Will The Real Peppa Pig Please Stand Up — An Interview With Harley Bird
“Could you imagine if Peppa could get to sing at Coachella?” This is Harley Bird, 17, the snorty, chipper voice of Peppa Pig since 2009. She is about to release the first Peppa Pig album (lead single: “Bing Bong Zoo”), having just attended Coachella herself.
The same week, Australian rapper Iggy Azalea had tweeted an aggressive pitch to collaborate with the toddler icon, writing, “Collab with me now or you’ll end up a breakfast special peppa.”
Peppa, as you will see, has fans the world over.
I recently spoke to Harley Bird by voice message and email on behalf of the many children in my life obsessed with the muddy-puddle fanatic. When my nephew Bryson turned 3, he had one request for his birthday party: Peppa Pig. It made sense given that he watched basically nothing but Peppa Pig and uttered exclamations like "we're going on hollidae!" as his parents packed for a beach trip. But as my brother and sister-in-law planned the gifts and decorations, they ran into a hiccup. Anything made for "boys" didn't feature Peppa in her rain boots — it featured George, the dinosaur-toting little brother, and a secondary character in the show, if we’re being honest.
The Peppa Pig merch machine is like no other — Peppa-Pig-edition Hunter rain boots are the latest offering — but Bird doesn't view Peppa as the one-dimensional ploy that toy and product manufacturers seem to. In fact, she believes one thing deeply about Peppa: she's "for everyone."
There are lines to say, but it's how you say them that actually makes Peppa.
Bird has been performing as Peppa since she was 5 — before she could sight-read the script. She was the third actor to take the job playing the cheeky pig, and has been the sole voice of Peppa in the 12 years since. Few actors work so long as one character, but when it comes to voiceovers — especially on a children's show — it seems an especially profound run. Bird has moved from childhood to adolescence as Peppa, and it almost seems like she should've "outgrown" the precocious snorting pig a long time ago. But that's not the way Peppa's world works — she never turns 5, the sun never keeps from its yellow wiggling for long, and George never learns to speak more than a few words.
It's also not the way Bird works.
"When I was younger, I felt very close to Peppa. I love it when she is a little bit cheeky, but innocent at the same time," Bird tells me. "I have grown up with Peppa, and we share the same personality.”
And the longer she works on the show, the better she understands the ~essence~ of Peppa: “There are lines to say, but it's how you say them that actually makes Peppa."
Likewise, it's how you view the antics and story of Peppa that makes a fan — not the fact that you're watching a cartoon of a tiny girl pig. I'm a 31-year-old woman, and when my 5-year-old Alice requests to watch Peppa Pig, I rejoice. Peppa Pig is funny, and it's smart. There are jokes meant for parents (my god, the sassiness of Mummy Pig will never not make me feel seen), there are deadpan lines from the children where literally all the music in the background stops (Bird tells me her favorite lines are when Peppa says "Oh Daddy!" in a "sarcastic way, and when Peppa says 'silly Daddy!'"), and of course there is just the simple glee of a character whose favorite thing is jumping in muddy puddles.
Peppa is taken very seriously by audiences the world over. Earlier this year, thousands petitioned for the show to add a same-sex family. (The families on the show are grouped by species — wolf, sheep, zebra — and arranged in hetero pairings, though the accents do vary.) For her part, Bird says it brings her own family together.
"When we watch Peppa at premieres and my dad is with me, you can often hear him sniggering," Bird says. "I think they have made Peppa for children, but cleverly Mark [Baker] and Nev [Astley], the creators, also know a lot of adults will be with their children when watching it, so there are a few jokes for the adults as well."
It's the reason a clip of Peppa Pig hanging up the phone on her BFF Suzi Sheep went viral. "I like Suzi Sheep," Bird says of that particular #mood. "Peppa and Suzi are best friends, but also very competitive with each other. I like it when Peppa puts the phone down on Suzi when Suzi can whistle and Peppa couldn't do it."
And it's the reason why all children, even little boys, can relate to a girl pig in a red dress who frequently sings BING BONG BING at the top of her lungs.
Peppa isn't a perfect character. She makes mistakes. She drives her parents bonkers (remember when she and George deleted all of Mummy Pig's manuscript and replaced it with their computer-game scores by accident?), she's bossy, and she trusts her instincts. She has what all of us want in our children — confidence — and that extends past little girls.
It's really cute that some American children speak in an English accent.
When my nephew went to his first year of school — a pre-preschool, as it were — he proudly picked a new lunchbox featuring Peppa Pig. "I remember he really, really wanted a Peppa Pig lunchbox," my sister-in-law tells me, "so we got him one and it was hot pink. He carried it so proudly to his little K3 class until someone told him it was pink and glittery and that it was for girls. Broke my heart."
I ask Bird what she would tell a little boy who loves Peppa, but finds that all of his options as they relate to the show feature George (who, quite honestly, has like two words he says over and over, in amongst bouts of "waa-haa"), she answers simply: "Peppa is for everyone."
It's for children all over the world, and no, the global impact of Peppa has not gone unnoticed by the voice of a generation. "It's really cute that some American children speak in an English accent," Bird says, alluding to the "Peppa Pig effect."
“I think it’s ‘Mummy’ and ‘Daddy’ they have been saying,” she says of the U.S. children imitating a British 17-year-old imitating a 4-year-old pig. Meanwhile, “I’ve been practicing my American accent recently and spend hours watching American shows to help me with this.”
According to Bird, her show is for kids of all gender identities, and for teenagers like Bird who many would deem too old to enjoy Peppa Pig. Twitter is full of teenagers professing their love for the show, and Bird has no plans to give up her role as the sweet pig — much like my nephew has no plans to become Team George over Team Peppa. Rather, she is thinking ahead.
I think this should be a number one album, could you imagine?
When I ask her what she's most excited about for the upcoming season of Peppa Pig, Bird says she likes "the festival episodes" (I assume by “festival” she means “county fair,” and not a Peppa-land version of Coachella), but it's the new Peppa Pig album she's "really, really excited for."
"I can't wait to see what people think of this," Bird says. "I'm going to America with my family a few days after its release, so it will be fun to hear what the American children think." She tells me the song "Big Balloon," one many children already know by heart, "starts the same, but then has new verses. It's sooo good. It's a song that you hear once and then keep singing all day." And like Peppa in general, she's sure both kids and adults will love it.
"I think this should be a number-one album, could you imagine?" Bird says.
It's just extra proof that Peppa is more than just a cartoon — she's a frame of mind. She is loud and unapologetically herself. She finds joy in the little things, like muddy puddles, and heartbreak in the little things, like not being able to whistle. She is all of us.
And for Bird, she always will be.
"I still relate to Peppa, I'm a cheeky child at heart." 💜