Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Bill Fagerbakke on Voicing an Iconic Character on 'SpongeBob' and 'The Patrick Star Show'

ComingSoon Senior Editor Spencer Legacy recently spoke to The Patrick Star Show and SpongeBob SquarePants star Bill Fagerbakke about what it’s like to play a character for over two decades and his favorite SpongeBob lines.


The Patrick Star Show follows a younger Patrick Star living at home with his family, where he hosts his own show for the neighborhood from his television-turned-bedroom,” reads the official series synopsis. “His little sister, Squidina, works behind the scenes to make sure Patrick’s show is always running smoothly, while his parents, Bunny and Cecil, and his grandpa, GrandPat, each support Patrick in their own hilariously absurd ways. The Star family’s unpredictable adventures often inform, integrate, and sometimes even interfere with Patrick’s TV show, but one thing is for sure: his bizarre life always makes for great television!.”

Spencer Legacy: What was your first reaction when you were told that Patrick would have his own show?

Bill Fagerbakke: Sheer terror, night sweats … Patrick had always worked for me because he was in context with SpongeBob. So now you’re telling me it’s a Patrick show? How will that work? Hearing from Marc Ceccarelli and Vincent Waller, their wonderful concept, and realizing how moored it was to the SpongeBob universe in terms of its dynamics and sensibilities. Even though they were creating all these new characters and relationships, it was still so much of the world. I got really excited, and I’m so grateful. And we get to see Patrick in a different arena of imagination.

Since he’s in a different element, do you approach performing for Patrick differently here than you would in SpongeBob?

No. With such a great elemental character, like Patrick, it really is just all about the moment and what he’s coping with, right? When you’ve done a character for over 20 years, it’s all there, and almost never do we have a moment that’s jarring. It’s really within the context of the character that we know.

You mentioned that you’ve done this for so long, what’s it like to be such a big part of a huge multi-generational show? Because I watched it as a kid, my little cousins watch — every kid loves watching SpongeBob. So what’s that like?

It’s crazy, man. There’s nothing that prepares a person for this. When you go into acting, you’re just hoping you can keep your healthcare in check and pay your rent. And then maybe you get lucky and get a camera gig, but you never … to have this kind of longevity, and it’s not just longevity of work — it’s also longevity of relationships and longevity of creativity and performance satisfaction. Obviously, it’s not something anyone would ever expect. So I’m just giddy. I’m the luckiest. I literally would not trade with anyone. I love my job so much.

That’s got to make it easier to go to work every day.

Yeah, yeah, for sure.

I’ve seen some behind-the-scenes voice acting from SpongeBob back in 2019, and there would typically be multiple voice actors in the booth. Does it work like that with The Patrick Star Show as well?

Probably the biggest drawback to The Patrick Star Show experience so far has just been that it’s all been post-COVID, right? So we haven’t been able to do that. And that kind of makes me sad because I, for one, very much crave recording with my fellow performers. That gives me so much, and a lot of times it’s subconscious, because if I’m doing a scene with Tom Kenny [the voice of SpongeBob], everything he does informs me, even subconsciously, of my reaction. So you can try and recreate that on Zoom and you can do it and it works, and obviously doing it for 20 years, it helps [with] anticipating. But still to me, there is no substitute for recording together. And I really hope that we get to experience that with The Patrick Star Show cast, that we could all be together and record together at some point.

It’s really a whole different energy. It seems like when there are multiple people, it’s easy to bounce off each other.

Yes. Yeah. There’s gold in them thar hills, for me.

You’ve been voice acting since the 90s. How has that process changed in 2022?

I guess for me, it doesn’t have much to do with technology per se. Any kind of evolution there, for me, has just been personal, and any time you’re fortunate enough to do something that long you, you learn, right? And so you acquire a sharper, more productive focus, and you want to use your energy the right way. And of course, using your voice in what, at times, can be an extremely demanding performance metric. You really have to be smart. Because, boy, there’s a lot of screaming, sometimes. A lot.

So that’s one of the things that we really … where it always reminds me that Tom Kenny is a freak of nature because I don’t know anyone else that could do what he’s done and still have a voice. He’s incredible, you know? And we have these really powerful voices. I mean, Roger Bumpass [the voice of Squidward], One of those episodes where Squidward just gets beat to crap, you know? He really has to bring it, it’s intense. Clancy Brown [the voice of Mr. Krabs] also has a really powerful, dynamic voice. Same with Dee Bradley Baker [voice of countless minor SpongeBob characters] and some of the other people who work on it … Carolyn has a very powerful voice too — Carolyn Lawrence, who’s the voice of Sandy. So you learn things like that, right?

You’ve done both live action and voice acting. How does that process differ? Is it more difficult to do one or the other?

Camera work is, in some ways, far more demanding. You really have to prepare … a lot of times you have to do a lot of background work for a character. You have to read, you have to do experimental physical work sometimes. Because it all has to be there on camera, right? When you’re doing theater, you’re allowed this juicy, often four week rehearsal period, but with camera work, it all has to be there. And [it] pretty much all has to be there when you roll into the set. So camera work is very demanding there. Also obviously all the cosmetic hysteria, which is tedious to know it. I never got accustomed to that, but it’s part of the deal, right?

Do you have any favorite Patrick lines from over the years?

Well, certainly, “the inner machinations of my mind are an enigma” [from "The Secret Box"] was a true delight to say. Crazy outbursts, just like, “I love being purple!” Weird outbursts like that. One of my favorite lines really is Squidward’s from the pilot, when he’s worried that SpongeBob’s going to get the job at the Krusty Krab. And he sees that Mr. Krabs has sent him on a fool’s errand, “Hey, go get get me a spatula with port and starboard attachments and blah blah blah,” all this stuff. So he’s relieved, right? So SpongeBob runs off and Squidward comes up to Krabs and goes, “A hydro-what? Oh, Mr. Krabs, you’re horrible!” That will always be one of my favorite lines in any kind of content.

Watch SpongeBob SquarePants and The Patrick Star Show on Nickelodeon, and 200 episodes of SpongeBobThe SpongeBob Movie: Sponge On The RunKamp Koral: SpongeBob's Under Years and The SpongeBob Musical on Paramount+! Try it FREE at ParamountPlus.com.

Listen to The SpongeBob Musical here!

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