For over thirty years, actress Yeardley Smith has provided the voice for Lisa Simpson, one of the most beloved characters on the longest-running scripted primetime series in television history: The Simpsons.
On this week’s episode of D23 – The Official Disney Fan Club’s Inside Disney podcast, hosts Candice Valdez, Jeffrey R. Epstein, and Sheri Alzeerah chatted with Yeardley Smith to discuss her fascinating career and what the character of Lisa Simpson means to her after all this time. In the bullet-point list below, I’ve selected some of the most interesting tidbits and factoids to come out of this conversation. Enjoy!
- She talks about moderating The Simpsons panel at D23 Expo 2019 and how she wore a tiara because she believes Lisa Simpson should become a Disney princess.
- When she heard Disney was purchasing Fox’s entertainment holdings, she thought it was great. She talked about the series Herman’s Head from the 90s, which was co-produced by Disney’s Touchstone Television. “Disney really is the gold standard, and I’m not just saying that because I’m on a Disney podcast.”
- She says The Simpsons is “the only animated show in town” that still records with the cast together in one room. She credits this “radio play” process to producer James L. Brooks. But due to the pandemic, they’ve been doing their table reads over Zoom with 60+ people and they were recording the episodes individually at home. Smith has a separate “speakeasy” building from her home that she uses for best audio.
- During the lockdown, Yeardley has been binge-watching The Mandalorian. She loves it and can’t wait for the second season.
- After 30 years, she says she has an undying love and respect for Lisa Simpson as a character. What keeps her interesting and fresh is that she has evolved spiritually and internally over the course of the series. “She wants to leave the world a better place than she found it.”
- For a long time she wasn’t allowed to play random crowd members on the show because the producers thought her voice was too distinctive. This made her worry that she doesn’t have a lot of range.
- In this upcoming season, she’s excited for an episode in which she guest stars as herself, co-host of the true-crime podcast Small Town Dicks. “For The Simpsons to put their stamp of approval on something that you’re doing outside of the show is massive, so I was enormously chuffed by that.”
- Another upcoming episode guest stars Benedict Cumberbatch playing a parody of The Smiths’ lead vocalist Morrissey. Bret McKenzie (of Flight of the Conchords and The Muppets fame) wrote the music for this episode. Smith says the songs are incredible and Lisa has a couple of great lyrics.
- The 700th episode is coming up in March, guest starring comedian Stephen Fry as a spy who thinks Grampa Simpson is part of a spy ring. Olivia Colman and JJ Abrams are also guest starring in future episodes.
- People still ask her to record voicemail messages and personal messages as Lisa Simpson, but she shies away from it because she feels she’s not that great at improvising as the character. Strangers also come up to her and hug her in the supermarket.
- Going back to D23 Expo, she loved being in front of all the Disney and Simpsons fans. She felt quite comfortable there, but in moderating these types of panels she wants everyone in the audience to leave having learned something they didn’t know before. It gets more difficult every year because the show is so familiar to everyone. She tries to prepare more questions than they could possibly need for the panel.
- She enjoys doing signings for the fans as well and hearing what the show means to them. “That never gets old. You can’t put a price on that.”
- “Who would Homer’s favorite Disney character be?” “He might think of himself like the prince in Beauty and the Beast, but I’m not sure the world would regard him in that way. Probably more like Goofy.” She says some of her favorite episodes center on the relationship between Lisa and Homer. She adores working with Dan Castellaneta.
- “What would Marge pick as her favorite Disney movie?” “My very first thought is Cinderella. She has two wicked sisters, and she seems to sail through adversity with enormous grace.”
- “What would Bart’s favorite Disney Parks attraction be?” “He probably loves the Matterhorn. I’m sure he loves Space Mountain. He wants something that’s going to shake you up.”
- “What would Maggie’s favorite Disney toy be?” “Building blocks. I’ve never seen her be that interested in dolls.”
- “What is Lisa’s favorite Disney song?” “There are so many great ones. Maybe [‘Part of Your World’] from The Little Mermaid or ‘Let It Go’ from Frozen. There’s a tremendously empowering message in that anthem.”
- The final question was for Yeardley herself. “What is your favorite Disney memory?” “I’m such a fairy tale person. I always loved the story of Cinderella. I love to dress up, I love the idea that there is a happy ending.”
The Simpsons airs Sunday nights on FOX and older episodes are available to stream on Disney+ and Hulu. To listen to the Inside Disney podcast, be sure to visit the official D23 website.