'Futurama': Why Lauren Tom's Character Became 'Softer'

'Futurama': Why Lauren Tom's Character Became 'Softer'

12/02/2020

Futurama may have had a hard time getting ratings during its initial run on TV, but the show will go down as one of the funniest primetime animated TV shows of all time with a dedicated fan base that brought it back from cancellation.

The show featured strong writing, great voice performances, and distinctive characters. What fans may not have realized, though, is that two of the characters had radically different personalities while the show was in development. Let’s take a closer look at how Lauren Tom’s character of Amy was made a bit softer, and which Futurama character she switched personas with. 

What was the premise of ‘Futurama?’ 

Developed by Simpsons creator Matt Groening, Futurama was an animated comedy first featured on Fox with later episodes airing on Comedy Central.

According to IMDb, the show focused on a pizza guy named Philip Fry (referred to as Fry on the show). Fry is cryogenically frozen on December 31, 1999. He wakes up 1,000 years later and goes to work for one of his descendants’ interplanetary delivery businesses.

Along the way, he falls in love with the ship’s captain Leela, a cyclops. 

The show had a huge cult following, though its initial ratings didn’t quite match its fanbase. Futurama was canceled after five seasons on Fox and then revived for five more on Comedy Central. The fact that the show went away and came back was a testament to its clever writing, hilarious dialogue, and well-drawn comedic characters.

The cast of the show was a huge source of strength as well, as it had some seriously talented voice actors on hand. 

The main characters of ‘Futurama’

As something of an ensemble animated comedy, Futurama featured multiple funny characters, including: 

  • Fry: the lead of the show, Fry is the dim-witted but likable protagonist voiced by famed voice actor Billy West. 
  • Bender: a wisecracking robot voiced by another veteran voice actor, John DiMaggio. 
  • Leela: voiced by actor Katey Sagal, Leela often played the straight woman to Fry and Bender’s antics while also serving as a voice of reason. 
  • Professor Farnsworth: Technically Fry’s exponentially great-nephew, the decrepit Farnsworth runs the delivery service (and was also voiced by West). 
  • Hermes: Depicted by yet another veteran voice actor in Phil LaMarr, Hermes is the company’s accountant. 
  • Amy: another employee of Planet Express, voiced by Lauren Tom. 

The show also featured a litany of hilarious side characters as well. What really helped it stand out, however, is the excellent voice cast. There were at least two roles envisioned quite differently than how they ended up. 

Why Lauren Tom’s character became ‘softer’

In a video for People Magazine, the cast of Futurama provided some insight into how they came together. Tom, the cast member who portrayed Amy, spoke about her experience as the creators developed her character. According to her, the character had much more of an edge to her to begin with: 

“The concept for Amy originally was that she was supposed to be a very tough….a car mechanic…that’s not really my persona that I put out…they made Amy a little bit softer and free with her love, let’s put it that way. And then they made Leela the tougher one, when Katey Sagal came on.” 

It’s interesting to think what a wildly different dynamic the show would have had if they went with the original plan. Part of the reason why the Leela-Fry relationship is so effective is that they’re opposites. Fry is a stumbling, bumbling fool, even if he is well-meaning. Leela is confident and tough, which contrasts well with Fry. 

The chemistry between the characters of Leela and Fry is part of what made Futurama great. Amy’s character (and Tom’s great voiceover work) worked stupendously in a supporting role. But swapping out Leela and Amy’s personalities would have made it an entirely different show. 

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