How do you get to be a creative person? You live in the moment, follow your instincts. Make unexpected choices. That’s how Nancy Cartwright, a fully grown female adult, ended up playing the role of a 10-year-old boy. A role she is still playing, 29 years later.
Yes, Nancy Cartwright is the voice behind Bart Simpson.
The producers had called her in to read for the role of Lisa, Bart’s younger sister. But the audition materials for Bart sat on the stand right next to Lisa’s. Cartwright read them and they resonated with her. The unexpected choice paid off.
I spent 90 minutes with Cartwright today, listening to her interview on James Altucher’s podcast, She told Altucher story after story about her career as an actress. Practically every one featured an unexpected choice that led to success.
Unexpected choices strike gold
And she’s a writer, too. The screenplay she and a writing partner worked on for something like 20 years has finally become a movie, In Search of Fellini. The New York Times called it “a charming drama”—but of course the first sentence of the review identified Cartwright as the voice of Bart Simpson. It’s loosely based on a real-life quest Cartwright engaged in, traveling to Italy to meet filmmaker Federico Fellini and convince him to sell her the rights to one of his movies. She wanted to adapt it for the stage.
I can’t tell you whether she succeeded in her quest—I haven’t seen the movie yet. But I can tell you that the stories she told revealed that making unexpected choices can yield gold. Like the first person she met in Italy—a homeless man feeding pigeons in a park. Cartwright chose to engage him in conversation (fortunately he spoke five languages, since she knew no Italian). And he turned out to have acted in one of Fellini’s films.
I think Cartwright’s stories struck a nerve for me today because I’ve been thinking about creativity and the courage it takes to follow through on it. Nancy Cartwright is a great example of someone who seems to embrace creativity at every turn. Even when she’s scared. Even when she’s doing something she’s never done before.