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Simpsons casting director chosen Expat Finn of the Year

Bonita Pietila, a name familiar to every Simpsons fan, was in Finland this week to accept an award for Expatriate Finn of the Year from the Finland Society. Pietila has worked for The Simpsons television show for 26 years, and as the original casting director, she was responsible for finding the voice actors for the series, including the now-iconic voices of Bart, Homer and Marge.

Video: Tv-sarja Simpsoneiden pääroolittaja Bonita Pietilä kuuntelee suomalaisjulkkisten ääniä.
Watch the video to see Simpsons casting director Bonita Pietila cast some of contemporary Finland's most famous voices as Springfield characters. Video: Yle

Bonita Pietila’s grandparents originated in Finland and she grew up the United States surrounded by Finns.  

"Having grown up in a Finnish household as I did - I am a hundred percent Finn - I think you learn to take care of yourself. You’re very self-sufficient. As I tell people, I think if I had to build a house I probably could," she says.

Her connection to the Simpsons began in 1987 on the Tracey Ullman Show, where Pietila was working as a casting director. Comic illustrator Matt Groening had created an animated family to star in short animations to fill in between the show’s sketches. Pietila was charged with finding voice actors for each of the family’s characters. Many of the actors chosen were already familiar to Pietila from other jobs.  

Pietila hired Nancy Cartwright to voice the main character of the family’s son Bart, as Cartwright had done several little boy voices in the past. Dan Castellaneta’s tenor became the voice of Homer Simpson for financial reasons, as Pietila says Groening’s budget was so tight they needed someone who could do several different voices in addition to Homer’s.

As part of an interview this week on Yle’s Tähtihetki programme, Pietila was asked to assign a Simpsons role to several of Finland’s most famous voices. Pietila good-naturedly joined in the game, assigning Simpsons roles for Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, his wife Jenni Haukio, outspoken ice hockey persona Juhani Tamminen and evergreen songstress Paula Koivuniemi.

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