Peppa Pig debuted in the U.K. and Australia in 2004, and has been on Nick Jr. in the U.S. for the past eight years. The cartoon was voiced by two other actors before the producers found Harley Bird (that’s her stage name).
Gill Riley, Bird’s mom, realized her daughter had a dramatic flair, so she found an agent for her. “She was just a little quirky, little bit different and she definitely had something about her,” Riley explains.
Bird was just 5 when she landed the role in her first-ever audition. “I just sounded like a pig — that’s it,” says Bird. “I couldn’t really read at all — I mean, I was five.”
Along the way, she learned to read … and to snort like a piggy. (Click here to see her switch into her Peppa voice.) More than a decade later, she now has to change her voice to sound younger, higher and more kid-like. She says it’s getting to be more of a struggle, and at some point she probably won’t be able to keep it up. “My voice still is changing,” she says. “There probably will be a point when I’m going to have to pass the pig.”
In addition to playing Peppa, Bird has some other notable entries on her resume: She has a black belt in kickboxing, she works at the village pub and Prince William once waved to her. She’s studying for her A levels to get into university, and would like to become a casting director. Bird acted in the 2013 movie How I Live Now, had a small part on TV’s Doctor Who and starred in the Disney series So Sammy. As Peppa, she won a prestigious BAFTA Award when she was just 9.
She seems surprised to learn that some critics call out the show for fat-shaming Daddy Pig. And she’s only heard bits and bobs about the news that Peppa Pig is considered a subversive symbol in China.
“I don’t really have anything to say about it,” says Bird, adding that Peppa is “such an innocent thing, that for it to be made into anything more is a tiny bit ridiculous.”
Bird doesn’t take her singing too seriously either, and jokes about performing at Coachella as Peppa Pig. She’s super excited about a shoutout she got from rapper Little Nas X. “He was tweeting something about doing a collab,” she gushes. “I am so in with that. Definitely. I mean, I’m in America. Find me. Let’s collab!”