Growing up, Yeardley Smith was often bullied for her distinctive voice. She never imagined that one day, it would make her career. While auditioning for TV pilots in Los Angeles, she was recruited by an agent who eventually cast her as Lisa Simpson in The Simpsons.
"Voiceover was kind of slumming it," Smith says of the industry, in a new Inc. video. What Smith didn't know during those long days in the small recording booth was that The Simpsons was destined for massive success. Originally aired in bumper segments during The Tracey Ullman Show, The Simpsons took over the full 30-minute timeslot when The Tracey Ullman Show was canceled. According to Smith, many people doubted The Simpsons would ever make it past the first season.
But of course, the show exploded. Viewers fell in love with the characters and the series has been a pop culture phenomenon for three decades. But despite its success, the actors behind the beloved Simpsons remained more or less anonymous.
"The producers really wanted the animated characters to exist as much in their own right as almost three-dimensional beings," Smith says. "It was really a situation where I was a fly on the wall watching this phenomenon take place, and nobody knew I was in the mix."
In addition to a lack of exposure, Smith was initially paid very little, as was typical for voice actors at the time. She and her co-workers fought hard during their Season 9 contract negotiations to win adequate compensation. Ultimately, the fans' love for The Simpsons characters was too strong to risk losing the voice actors, and the union agreed to raise their pay.
"I am really proud of what we did. I was proud that we didn't get everything we wanted, but we got more than they wanted to give us," Smith said.