batman for an upcoming action figure toy release, simply because Diedrich was out of town. Apparently, they informed neither Diedrich nor his agent about hiring a replacement — they just heard he was out of town and went ahead with casting and recording a soundalike.
Now, before fans go all “WTF?” and up in arms over this, let me emphasize that this is a fairly common thing with licensed products based on TV/film character properties. For example, Pat Fraley has filled in for Tim Allen as the voice of Toy Story character Buzz Lightyear for all manner of toy products, TV commercials and interstitials, and video games because Allen was either unavailable or unwilling to record them.
Furthermore, non-union soundalikes are often cast for projects like this because it’s a less expensive option for mass-produced products. And there’s not much the actor who voiced the character originally can do about it. It’s just the way it works in the biz sometimes.
Deidrich even stated that it “wasn’t really a big deal” because it was only for an action figure that they’d replaced his voice — it’s not like they recast him for the TV show. But he was mainly upset that they couldn’t have waited just a couple days until he was back in Los Angeles. That, and also that he wanted his son to have a Batman action figure which featured his voice, which I can completely understand and empathize with.
I doubt there’s much fans can do to help at this point since recording is likely already completed and on its way to be installed in chips for the action figures.
However, I do know that there was a tremendous outcry from Transformers fans over a soundalike being used to replace Peter Cullen as the voice of Optimus Prime for a helmet based on Prime’s head for the 2007 live-action movie. And it resulted in the helmet being re-released with Cullen voicing Prime.
If it worked in favor of Transformers fans, perhaps the same sort of outcry from Batfans could help Diedrich get a Batman action figure for his son which features his voice. I know if I were in his place, it would mean a lot to me too if fans called in to Mattel to complain about this on my behalf.
So, what say ye, Batfans? If you believe it’s a worthy cause, the phone number for Mattel’s Consumer Relations is 800-524-8697 (in the U.S. and Canada). Their standard business hours are Monday through Friday 9 AM – 7 PM (EST) and Saturdays 11 AM – 5 PM (EST). English, French and Spanish speaking agents are available, and hearing impaired support is available by calling 800-382-7470.
That being said, I’d like to share my thoughts about getting the opportunity to work on the same episode with Diedrich during production on Drop Dead Diva.
First off, he seems so much taller in person than he appears on TV. IMDb.com says that Diedrich is 6’2, but after meeting him in person I’d swear he was at least 6’4. And two different individuals who stood-in for him were also taller than 6’2. (Amusingly, I was actually asked to stand-in for him… or more accurately, to sit-in for him in one scene for the sake of convenience, and I’m barely 5’9.)
And he’s a terrific actor to watch. Besides knowing his lines perfectly and never once needing to be prompted, he was always well-prepared, courteous, friendly, and professional to a fault. He was also very funny as I expected he would be. I wish some of his ad libs he used during rehearsals had made it into the show.
Look for his guest appearance on Drop Dead Diva to air on Lifetime probably in early-to-mid August of this year.