For 22 seasons and counting Yeardley Smith has delighted TV audiences as bubbly brainiac Lisa Simpson on The Simpsons. Aside from her studies at Springfield Elementary, Smith has maintained a variety of side projects including a theatrical one-woman show [off-Broadway’s Yeardley Smith: More in 2004] and guest spots on Mad Men, The Big Bang Theory and the upcoming rom-com New Year's Eve. Now Smith is back on stage in the fashion-centric off-Broadway hit Love, Loss and What I Wore. Broadway.com caught up with the actress to talk about her own experiences with clothing (including her new life as a shoe designer) and why you shouldn’t ask her to imitate Lisa on the street.
What clothing would you talk about if you had to contribute your own fashion memory to Love, Loss and What I Wore?
I would probably talk about bathing suits and what a monkey fuck shopping for one is! [Laughs.] I’ve resorted to thinking outside the box. I love a bathing suit with a little bit of a skirt because I have a biiig behind and small waist. I’ll wear a bikini, but it has to have that skirt to cover the most egregious part of my thighs.
We hear you're about to launch your own shoe line, Marchez Vous. What made you decide to try your hand in the fashion field?
My manager and I were on a plane and he asked me, “What are you passionate about?” and I replied “Shoes,” so he said, “Why don’t you start your own shoe line?” Literally four days later he hooked me up with someone in apparel, Ben Cornwell, who’s now my business partner, and he said, “Bring in some shoes and we’ll talk.” I think he thought I’d be another celebrity who doesn’t actually want to do the designing and he could just hook me up with a designer and broker the licensing deal. I said, “Ohhh no, that’s not how I roll.” So I brought in 40 pairs of shoes and told him what I like and what I don’t.
How would you describe the shoes you've designed?
There are no beautiful and comfortable shoes in my closet. And I have lots of shoes. It’s asinine and insulting. So the directive is that I will design beautiful and remarkably comfortable shoes. I’ve learned that ‘comfort’ is a really bad word in the shoe design industry. That’s stupid! I refuse to play by those rules. The shoe industry is like, “Who are you? What is your deal?”
Uh oh! Doesn’t sound like you’re making friends there!
Well, a lot of secret admirers, actually, saying, “Go! Go! Turn the industry on its ear!” It’s a very close knit community and truthfully we’ve been extraordinarily welcomed, but perhaps eyed with a little bit of suspicion as well.
As if you weren’t busy enough, you’ll also be participating in the reading of Dustin Lance Black’s new Prop 8-themed play, 8. Why is the piece important to you?
I’ve been a huge contributor to overturn the Prop 8 campaign. I met Dustin Lance Black when I produced his directorial debut movie, and he’s one of the loveliest people you’ll ever know. It literally leaves me speechless that we are still arguing over this and it’s still an issue.It’s such a basic human right and so nobody’s business.
And then you’ll follow that up with the romantic comedy New Year’s Eve!
My cute little scene is with Josh Duhamel. His car breaks down and we pick him up in an RV and encourage him to go find the girl [he’s in love with]. Everybody in the world is in the movie. I don’t know how they even got them all to do this. It’s like a giant episode of The Love Boat.
Well, you must be used to famous folks after all those guest stars on The Simpsons. Now that you’re a fashion expert, what are you’re thoughts on Lisa’s signature red dress and pearls?
I think Lisa does an extraordinary job of hanging on to her true self even though it brings her a certain amount of agony. She never has any friends. Lisa has never expressed any interest in fashion. All of our writers, with the exception of two, are men, and I don’t think they express any interest in fashion. I think Lisa is their alter ego. She’s who they were in school. She also has a bit of me, although I was not exceptionally bright.
When Simpsons fans approach you about their favorite episodes, are you able to remember the nearly 500 shows you've done?
It’s mostly a blur. It doesn’t really matter if I remember…what’s more important is that they have the satisfaction of expressing what that episode meant to them. You just need to let them have that space and trust that [whatever joke they’re referencing] probably did happen.
What’s the most bizarre fan encounter you’ve ever had?
I saw a picture of a guy with a huge tattoo of Homer on his stomach. What surprises me is that people on the street will ask me if I can leave a voicemail [in Lisa’s voice] for their friends. It’s like, no actually, that’s my job. It’s like asking a lawyer, “Hey I have a legal issue, mind coming over to my house and settling it?” I gently say, “I don’t do that, but I appreciate your enthusiasm.” Sometimes they take it well, sometimes they don’t.
What are some of your favorite episodes?
I have about 10 of them. The one in season two where Dustin Hoffman play Lisa’s substitute teacher is wonderful. I love the hockey episode where Bart and Lisa face off on other teams. I think [the writers] do the sibling rivalry especially well and I love it when Lisa is put in a situation she’s not comfortable with. I really believe the last five years have been very strong. I don’t know where they got that resurgence of energy, but it astonishes me.
Would you like to do another Simpsons movie?
I’d love it. It took so long for us to do the first one that I think everyone was nervous that we’d shot our wad. We kept saying, “We’re releasing a movie after 18 seasons? Is anyone going to go see it?” And then it was phenomenally successful, so I hope they’re working on another one. I don’t think it will take another 18 years.