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Last Updated: Friday, 30 July, 2004, 13:40 GMT 14:40 UK
Voice of Bart Simpson steps into limelight
By Keily Oakes
BBC News Online entertainment staff

The Simpsons is one of the longest running TV programmes in history, now running in to its 16th season.

But Bart, the colourful boy who tears up the town of Springfield, has never grown older than 10.

The Simpsons
Bart has remained a 10-year-old boy for 17 years
The distinctive voice behind the troublesome child is Nancy Cartwright, who can slip in an out of Bart mode effortlessly.

She also provides the voice for many well-known cartoon characters, including Chuckie in the Rugrats, but she is best known as the voice of the yellow-skinned ever-rebel Bart.

Cartwright, 46, enjoys the freedom that playing such a great role gives her - she can walk down the street without anyone recognising her except die-hard fans.

"I'm a popular mum at my kids school doing impressions of Bart. I must have said 'eat my shorts' about a billion times," she joked.

Although she has been an integral part of the show since The Simpsons began as a 30-second sketch on The Tracy Ullman show in the late 1980s, the way the cartoon is recorded leaves her lots of free time to explore other avenues.

Movie of the week

One of these side projects is her one-woman show, My Life as a 10-Year-Old Boy, at the Edinburgh Festival from 6 August.

The play puts into a theatrical context her journey over the past 17 years playing the part of Bart and other characters including Nelson and Ralph.

A number of The Simpsons ensemble have gone on to have big screen careers, including Hank Azaria who voices Moe and Chief Wiggum.

Early in her career, Cartwright was an on-screen actress in a number of US "movie of the week" weepies.

Nancy Cartwright
Nancy Cartwright enjoys the anonymity of playing Bart
But Nancy is more than happy keeping her face off-camera, enjoying the fact she can turn up for work in whatever she likes.

"It's the best job in the world," she said.

Cartwright said a typical recording schedule for The Simpsons would see the voice actors receiving the script just the night before shooting.

The ensemble then gather around a table at the studio for the read through, working solidly for four to six hours to complete just 15 minutes of dialogue.

The producers work on at least five episodes at once because of the huge time-scale required for the animation, taking six to eight months to get an episode in the can.

Cartwright put the success of The Simpsons down to the fact that it works on so many levels, with humour that appeals to young audiences while subtle subtexts are "got" by adults.

News that one of the regular characters will be revealed as gay broke while Cartwright was in the UK and came as a surprise to her.

"We have not recorded that one yet and I do not know about it."

She joked that it could be the wimpy Millhouse who comes out of the closet during one of the rare "see into the future" episodes.

Cash cow

Asked if she was interested in the long-mooted Simpsons film taking off, she said "you bet".

But she added that because the series was such a time-heavy production the film would not get underway until the series ended, which could be a while because in business-terms it was such a "cash cow".

Her talent for voices was noticed at a young age, when people would say to her even at the age of seven that she had an "interesting voice".

She was even mistaken for a boy on one occasion, despite insisting she was not even a tomboy.

During her one-woman show she will talk about the guest stars who take part in the show.

Although there have been more than 350, from Meryl Streep to Tony Blair, only a handful of them make into the studio at the same time as the regular actors.
Nancy Cartwright
Nancy Cartwright took over the voice of Chuckie from the Rugrats

"My daughter will never forgive that I didn't get to work with 'NSync when they recorded an episode."

To the often-asked question which are her favourite episodes, she replies: When Bart Sells his Soul, Bart the Mother and Lisa's Substitute.

The Simpsons ensemble were recently involved in protracted salary negotiations with producers, something Cartwright feels uncomfortable talking about.

"They put our salaries in the papers and its shocking to people how much we get paid," she said.

But she said that although negotiations can be a "emotionally difficult" time it is about business.

"I'm glad we are back to work and there will be more series," she added.

Simpsons to reveal gay character
28 Jul 04 |  Entertainment

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