Thursday, September 21

Emmys 2017: Alumna portrays, grows alongside ever-evolving Bart Simpson


Alumna Nancy Cartwright has been voicing Bart Simpson since the creation of the animated sitcom "The Simpsons" in 1989. Cartwright's performance as Bart has earned her a nomination in the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance. (Creative Commons photo by voicechasers
via Wikimedia Commons)

Alumna Nancy Cartwright has been voicing Bart Simpson since the creation of the animated sitcom "The Simpsons" in 1989. Cartwright's performance as Bart has earned her a nomination in the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance. (Creative Commons photo by voicechasers via Wikimedia Commons)


UCLA alumni and faculty have lent their acting, writing and directing talents to several series nominated for the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards. Contributing to nominations in categories such as Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Limited Series, Bruins have showcased their skills in both acting and production as parts of the casts and the crews.

Bart Simpson used to spend his time antagonizing his sister and throwing up candy by sticking his finger down his throat.

However, UCLA alumna Nancy Cartwright said during the 28 years she has voiced Bart on “The Simpsons,” he has evolved from an ill-mannered menace into a boy capable of sensitivity toward others.

“He has changed,” Cartwright said. “It’s been an evolution, you know, finding out who this family is and who this kid is.”

Although Bart’s character may have evolved from purely obnoxious to slightly sensitive, Monica Gil, vice president of Cartwright’s production house Spotted Cow Entertainment, said Cartwright’s voice for him has not changed in the time she has known her.

“It’s almost like Bart is innate to her,” Gil said. “It’s who she is. It’s part of her. That voice is Nancy Cartwright.”

[Related: Video: TFT professor discusses animating for ‘The Simpsons’]

And after almost 30 years of experience in voice acting, Cartwright has been nominated in the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance. Cartwright previously won a Primetime Emmy award for the same role in 1992.

Cartwright first began performing as Bart at the age of 32 after she moved to Los Angeles from Ohio in 1978. The show’s history of almost three decades has created many happy memories for Cartwright, including the show’s Hollywood Walk of Fame star debut and multiple guest appearances, which include celebrities such as Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep and 50 Cent.

However, Cartwright said her favorite moments were the show’s table reads, where the cast would convene to read an episode’s script out loud together for the first time. Table reads marked the first time writers got to hear what they had been working on come to life, she said.

“For the actors, it’s not so much of a rehearsal for us as it is a read through for the writers so they can make changes,” Cartwright said. “It’s still, after all these years, such a blast to be at the table read.”

Peter Kjenaas, who writes and produces with Cartwright at Spotted Cow Entertainment, said Bart’s evolution into a more mature character from his days as the mischievous prankster has, in a way, paralleled Cartwright’s evolution as an actress over the years.

“I have noticed that she can deliver any of the voices in a blink of an eye,” Kjenaas said. “There’s no more thought process that goes into something like that. Her acting chops have grown in her developing other characters.”

In addition to voicing Bart, Cartwright has also voiced Chuckie from “Rugrats” and Rufus, the naked mole-rat from “Kim Possible.” Kjenaas said Cartwright’s ability to perform such a wide range of roles in a compelling manner sets her apart as a voice actress.

Bart’s character, however, has been at the center of Cartwright’s success at the Primetime Emmy Awards. In 1992, six voice actors from “The Simpsons,” including Cartwright, were honored by a jury of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for their voice-over performances, marking the first time the category was acknowledged in the awards show.

Although just an honor at the time – from 1992 to 2008 a jury decided which actors to honor for voice acting – in 2009, voice-over performance became its own category, with winners chosen by traditional voting.

Cartwright said she thinks the Academy introduced the award after witnessing the success of “The Simpsons” because the sitcom was the only prime-time animated show on television and faced no competition in its initial years, she said.

“I’m assuming that because the show was such a hit, and because there was no voice-over category, they came up with this idea of a juried award that was presented to us by a board of governors,” Cartwright said. “We were actually given an Emmy, each of us, because we set a precedent that some time in the near future, there probably will be a category.”

This year, she stands against five other nominees who have voiced characters for competing shows including “Bob’s Burgers” and “Family Guy.”

“I’m completely thrilled and honored that I’ve been nominated,” Cartwright said. “I look at (the other nominees’) work and that tickles (me) to be part of this elite group that got selected.”

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Devjani is the assistant editor for the Theater Film and Television beat of A&E.


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