Yeardley Smith

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Yeardley Smith
Yeardley Smith by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Yeardley Smith at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con International
Born Martha Maria Yeardley Smith
(1964-07-03) July 3, 1964 (age 50)
Paris, France
Citizenship American, French (dual)
Occupation Actress, author, voice artist, comedian, painter
Years active 1982–present
Spouse(s) Christopher Grove (1990–1992)
Daniel Erickson (2002–2008)

Yeardley Smith (/ˈjɑrdl/;[1] born Martha Maria Yeardley Smith; July 3, 1964) is a French-born American actress, voice actress, writer, comedian and painter. She is best known for her long-running role as Lisa Simpson on the animated television series The Simpsons.

She was born in Paris and moved with her family to Washington, D.C. in 1966. As a child, Smith was often teased because of her voice. She became a professional actress in 1982 after graduating from drama school and moved to New York City in 1984 where she appeared in the Broadway production of The Real Thing. She made her film debut in 1985's Heaven Help Us, followed by roles in The Legend of Billie Jean and Maximum Overdrive. She moved to Los Angeles, California in 1986 and received a recurring role in the television series Brothers. In 1987, she auditioned for a role in a series of animated shorts about the Simpson family on The Tracey Ullman Show. Smith intended to audition for the role of Bart Simpson, but the casting director felt her voice was too high, so she was assigned the role of Lisa instead. She voiced Lisa for three seasons on The Tracey Ullman Show, and in 1989, the shorts were spun off into their own half-hour show, The Simpsons. For her work as the character, Smith received a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance in 1992.

Alongside The Simpsons, Smith appeared in the sitcom Herman's Head as Louise, and had recurring appearances as Marlene on Dharma & Greg and Penny in two episodes of Dead Like Me. She has appeared in several films, including City Slickers, Just Write, Toys and As Good as It Gets. In 2004 Smith performed her own off-Broadway one-woman show entitled More at the Union Square Theatre in New York City. Aside from The Simpsons, Smith has recorded few voice over parts, only commercials and the film We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story. Smith starred in and served as executive producer for the independent romantic comedy Waiting For Ophelia, which had its world premiere at the Phoenix Film Festival in April 2009.

Smith was married to actor Christopher Grove from 1990 to 1992 and Daniel Erickson from 2002 to 2008. She enjoys writing and painting. During the first season of Herman's Head, Smith taught herself to paint by copying other artists. She released a children's book titled I, Lorelei in 2009 and her story The Race was included in the book Just Humor Me.

Early life[edit]

Smith was born Martha Maria Yeardley Smith on July 3, 1964 in Paris, France. Her father, Joseph Smith, worked for United Press International in Paris and moved to Washington, D.C., United States, in 1966, where he became The Washington Post's first official obituary editor.[2][3] Her mother, Martha Mayor, was a paper conservator for the Freer and Sackler Galleries at the Smithsonian Institution.[4] Smith's parents later divorced.[5] Smith labeled her family "upper crust and reserved".[6] As a child, Smith was often mocked because of her unusual voice.[7] Smith has stated: "I've sounded pretty much the same way since I was six. Maybe [my voice is] a little deeper now."[8] She made her acting debut in a sixth grade play.[9]

Career[edit]

Early career[edit]

Smith became a professional actress in 1982 after graduating from drama school.[9][10] After appearances in a number of school plays she joined the local Arena Stage theater group on an apprenticeship, featuring in their production of Peter Pan. She went on to star in several other plays in Washington.[9] She moved to New York City in 1984 and appeared in the Broadway production of The Real Thing alongside Jeremy Irons and Glenn Close.[7][11]

Her first film role came in 1985's Heaven Help Us.[7] She then played Putter in The Legend of Billie Jean. The film was a box office bomb and critically panned, although Smith "thought it would be the movie that launched my career. And then it was out at the box office about 10 days before it died."[8] When filming was over, she rejoined The Real Thing before being out of work for six months. Smith worried her career was over.[7] However, the following year she played Connie in Stephen King's Maximum Overdrive, noting it was "truly a dreadful film but I had a great part in it."[7]

She moved to Los Angeles, California in 1986 on the "semi-promise" of a part in a TV film.[2][7] After the audition the role was given to another actress. Smith realized "that people don't mean what they say. It's not malicious. They just don't realize how much impact they have on an impressionable actor — and all actors are impressionable." From then on, she decided to "just sort of build a wall around myself," to cope with the disappointment of not getting a part.[7] In Los Angeles, Smith appeared in theatrical productions of Living On Salvation Street, for which she was paid $14 for each performance,[10] Boys and Girls/Men and Women and How the Other Half Loves, and played the recurring role of Louella Waters on the Showtime series Brothers.[12] She appeared in the films The Legend of Billie Jean and Ginger Ale Afternoon as "trailer-park girls."[2] She later spoke of her regrets of appearing in the latter in her one-woman show More.[13]

The Simpsons[edit]

It's a happy fluke. When she was cast back in 1987, I just liked the sound of her voice. She's also a great actress. In general, people who make their living doing voices on cartoons aren't always great for us. Most cartoons want things peppy and cartoony. Yeardley is able to go through moments of great emotion and wring it for all she's worth.

Matt Groening on Smith's vocal style[7]

Smith's longest-running role is voicing Lisa Simpson on The Simpsons. She has voiced Lisa since 1987, beginning with The Simpsons shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show. Smith had initially been asked to audition for the role of Lisa's brother Bart, but casting director Bonita Pietila thought her voice was too high. Smith later recalled "I always sounded too much like a girl, I read two lines as Bart and they said, 'Thanks for coming!'"[10][14] Smith was given the role of Lisa instead. She denies rumours that she almost turned down the role, though admits she had never planned a career in voiceover work.[15] Pietila stated that, having seen her in Living on Salvation Street,[10] Smith was always her preferred choice.[7] Smith lifts her voice up slightly to perform the role.[10] Lisa is the only regular character voiced by Smith, although in some earlier episodes she provided some of Maggie's squeaks and occasional speaking parts.[16] Smith has only voiced characters other than Lisa on very rare occasions, with those characters usually being some derivative of Lisa, such as Lisa Bella in "Last Tap Dance in Springfield" and Lisa, Jr. in "Missionary: Impossible" (both from season 11 in 2000).[1] Smith spends two days a week recording the show.[17]

Until 1998, Smith was paid $30,000 per episode. During a pay dispute in 1998, Fox threatened to replace the six main voice actors with new actors, going as far as preparing to cast new voices.[18] However, the dispute was soon resolved and she received $125,000 per episode until 2004, when the voice actors demanded that they be paid $360,000 an episode.[18] The issue was resolved a month later,[19] and Smith earned $250,000 per episode.[20] After salary renegotiations in 2008, the voice actors received approximately $400,000 per episode.[21] Three years later, with Fox threatening to cancel the series unless production costs were cut, Smith and the other cast members accepted a 25 percent pay cut, down to just over $300,000 per episode.[22]

Smith at the Simpsons 500th Episode Marathon, February 2012

Despite her world famous role, Smith is rarely recognized in public, which she does not mind, saying "it's wonderful to be in the midst of all this hype about the show, and people enjoying the show so much, and to be totally a fly on the wall; people never recognise me solely from my voice."[20] In a 2009 interview with The Guardian she commented: "It's the best job ever. I have nothing but gratitude for the amount of freedom The Simpsons has bought me in my life."[17]

Smith received a Primetime Emmy Award in 1992 but felt it was not worth anything, saying "there’s part of me that feels it wasn’t even a real Emmy." The Emmy for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance is a Creative Arts and not handed out during the primetime telecast and, prior to 2009, was a juried award without nominations.[23] However, Smith says "if I had to be associated with one character in fiction, I will always be thrilled that it was Lisa Simpson."[23] The show's creator Matt Groening has called Smith very similar to Lisa: "Yeardley has strong moral views about her character. There are lines that are written for Lisa that Yeardley reads and says, 'No, I wouldn't say that.'"[7] Writer Jay Kogen praised her performance on the show, particularly in the episode "Lisa's Substitute", as able "to move past comedy to something really strong and serious and dramatic."[7]

Further career[edit]

From 1991–1994, alongside The Simpsons, Smith was one of the lead cast members in the sitcom Herman's Head as Louise.[9] Her other television roles include recurring appearances as Marlene on Dharma & Greg, and Penny in two episodes of Dead Like Me. Smith has also appeared in Phil of the Future and Teen Angel.[24] Her one scene role as pregnant checkout girl Nancy in 1991's City Slickers earned her "more attention than all [her] previous roles combined," and taught her that "that it's far better to have small parts in big movies that everyone sees."[8] In 1997, she appeared as Lulu the palm reader in the independent film Just Write.[8] Her other roles include parts in Barry Levinson's Toys and James L. Brooks' As Good as It Gets.[2] Brooks, who is also executive producer of The Simpsons, had cast Smith in his 1994 film I'll Do Anything (in one of the film's musical numbers) but her part was cut.[8] Aside from The Simpsons, Smith has recorded few voice over parts, only commercials and the film We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story. She "had a voice over agent for about two years, and I used to go out [on auditions] all the time, but it never really came to anything. Everybody said, 'Oh Yeardley, you'll clean up,' and that was definitely not the case."[7]

In 2004 Smith performed her own Off-Broadway one-woman show entitled More at the Union Square Theatre in New York City. Directed by Judith Ivey,[25] the play is about her mixed feelings over the success of The Simpsons, her parents, her relationships and her struggles with bulimia.[2][23] The New York Times critic Margo Jefferson called it an "appealing if overlong show", adding that "The career narrative needed shortening. This would involve some editing and revising but wouldn't taint the best parts of More. It is refreshing to hear a celebrity talk cleanly about being fame-driven and about not getting the degree or the kind of fame you craved. It's fun to watch a skilled actress use her craft to the full."[25] She would later perform the play for three weeks in Los Angeles the following year.[26]

Smith starred in and served as executive producer for the independent romantic comedy Waiting for Ophelia, which was released in 2009. She funded the film, which was written by Adam Carl and based on a stage play he wrote in 2003. She said: "I loved it. I never get to play parts like that. I always play the friend of a friend, never the lead. And the script surprised me." Carl stated it was very unlikely she would recoup her money, but Smith decided she "believe[d] in this project, and my expectations have already been fulfilled by making the movie", and added: "You can support art even if it's not going to make a zillion dollars."[17] It premiered on April 4, 2009 at the Phoenix Film Festival.[27]

In 2011 Smith starred as Ms. Miller in the movie The Chaperone alongside Triple H and Ariel Winter.

Personal life[edit]

Smith married English-Canadian actor Christopher Grove in 1990. They were divorced in 1992, citing irreconcilable differences.[28] She married Daniel Erickson in 2002; the marriage lasted for six years and Smith filed for divorce on May 21, 2008, citing once again irreconcilable differences.[29] In a 1997 interview with The Daily Targum, Smith stated "I am shy, but I have an extroverted persona which I can draw on when I need to," and that she is a "private" actress.[8] In 2009 she commented that, "People have said to me that I'm unassuming. It's true, I'm the worst celebrity ever. But I'm trying to become better."[17] Smith had bulimia since she was a teenager. She noted "It would make me high, I would feel endorphins and this great sense of victory."[6][11]

She enjoys writing and painting. During the first season of Herman's Head, Smith taught herself to paint by copying other artists.[8] The book Just Humor Me includes a story, "The Race", written by Smith.[8] She has written a children's book, I, Lorelei, which was published by HarperCollins in February 2009.[30]

In 2011, she launched a women's shoe line called Marchez Vous.[31]

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Year Film Role Notes
1985 Heaven Help Us Kathleen
The Legend of Billie Jean Putter
1986 Maximum Overdrive Connie
1987 Three O'Clock High Cheerleader
1989 Listen to Me Cootz
Zwei Frauen Karen
Ginger Ale Afternoon Bonnie Cleator Credited as "Yeardly Smith"
1991 City Slickers Nancy
1992 Toys Researcher Miss Drum
1993 We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story Cecilia
1996 Jingle All the Way Woman who hits Howard with her purse[8] Uncredited
1997 Just Write Lulu
As Good as It Gets Jackie Simpson
2002 Back by Midnight Veronica
2007 The Simpsons Movie Lisa Simpson
2009 Waiting for Ophelia Caitlin O'Malley Awaiting release; also executive producer
Miracle of Phil Holly Awaiting release
Tug Mom Post-production
2010 High School Teacher Cameo Appearance
Virginia Mrs. Whitaker
2011 The Chaperone Ms. Miller
New Year's Eve Maude
Spork Ms. Danahy

Television[edit]

Year Series Role Notes
1984 ABC Afterschool Special Jenny Episode 13.4: "Mom's on Strike"
1984–1989 Brothers Luella Waters Appeared in 46 episodes
1985 The Recovery Room Jill TV film
1986 Tales from the Darkside Betty Ann Cooper Episode 2.23: "Fear of Floating"
Mama's Family Bonita Rokeke Episode 3.13: "Where's There's Smoke"
1987 Square One Television (Mathnet) Jane Rice-Burroughs Appeared in four episodes
Episode 1.2: "The Problem of the Missing Monkey"
1987–1989 The Tracey Ullman Show Lisa Simpson The Simpsons shorts
1988 CBS Summer Playhouse Paula Bennett Episode 2.17: "Tickets, Please"
1989 Murphy Brown Phoebe Cramer Episode 2.5: "Miles' Big Adventure"
1989– The Simpsons Lisa Simpson Main cast member; longest-running role
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance
1990 Sydney Tracy Cole Episode 1.8: "The Me Nobody Knows"
42nd Primetime Emmy Awards Lisa Simpson TV special
1991–1994 Herman's Head Louise Fitzer Main cast member; appeared in 32 episodes
1991 Sesame Street Lisa Simpson One episode; Celebrity Monster in the Mirror
1992 Likely Suspects Unnamed character Episode 1.11: "Am I Not Your Stiff"
1994 Empty Nest Sally Episode 7.3: "Just for Laughs"
1997 Toothless Gatekeeper TV film
Smart Guy Mrs. Rawlings Episode 2.5: "Dumbstruck"
Teen Angel Miss Gross Episode 1.8: "Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog"
1997–2002 Dharma & Greg Marlene Appeared in 17 episodes
1998 Sports Night Malory Moss Episode 1.4: "Intellectual Property"
1999 Nash Bridges Stevie Strong Episode 5.9: "Crosstalk"
2001 Last Dance Unnamed character TV film
2003 Becker Ruby Episode 5.19: "Ms. Fortune"
2004 Dead Like Me Penny Episodes 2.12: "Forget Me Not" and 2.14: "Always"
2005 Phil of the Future Mrs. Teslow Episodes 1.18: "Double Trouble" and 1.20: "Corner Pocket"
Strong Medicine Real Estate Agent Episode 6.5: "Dying Inside"
2009 Mad Men Nurse Episode 3.5: "The Fog"
2010 The Big Bang Theory Sandy Episode 3.14: "The Einstein Approximation"
The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special – In 3-D! On Ice! Herself
Lisa Simpson
TV special
2012 FOX 25th Anniversary Special Lisa Simpson TV special
2013 Hot in Cleveland Margaret Episode 4.21: "Corpse Bride"
2014 Family Guy Lisa Simpson Episode 13.1: "The Simpsons Guy"

Video games[edit]

Year Game Role
1991 The Simpsons Lisa Simpson
1996 The Simpsons Cartoon Studio
1997 Virtual Springfield
1999 The Simpsons Bowling
2000 The Simpsons Wrestling
2001 The Simpsons: Road Rage
2002 The Simpsons Skateboarding
2003 The Simpsons: Hit & Run
2007 The Simpsons Game
2012 The Simpsons: Tapped Out

Music videos[edit]

Year Song Role Artist
1990 "Do the Bartman" Lisa Simpson Nancy Cartwright

Theme park[edit]

Year Ride Role
2008 The Simpsons Ride Lisa Simpson

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Smith, Yeardley. (2005). Commentary for "Missionary: Impossible", in The Simpsons: The Complete Eleventh Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  2. ^ a b c d e Gates, Anita (March 17, 2004). "Lisa Simpson's Voice Steps Out on Her Own". The New York Times. Retrieved October 26, 2008. 
  3. ^ Pickle, Betsy (February 26, 1992). "Two in one. Yeardley Smith is behind Lisa Simpson, but up front on 'Herman's Head'". The Knoxville News-Sentinel. 
  4. ^ Smith, Martha. "Hunting for Old Paper with James McNeill Whistler." The Book and Paper Group Annual. v16 (1997). American Institute for Conservation. Accessed August 2, 2011.
  5. ^ Bernstein, Adam (January 19, 2006). "J.Y. Smith, 74; Raised Standards for Post Obituaries". Washington Post. Retrieved April 3, 2009. 
  6. ^ a b Vogt, Heidi (April 5, 2004). "'Lisa Simpson' turns insecurities to laughs". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. p. 3. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Michion, L. W. (Spring 1992). "Yeardley Smith Confesses: I Love Lisa". Simpsons Illustrated Magazine 1: 20–23. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i Dalin, Nancy E. (January 23, 1997). "Ms. Smith goes to Springfield". The Daily Targum. 
  9. ^ a b c d Freeman, Paul (November 20, 1994). "Local actress finds a voice in 'Simpsons'". The Washington Times. 
  10. ^ a b c d e Miranda, Charles (December 8, 2007). "She who laughs last". The Daily Telegraph. p. 8E. 
  11. ^ a b Dziemianowicz, Joe (March 18, 2004). "A Homer Town Girl". New York Daily News. Retrieved April 3, 2009. [dead link]
  12. ^ "Brothers on Showtime". TV Guide. Retrieved April 3, 2009. 
  13. ^ Hernandez, Ernio (January 19, 2005). ""The Simpsons" Actress Yeardley Smith Brings Her More to Los Angeles". Playbill. Retrieved May 24, 2009. 
  14. ^ Carroll, Larry (October 26, 2008). "'Simpsons' Trivia, From Swearing Lisa To 'Burns-Sexual' Smithers". MTV. Retrieved July 29, 2007. 
  15. ^ "Life as Lisa Simpson". 3 News NZ. May 24, 2013. 
  16. ^ Smith, Yeardley (2007). Audio commentary for The Simpsons Movie (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  17. ^ a b c d Marks, Lisa (January 16, 2009). "From Springfield to Tinseltown". The Guardian. Retrieved February 16, 2009. 
  18. ^ a b Glaister, Dan (April 3, 2004). "Simpsons actors demand bigger share". The Age. Retrieved February 10, 2009. 
  19. ^ "'Simpsons' Cast Goes Back To Work". CBS News. May 1, 2004. Retrieved February 10, 2009. 
  20. ^ a b Sheridan, Peter (May 6, 2004). "Meet the Simpsons". Daily Express. 
  21. ^ "Simpsons cast sign new pay deal". BBC News. June 3, 2008. Retrieved February 10, 2009. 
  22. ^ Block, Alex Ben (October 7, 2011). "'The Simpsons' Renewed for Two More Seasons". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 15, 2011. 
  23. ^ a b c Vogt, Heidi (April 4, 2004). "She’s happy as Lisa Simpson, although she’d like more d’oh". The Spokesman-Review (Associated Press). 
  24. ^ "Development update – July 12–13". The Futon Critic. July 13, 2004. Retrieved April 3, 2009. 
  25. ^ a b Jefferson, Margo (March 25, 2004). "Theater review; What Do I Want? It's Just One Word". The New York Times. Retrieved April 3, 2009. 
  26. ^ Heffley, Lynne (2005). "Local hero". Los Angeles Times. 
  27. ^ Harter, Jess (March 31, 2009). "Stars come out for Phoenix Film Festival". East Valley Tribune. Retrieved April 21, 2009. [dead link]
  28. ^ Smith, Lori (May 23, 2008). "People: Cameron Diaz gives a hair-raising scene". Denver Post. Retrieved April 3, 2009. 
  29. ^ "'Simpsons' actress files for divorce". Jam! Showbiz (Canadian Online Explorer). 23 May 2008. Retrieved March 8, 2009. 
  30. ^ "Yeardley Smith". FoxFlash. Retrieved April 21, 2009. 
  31. ^ "Yeardley Smith". MarchezVous. 

External links[edit]