When Yeardley Smith was asked to represent her show, The Simpsons, at a mural unveiling event in Springfield, Oregon in 2014, she declined.
“The joke is that I really will do anything for my show but I didn’t really want to do it,” said the iconic voice of Lisa Simpson. But after a bit of begging from producers and a confirmation that the appearance would include security detail, Smith, who had dealt with stalkers, changed her mind.
Meanwhile, when the captain of the Springfield Police Department surveyed a room full of detectives to volunteer for a special assignment, no hands shot in the air. “I looked around the room at the other detectives, including my twin brother. It was summertime and I thought, let these guys have time with their families since they all have children. I’m single and I don’t have any children, I can do this,” explains Dan Grice, who acquiesced and took the assignment, one that changed both of their lives.
On June 11, Smith and Grice were married at their Los Angeles home. While comparisons to the classic 1992 film The Bodyguard starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner are obvious, their love story also features two people who had sworn off settling down as Smith was still recovering from her second divorce while Grice had fully committed himself to career goals and demanding detective work.
“I get a giggly feeling when I think about it because Dan didn’t want to go to this event and I didn’t want to go to this event but something bigger than us was like, ‘no, no, listen, you two are going to meet and it’s going to work out. You just have to have faith,’ ” said Smith. “We’ve seen it in movies and you always wonder, wouldn’t it be great if life was like that? Sometimes it is.”
Days after the nuptials, the glowing newlyweds joined The Hollywood Reporter on Zoom to recap their romance from the initial spark at the airport to navigating a long-distance relationship, as well as the other big collaboration in their lives — the true crime podcast, Small Town Dicks, which they co-host along with Dan’s twin brother, Detective Dave.
Take me back to The Simpsons event in 2014. How did the chance meeting come about?
SMITH The city of Springfield, Oregon, where Dan worked as a detective in the violent crimes unit, decided in 2014 that for the 25th anniversary of The Simpsons, they would honor the show with a mural on the sides of a downtown building because Matt Groening is from Portland, which is nearby. Instead of doing it on their own, they went through 20th Century Fox and Fox said that they would help design it and send painters, and when it came time, someone from the show would come up for an unveiling. They were like, “Hooray!” Our showrunner Al Jean was going to be the guy to go to Springfield for the day but then two weeks before the event, he couldn’t make it because The Simpsons was gearing up for three days at the Hollywood Bowl in September of that summer.
It was supposed to be similar to what they did for Looney Tunes with the Hollywood Bowl orchestra playing the score live underneath the screen but James L. Brooks said, “Oh, no, no, no. I want this to be a big deal with singing, dancing and guests.” A show had to be written and Al couldn’t make it to Springfield. They came to me and asked if I would go unveil the mural but I said no.
Why did you say no?
SMITH The joke is that I really will do anything for my show but I didn’t really want to do it. They came back and said, “Oh, please? Somebody has to go.” They explained the deal —the event was on a Monday morning and because there was only one direct flight from L.A. to Eugene, Oregon, across the highway from Springfield, I would have to fly in on Sunday night. Out of curiosity, I asked about security because my vision of it would be me on an apple box with the first person in the front row literally an arm’s length away. That’s exactly what it was. I eventually said I would go and they came back a few days later and said they would assign a plain-clothed detective from the Springfield Police Department. That was Dan.
Dan, when you got the call that a very important member of The Simpsons family was coming to town, what were you thinking? Did you get calls like that often?
GRICE I’d gotten that type of call exactly zero times. Every morning, the detectives in our department — there were nine of us in the detective pool — would have a briefing starting at 7:30 a.m. Sitting in my normal place with a cup of coffee, our captain — who ended up becoming police chief — said he needed a volunteer for an assignment. Anytime someone said they needed a volunteer, you just knew it probably wouldn’t be any fun and quickly, nobody raised their hand. I looked around the room at the other detectives, including my brother. It was summertime and I thought, let these guys have time with the families since they all have children. I’m single and I don’t have any children, I thought I can do this.
The captain said it was Yeardley Smith. Her name rang a bell but it wasn’t until later that morning that I got a printout with her photo. I saw it and knew exactly who she was because I remember her from The Legend of Billie Jean and Maximum Overdrive. I didn’t know that she happened to be the voice of Lisa Simpson.
They gave me an itinerary and it included picking her up at the airport. I called up a buddy who worked for the neighboring police department. His beat included the airport so I said, “Hey, I got assigned this detail. What can you do for me?” He offered to bring me past security so that I could meet her at the gate. Apparently, she had some stalkers in the past and that was a concern so it was right in my wheelhouse. Everything worked out well that day and I was able to show up right at the gate and be there waiting for her when she walked out. But she was completely oblivious.
SMITH Nobody ever meets you at the gate anymore so I was completely thrown off and walked right past him. He said, “Ms. Smith?” I didn’t catch his name or let him take my bag, I just charged on ahead. I didn’t even stop at the restroom and I really had to pee but I was so thrown and flummoxed being out of my element. I collected myself by the time I got to the bottom of the escalator.
GRICE Whenever she tells this story she always mentions the bag but that wasn’t on the menu that day. I’m not a chauffeur, I was only there to make sure that she was safe and I happened to carry some instruments that I have to keep my hands free for. It never occurred to me to take her bag. It was a slow day at the airport and as we were walking, we started to chit chat and the first thing I noticed were her shoes. She had these beautiful shoes on.
SMITH I was wearing shoes from my own shoe line. I had a shoe line for about five years that I used to make the shoes in Italy. So, I was wearing these pretty baller leather booties with appliques and cutouts. They’re quite beautiful.
GRICE After seeing her shoes, then it occurred to me, Dan, you should probably take her bag and be a gentleman. After we got downstairs and past the security checkpoints, there were fans waiting for her to sign things. At that point, I took her bag and watched her as she did what she does best. She’s incredible with her fans and I sat back and admired. When it was over, I loaded her into my unmarked patrol car. I figured she would sit in the back but she asked to sit up front.
Why did you sit in the front?
SMITH I didn’t want to be a snotty, entitled celebrity. I was so flummoxed when I got off the plane but by then, I realized, “get your fucking shit together, Yeardley.” Here is somebody who is gracious and is doing something incredibly generous. I wanted to chat with him so I sat in the front seat. I don’t know. … There was just something about Dan’s quiet confidence. He was so in charge without being overbearing in any way, shape or form. He was respectful without being fawning. He was not overly impressed by me and I really admired his sense of self-assurance.
It was about a 23-minute ride from the airport to the hotel and during that time, I found out if he was married, divorced, had any children or a girlfriend. The answer was no, no, no, no. At the time, I was traveling a lot for my shoe line and I was always alone, which is not my jam. Some people love it. It’s really not my thing. I was always eating alone, too, so I asked him where I should eat. He gave me a couple of recommendations and as he dropped me off because I hadn’t caught this name, I asked, “What should I call you?”
He said, “Call me Dan.” I remember thinking, “I wonder if he would have dinner with me?” I thought, “of course he would, you’re the job.” But I didn’t ask so I ate dinner by myself. Meanwhile…
GRICE I went to my brother’s house. At the time, we lived in the same neighborhood — so close I could hit a golf ball to his house. We were chatting and I told him [about Yeardley], that she was really interesting and attractive. I then asked if he wanted to go to dinner that night. I suggested a restaurant by her hotel, in the chance that she would end up going to one of the places I suggested. Of course, she didn’t walk in there, but she walked past the place where my brother and I went and I didn’t notice her. I didn’t know that until the next day when she told me where she had gone.
SMITH Meanwhile, Dan asked Dave if he should text me to ask if I wanted to eat with them and Dave said, “No, you shouldn’t do that. doesn’t want to hang out with two knuckle-dragging cops.” But I wish that he had. Anyway, the next morning, Dan arrives at my hotel with a woman from the city council who had arranged the event. I’m waiting downstairs and after he asked where I had dinner, I told him that I almost asked him to dinner but before he could answer, the woman from the city council comes running around the car and shoves me in the backseat to give me the run of the show.
Then it came time to, you know, shake hands and kiss babies which I was more than happy to do. … The event was packed and we had the best day. The fans were incredible and it was a beautiful, sunny day.
When it came time for the return flight, how did the brief rendezvous end?
SMITH After the event, Dan pulled the car around and they shoved me in the back seat. I told him to pull over once he got around the corner and I would get in the front seat. While we were on the way, he said that he could come wait with me at the gate since I had an hour to go until my flight. He was able to get past the gate again and while we were waiting, I learned that he played professional baseball for six years.
That’s impressive. As you’re learning all these things about him, I imagine by that point the spark has been lit?
SMITH Yes. He was telling me that he had just gone to Singapore to coach an ex-pat team of kids for this clinic that his friend runs. Dan and Dave went there with their dad and he told me he had this picture of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, the one you see in all the James Bond movies but he can’t find it. So, I gave him my phone number and said, “When you find it, text me the picture.”
SMITH I’m pretty smooth. By the time I land, he texted me that picture. Dan’s actually a really good photographer. I thanked him for waiting at the gate and told him that I thought he was really interesting. He texted back, “I think you’re really interesting, too.” At that point, I thought we were done because how are we going to start a relationship being 850 miles away.
Meanwhile, a quick backstory: I had been divorced from my second husband for six years at that point and I had not dated. I was, like, forget it. I’m done. [The divorce] pretty much brought me to my knees and I thought I would never meet someone again. It took me a really long time to get my bearings again. Dan, a month prior, had a conversation with his dad telling him that he was never going to get married.
Why did you say that, Dan?
GRICE I had finally gotten to a point where I was really content. I had set some goals with my job and I really wanted to dedicate myself to work. The previous relationships that I’d had while working in law enforcement never worked out. I just didn’t know that there would be a chance to be with somebody who I could come home to after seeing terrible things happen during the day and have a conversation where they would be willing or interested to hear how it affected me. In previous relationships, it hadn’t been like that. They’re wonderful people and they are a part of my history. It was great while it lasted but just not meant to be.
How did you get from those “I think you’re interesting” texts to seeing each other again?
SMITH A week later, I’m in Los Angeles, and Dan texted to say, “I really wish you’d asked me to dinner,” which was so sweet. We kept texting and then we started to talk on the phone. Because I’m a person who leaps and then looks, I said, “Hey, why don’t you come down to Los Angeles?” for [The Simpsons] dates at the Hollywood Bowl. He said that he would love to come, and then I asked, “Where are you staying?” Then there was a long pause. I said, “Oh, God. Oh no. Shit, did you think you were going to stay with me?” I had to explain, listen, I am divorced again and that was too much for me at that point. He sort of chuckled and asked if I had a mother-in-law’s house or something, meaning my little guest house. But he ended up getting a really nice hotel and, unbeknownst to me, broke the bank for the next six months.
He arrived at 9 a.m. on a Friday and we had planned to meet for coffee but they changed my rehearsal time so I couldn’t have coffee with him. I didn’t end up seeing him until later that night after the show. I stuffed him a box at the Bowl with a bunch of my friends. He’s so nimble and genuinely lovely that I was getting texts from my friend, “Oh my god, he’s so great!” Dan really held his own and I was very, very impressed, again, that he was just himself. He didn’t try to impress anyone. He’s engaged but not overbearing and I think that’s one of his superpowers.
After that, over time, I had more flexibility than he did so I commuted up to Oregon for about the next two and a quarter years, almost every other weekend. During that time, I would just sit on the sofa and Dave would come over from his house a block away and they would download their days. It was, like, holy shit, are you kidding me? That’s how the idea for the podcast came up, in late 2016, early 2017. Our former co-host thought it should be Dan and Dave telling stories and we tried that, but boy did it not work. There’s something to be said for having someone who isn’t in the profession and who is not afraid to ask the questions. There’s great value in that.
GRICE Dave and I were both concerned with the tone and we couldn’t, in good conscience, talk about these cases and not give them the reverence and respect they deserve. There will be spots for humor but that’s not going to be the focus. We wanted to honor the victims and be respectful of their families. That’s the podcast that we have today. It was very important for both of us that Yeardley act as the mediator for Dave and I talking about these cases, along with the other [detective guests] we have on.
Aside from getting swept off your feet by a real-life detective, how did you feel about the true crime genre?
SMITH I really just sort of thought that I liked the good guys to win. In a lot of what we see on true crime television, the police prevail and justice is served. That was my very naïve view of how it all goes down. To hear these stories in such granular detail with all the frustrations and how perfectly everything needs to line up in order to achieve justice was really striking. These stories need to be told by the people who investigated the cases because it brings authenticity, immediacy, and a level of detail and emotion that you wouldn’t get otherwise. One of my jobs, sitting on the other side of the table, is that I always want to know how you do what you do and why you do it. If you are a person who, every time you leave your house, someone might kill you, where does that live inside of you? How do you go home and be a father, a mother, a sister, a friend? My respect for Dan and Dave and law enforcement, when it’s doing the job the right way, really expanded.
Dan and Dave are the heart and soul of this podcast, and we’re almost five years old come August. We’re entertaining how to expand because we didn’t want to grow too fast, too soon. We have some good things in the pipeline and now that people are back in theaters, we’re going to do some live shows in the fall.
Back to the love story. What was the next step in your relationship?
SMITH I fell pretty hard and fast. I will say, though, that the hardest thing was the commute. Because of Dan’s line of work, he was able to compartmentalize quite brilliantly. I was much less good at that. The separation was agonizing for me. We are 11 years apart — Dan is 11 years younger — and he was 12 years into being a detective. If he had been 23 years into being a detective and I was 30 years into my career, that would be a much different story. He could retire and get his whole pension and that would’ve been a much easier equation, in some ways. But because show business is so unstable, to be honest, I had to have a conversation with him after two years. I told him that I could never move [to Oregon] because I have to do my work from here. But I also really respected his work and how good he was at it, and I respected the bond he shares with Dave. I love him so much and knew that my bond with Dan would never trump that. I didn’t want to get in between them and I wasn’t sure how to solve the problem. So, he took a week to make a decision. It was the longest week of my life. It felt like forever.
How long after the decision to move here did you get engaged?
SMITH Two years. We got engaged in August 2018 and we were engaged for four years. We were going to get married in March 2021, and then it was July 2021. Because of COVID, it got pushed again to June 11 of 2022. There were about 60 people at the ceremony and we ultimately said, listen, we get it. Everyone tested beforehand but we told our guests that if they were still nervous about COVID, no hard feelings, stay home. But if you’re not nervous, please come because it’s going to be a great party and good god, we’ve all waited so long for this.
How was the big day?
SMITH It was amazing. It was my favorite wedding yet. (Laughs.) I was the most present for this one. I’m going to be 58 in July and there’s something to be said for having a little bit of wisdom after all this time and two divorces. Nobody can say that we rushed into it. It felt really natural and really lovely. I had a terrific time, which I feel like not every bride can say.
Dan, this was your first and only wedding, capping off a bit of a fairy tale for you — meeting and falling in love with a celebrity, moving to Los Angeles and starting a new life. What has it all been like for you?
GRICE There was an adjustment. The thing I had going for me when I moved here was that I had her as a lead blocker for learning how to handle Hollywood. Not that I really have to deal with it but when we go out and people recognize her, that can lead to some awkward interactions with fans. A lot of people have grown up watching her and sometimes their body starts acting before their mind catches up. I watch that and be mindful of potential threats because I still live in that space a little bit.
I was going to ask about that. Considering how you met, does that ever switch off?
GRICE It’s pretty intertwined. I like to think that I would handle myself with the greatest poise but if somebody got aggressive or physical, I would go into papa bear mode and I will protect her, no matter what.
Dan, Yeardley said some lovely things about you. What made you fall for her?
GRICE She’s got one of the biggest hearts that I’ve ever encountered. She’s incredibly generous. That first drive from the airport to her hotel, I remember as she was interrogating me, I looked over at her in the passenger’s seat and she gave me this smile. I mentioned this in our wedding vows, but at that moment, her eyes captured me and I really look back on that as the moment she kind of owned me. But there are so many other things. The fact that she embraced my brother. I think she’s incredibly sexy and when I saw her at the Hollywood Bowl, she was wearing this little red dress and it’s my absolute favorite.
SMITH Meanwhile, the red dress doesn’t fit anymore but it’s a great dress.
Do you still own it?
SMITH I sure do.
GRICE So, just everything. I was unaware of what the Human Rights Campaign did until I met Yeardley and learned how closely she worked with them to help overturn Prop 8. A few years ago, when they honored her, I was able to be there and listen to her acceptance speech. Above all, every day she amazes me. She does something that surprises me and makes me open my eyes a little wider. I’m just smitten.
I love this. It’s such a beautiful love story that’s more than just a bodyguard story come to life. It’s about two people who had sworn off setting down yet still found a way to get together. What have you learned about love and marriage through each other?
SMITH I often say that I’m sort of in awe, amazed and get a giggly feeling when I think about it because Dan didn’t want to go to this event and I didn’t want to go to this event but something bigger than us was like, “no, no, listen, you two are going to meet and it’s going to work out. You just have to have faith.” When you meet, say yes and give 110 percent and that’s all I need you to do. We’ve seen it in movies and you always wonder, wouldn’t it be great if life was like that? Sometimes it is.
Interview edited for length and clarity.