The second Yeardley Smith starts talking, I am transported back to my childhood home, watching The Simpsons on the couch with my mom, dad, and brother. We looked like our own version of the eponymous family staring at the TV in the show’s iconic opening credit sequence, which is fitting since Lisa Simpson is, in part, how my parents settled on my first name when I was born.
Lisa Simpson will be eight years old forever, but Smith’s voice has given the character life for the past 30 years. In that time, Lisa has developed a sizable fanbase and been adopted by some as a feminist icon.
“I’m always surprised. I never take it for granted,” Smith told Jezebel about Lisa’s devoted followers.
“I have the guy who is wearing a suit who said, ‘I’m a financier and Oh my god, Lisa Simpson changed my life,’ the young people who find themselves not necessarily knowing where they fit with their peer group, as Lisa Simpson often finds herself, to women who say we love that she is a feminist icon to young girls who say ‘I took up the saxophone because of Lisa Simpson.’ It really runs the gamut and I love every story about how and why Lisa Simpson has inspired you.”
Her sound is distinctly Lisa, but Smith works hard to establish her own voice through other onscreen roles, although she still has to compete with dated Hollywood standards.
“I do think that there are still a lot of stories being told where white men are the stars,” Smith said. “They’ve dominated my industry for a very long time. Are we just not being exposed to those creators that are writing stories about people who are not also white men? And if that’s true, how do we solve that problem? Nicole Kidman, for instance, is on the cover of Vanity Fair this month and she talks about the incredible camaraderie of all the women on Big Little Lies and what a revelation that was. And I think she’s 51 years old now, and 10 years ago that used to be the age where you put out to pasture. I still think it’s the age where you’re often put out to pasture. I’m 54 and I hardly work at all. Now don’t cry for me, I still have Lisa Simpson and I love my job but at the same time I don’t do a lot of on camera stuff now. People don’t ask me to.”
Instead, Smith has found success outside of The Simpsons primarily with her true-crime podcast, Small Town Dicks, co-hosted by Zibby Allen and anchored by two twin detectives, Dan and Dave.
“I was a true crime fan before we started the podcast. But more than that, it wasn’t so much true crime as even as a kid, I was such a rule follower. That’s how Lisa Simpson and I are quite alike. So I remember as a kid, I was like, ‘Who are these kids who are willing to play hooky? I would never do that,” Smith said. “What are these barriers and how do you decide?”
For more of what Smith had to say about her podcast and lasting legacy of Lisa Simpson, watch the video above.
Producer: Lisa Fischer; Editor: Joon Chung