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Yeardley Smith has been voicing Lisa Simpson for three decades, and the actress says she’s learned a lot from the 8-year-old saxophone prodigy.
“I like to say Lisa Simpson is who I wish I were,” Smith told TODAY. “One of the things I admire most about her is her utter resilience. And she has a fantastic, wicked sense of humor.”
“One of the best things about playing Lisa Simpson is that she is so beautifully and fully fleshed out that I feel like she exists very much in her own right, like an actual three-dimensional person,” she added. “And it really has been an enormous honor to imbue her with heart and soul, to be 33 and a third percent of the creation of this fantastic little girl. When people say, ‘What's it like to play a character that people look up to, that people aspire to?’ I never, ever, ever take it for granted.”
Smith particularly appreciates Lisa’s ability to resonate with kids who are different, or “don't really know where they fit in socially.”
“When people come up to me and say, ‘Lisa Simpson has given me the confidence to be who I am, to be who I really am,’ it doesn't really get better than that,” she said.
While the high-achieving second-grader doesn’t always see eye to eye with her bumbling dad, Smith says the moments between Lisa and Homer are among her favorites.
“You have two such very different personalities figuring out a way to meet in the middle and have a better understanding of each other,” she said. “And the writers write that so beautifully. There is always a wonderful, emotional catharsis where both Homer and Lisa are made better for that pairing.”
As for Lisa’s most quotable moment, Smith said, “There is a great episode where we visit ‘Itchy & Scratchy’ Land, which was sort of a parody of Disneyland. And she drinks the water in what would be the ‘Itchy & Scratchy’ version of ‘It’s a Small World.’ And she sort of goes psychedelic and says, ‘I am the lizard queen.’”
When the long-running animated sitcom eventually comes to an end, there’s one thing Smith hopes won't change.
“Lisa Simpson is 8, and every time she has a birthday she turns 8,” she said. “So the idea that somehow when the series is over Lisa will be a little bit older is folly, and I think she should stay 8 for all time. Now we do flash-forwards; she has, for instance, been president. And I think that would be a good place for her to be.”
Yeardley Smith is also co-host of the true-crime podcast “Small Town Dicks.”