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'Daria' turned 20 today. We're celebrating its history and legacy with its deadpan star.by Chris Serico
Hollywood#nostalgia

WATCH | March 3 marks the 20th anniversary of the premiere of MTV's "Daria." Rather than standing on your neck, Circa is celebrating the series' history and legacy with the show's deadpan star, Tracy Grandstaff, and co-creator, Susie Lewis.

Seen here at a mini-reunion of "Daria" staffers in 2010, Grandstaff (second from left) and Lewis (third from left), chatted with Circa this week about the history and legacy of the cult TV series.

In the mid-'90s, Grandstaff had been an MTV staff writer who was asked to voice a deadpan character on a show spun off from a cartoon about two frog-baseball playing dimwits.

Also voicing Cassandra, Stewart's mom and other eclectic characters on "Beavis and Butt-Head," Grandstaff told Circa she considers that series' creator, Mike Judge, a "genius" with an "incredible, creative mind."

Collaborating with them on "Beavis and Butt-Head" were Susie Lewis and Glenn Eichler, who later teamed up to create the spin-off series that revolved around "Daria."

Lewis and Eichler created a Show Bible, complete with character descriptions and sketches of Daria.

Grandstaff affectionately described Daria as the "poor man's Janeane Garofalo."

A Show Bible synopsis sums up the main character as a "cynic, not just a sitcom smart-ass," representing "the upbeat, fun, pro-active side of teen nihilism."

WATCH | Once Lewis and Eichler fleshed out the supporting roles, "Daria" was greenlit and premiered on March 3, 1997. Here's its infectious opening title sequence, complete withthe "la-la-LA-la-la" refrain you'll be singing for the rest of the day.

We had a lot of fun. It was a funny show with a lot of funny people, so all that laughing made all the hard work worth every second.

Susie Lewis, "Daria" co-creator

Lewis has fond memories of her "Daria" days.

Tongue-in-cheek ideas for Daria's Season 2 looks included:

  • Sideburns
  • Breast implants
  • A unibrow
  • The "Rachel" hairdo from "Friends"

Season 3 premiered with another daring idea: a musical episode. Grandstaff told Circa surviving that was her greatest "Daria" moment, because "in the choir of life, I am the choir member that the choir director assigns to serve water to the choir."

She said, 'This is gonna sound weird but you sound a lot like Daria.' She and I became good friends and keep each other sane to this day.

Tracy Grandstaff, voice of Daria

Daria's speaking voice may be even more distinctive, yet Grandstaff maintains only one person has recognized it out in the wild.

Running for five seasons, "Daria" aired its series finale on Jan. 21, 2002.

But for a show that loved to re-imagine its characters in other pop-culture scenarios as end-credits rolled, the series has continued to influence pop culture.

In 2013, CollegeHumor released a trailer teasing a hypothetical live-action version of "Daria," featuring "Parks and Recreation" star Aubrey Plaza in the title role.

Tracy Grandstaff told Circa that Plaza is "perfect" for the live-action role, adding, "Why is this not a series?"

[I] found it unrewarding to be asked to read a line 'more Daria but upbeat and energetic.'

Tracy Grandstaff, voice of Daria

After exploring commercial work, Grandstaff realized she prefers to work behind the scenes rather than in front of a microphone, so she shifted her focus to writing and directing.

Her subsequent writing credits include the MTV Video Music Awards (including a stretch as head writer) and "The Tom Green Show."

Now based in Los Angeles, Grandstaff and Lewis attended a recent "Daria Anti-Social" at the Echo Park Film Center, where fans gather regularly to watch episodes of the series, 20 years after its premiere.

Last year, Lewis won an Emmy Award for producing the ABC series "Sea Rescue."

Lewis said she felt "triumphant" when she saw a teenage girl at the Women's March on Washington holding a protest sign with Daria's image on it, especially since the girl hadn't even been born when "Daria" premiered in 1997.

And Grandstaff, now "happily married with kid" and working as a senior vice president at NBCUniversal, said she's enjoyed all her encounters with "Daria" fans, whom she described as "smart, funny, fringe, self-aware and cool."

These days, Grandstaff prefers to do her work behind the scenes, but added, "If DreamWorks is looking for a sarcastic, sassy voice to star in their next animated blockbuster, let's talk."