Why D.W. On 'Arthur' Was Always Voiced By Boys Jason Szwimer once voiced the sassy sister on the long-running kids show Arthur. He's now hosting the podcast Finding D.W. and reaching out to others who voiced the character when they were boys.

A New Podcast Explores Why 'Arthur' The Aardvark's Sister D.W. Was Voiced By Boys

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

"Arthur," the PBS program about an aardvark and his friends, is the longest-running animated children's show in the United States.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ARTHUR THEME SONG")

ZIGGY MARLEY: And I say, hey. Hey. What a wonderful kind of day.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And there's one character full of sassy one-liners who has become somewhat of a pop culture icon.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ARTHUR")

JASON SZWIMER: (As D.W.) Hi, I'm D.W. Read, Arthur's smarter sister.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Dora Winifred, D.W. for short, is Arthur's snarky, younger foil. Over the years, she's been voiced by an array of actors, exclusively young male actors, including Jason Szwimer. He played the part of D.W. from 2002 until 2006.

SZWIMER: I saw it as this kind of fun, after-school activity. I loved going into the studio. I loved, you know, stepping into D.W.'s shoes and kind of being goofy and saying all those fun lines and yelling at Arthur. And it was all just very fun for me.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ARTHUR")

SZWIMER: (As D.W.) It's everyone else who's no fun. They should all be more like me. Move over.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And now Jason Szwimer is returning to the cartoon character he first played at the age of 10 in the form of a podcast called "Finding D.W."

SZWIMER: You know, I haven't always felt very proud of it. I often have gone years where I've just sort of shied away from having played D.W., but now I'm just leaning completely into it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Szwimer interviews other actors who played the role. He also talks with casting directors and people who helped the Arthur books come to life on TV. He says it's helped him find some answers about why D.W. wasn't voiced by young girls.

SZWIMER: Basically, I've heard all my life that the reason why D.W. is voiced by male voice actors is because D.W. is a tomboy. But I don't think that's true. I think that the reason why is much simpler than that. I think that the casting and voice director on "Arthur," Debra Toffan, cast a boy at first, an actor named Michael Caloz, who happened to have a certain gruffness that they wanted D.W. to have. And after that, they just wanted to match that voice.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Szwimer says working on his podcast has given him a greater understanding about children's television programming and Arthur's place in it.

SZWIMER: It might sound silly, but I didn't realize how important the connection was between Marc Brown, the creator of "Arthur," and Fred Rogers, Mr. Rogers. Fred Rogers was something of a mentor to Marc Brown, and the two of them both placed a heavy emphasis on making sure that the content they were making for children was intelligent, would teach kids about having empathy for others and the importance of expressing one's emotions and the importance of mental health.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And Szwimer says he's coming to terms with playing Arthur's kid sister, though he's not fully sure why D.W. resonates with people as much as she does.

SZWIMER: I mean, I think she's often framed as being kind of bratty and annoying, and I do think that she received some hate because of that.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ARTHUR")

JODIE RESTHER: (As Francine) Hey, D.W.

SZWIMER: (As D.W.) Francine, can I ask you a question?

RESTHER: (As Francine) Sure. Anything.

SZWIMER: (As D.W.) Why don't you go back to your own house and stop bothering us?

SZWIMER: But I have a lot of fondness for D.W. And I think she's a really good role model to girls, but honestly, to all viewers. I really think that, you know, we should all be that brash, and we should all be that fearless when we have an opinion.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Jason Szwimer of Toronto.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ARTHUR THEME SONG")

MARLEY: It's a simple message, and it comes from the heart. Believe in yourself, for that's the place to start. And I say, hey. Hey. What a wonderful kind of day. If we can learn to work and play, and get along with each other. Hey. What a wonderful kind of day. Hey. What a wonderful kind of day. Hey.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As Arthur) Hey, D.W.

SZWIMER: (As D.W.) Hey. Whoa.

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