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Interview HTF Interview with Bill Fagerbakke - The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie: Sponge Out of Water (1 Viewer)

Neil Middlemiss

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Home Theater Forum recently had the pleasure of speaking with Bill Fagerbakke, the deep-pitched voice actor who has voiced the character of Patrick, best friend to SpongeBob SquarePants since the show debuted in 1999. While Bill may spend most of his time lending his voice to the goofy starfish character on SpongeBob SquarePants, he has spent a good deal of his career in front on the cameras, notably portraying the slow-witted but lovable Dauber Dybinski on ABC’s Coach, which ran from 1989-1997, and will be revived by NBC for a 13-episode run.

Bill spoke to us about The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, which Paramount released on Blu-Ray, DVD, and Digital on June 2, 2015.

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HTF: Good afternoon Bill, how are you today?

Bill Fagerbakke: I am fine Neil, how are you?

HTF: I'm doing terrific, thank you. It's a real pleasure to speak to you. After I first moved to the United States in 1995, I left behind great British television and I was searching the stations for something that I would find funny here, and one of the shows that I found was Coach. It was one of the first American shows that made me laugh out loud. So the chance to speak to is a real treat.

Bill Fagerbakke: That's a lovely connection there. Terrific!

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HTF: So since the first film came out, fans have been clamoring for a sequel, did you ever think that it might not happen, or did you always know that it would happen when the time was right?

Bill Fagerbakke: I've never assumed a single thing with this cartoon. I just been constantly delighted at what has happened. And it's really kind of gone on its own path. You know? It hasn't been a traditionally developed series, I don't think. There was an explosion of merchandise around the third or fourth year of the show, and that I think really propelled the show into a long life. Because for TV animation there are different economics that they're concerned with. And they really rely on merchandise to be able to sustain stuff. So that happened for us. And then the first movie which was great. I had no idea [about a sequel.] No idea. It's just been a delightful ride, and I always find it best when I expect as little as possible.

HTF: So talk about your process on SpongeBob. Once you get the script for an episode or the film, how do you start out? Do you get together and do a table read? And then when it comes time to record, do you do that ensemble or independently? How does that work?

Bill Fagerbakke: Well, we do the series all together. So, it's definitely ensemble. It's kind of like a radio play - that kind of style. And I think that's intrinsic to the feel of the show. I think there's a lot of subtle cues that happen in that kind of an environment, as opposed to just isolated performers. With the film, we were able to do some stuff together. I think we tried whenever we could. Sometimes it just wasn't relevant because [the scenes are] so broken down, and isolated the moment to moment recordings. But for me, I just try and plug in to the magical kind of lunacy of the characters. And Patrick is very much a visceral base kind of entity. I kind of twist that around the mind of a seven-year-old and I just have fun. I feel like it keeps me young at heart doing this role. And also I just laugh a lot. Patrick makes me laugh.

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HTF: And the level of the irreverence on this show and in the film is off the scales and there are so many funny moments that come way left of left field. Have you ever read a script and wondered, "Where on earth does this come from?"

Bill Fagerbakke: [Laughs] Yeah, I do! And you really have to give a lot of weight to the talent and the work done by the creative staff in terms of writing and developing story boards. They're so talented and the level of creativity! And that's and kind of the magic of animation. You're really only bound by what you can create and it's one of the joys of doing characters that aren't based on human characters. We're not bound by – and don’t have the trappings of humanity, and that's great. And nor do we have the trappings of actual physical laws. So you can have the camp fire on Bikini Bottom--

HTF: Right

Bill Fagerbakke: -- and that's okay. And I think for young people can plug into that in a really intrinsic, basic kind of way. I remember talking to this kid once, he asked, "What if Bikini Bottom was inside of a bottle?" And I just love that. I love the way the kids think about this stuff.

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HTF: So talk about the character of Patrick, and what it has meant to you and your career. You say it keeps you young, and you've been doing it for 16 years now and it’s still very funny, but how do you keep it fresh for you?

Bill Fagerbakke: Well, I really try and play with the material as much as I can. I never want to violate the nature of whatever the story needs - I want to keep it germane. But any kind of twisting of moments and ideas and realities - anything that I can do in a legitimate way I try and do. And I really have fun with it. A really fun thing for me to do is to play with tempo, play with the relationship that Patrick has with words and the subject matter, and how arbitrarily mystified he can be by the slightest thing. I just love that. And then I step back and I realize “that's me and my life.” I'm constantly baffled [chuckles.]

HTF: I was going to ask, how much of is in the character of Patrick? There's got to be a little bit of you somewhere in there.

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Bill Fagerbakke: Oh, sure, yeah! The goofball, I'm inherently a goofball. I certainly have my own kind of simplistic kind of approach to life which I think links me up with Patrick. And I have a really strong friendships like Patrick does. In fact, one of my best friends is Tom Kenny - who does the voice of SpongeBob. So that's a really cool thing that's happened out of this. If we're out somewhere, maybe catching a live performance – like a band - people will say, "Wait, so you guys are together here. You guys are actually friends [chuckles]. It's kind of a funny moment.

HTF: You've earned the acclaim for your lovable, likable, perhaps not the sharpest knife in the drawer characters. But you've also been praised for some dramatic roles. Is your bias towards the funny? Is that what resonates more with you? Or do you seek drama as a way to balance that, perhaps to keep your acting skills sharp or fresh?

Bill Fagerbakke: Well, I love comedy. Certainly there's great value in being able to have some diversity in your life and in the material that you're preforming. But my primary objective has really just been to find joy in what I'm doing. And that has, for whatever reason, lead me to comedy. I love comedy. I love finding humor whenever possible in all kinds of levels, whether it's just a laugh-oriented moment or just a twisted moment of amusement. That's very meaningful to me.

HTF: What is the hardest part of voice acting verses performing on camera in sitcoms, or dramatic television, or film? What's the hardest part of being a voice actor?

Bill Fagerbakke: Well, I think like any kind of medium, the challenges lie in when you are trying to make weak material better. That’s always a great challenge, but that doesn’t happen very often! So I guess a more practical difficulty is that I get to work with people like Tom Kenny and Jeff Bennett and others, and they are so extraordinarily versatile and I'm not. And so that is constantly something I am in awe off - just to have that kind of skill. I am pretty much limited by my general kind of voice and my sensibility. These guys can portray two different characters having an animated conversation and you don't know it's the same person doing both voices. That's always something that is kind of blowing me away, because that is so far out of my skill set.

HTF: And so the last question. Can we expect to see you back on television with your face…perhaps on NBC anytime soon?

Bill Fagerbakke: [laughs] I hope so. I think I'll find out fairly soon. I'm optimistic. But I would be so intrigued to revisit that character [of Dauber Dybinski on Coach] 18 years later. We'll find out. I hope that happens.

HTF: Well, thank you for speaking with me today, and all the best in the future.

Bill Fagerbakke: Oh, you bet. My pleasure and good luck to you too.

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Adam Gregorich

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How refreshing to hear things like:
It's just been a delightful ride, and I always find it best when I expect as little as possible.
and
But my primary objective has really just been to find joy in what I'm doing. And that has, for whatever reason, lead me to comedy. I love comedy. I love finding humor whenever possible in all kinds of levels, whether it's just a laugh-oriented moment or just a twisted moment of amusement. That's very meaningful to me

One of the writers from SpongeBob SquarePants was none other than Steven Banks known for IMHO one of the funniest one man comedy specials to ever air. Home Entertainment Center was on Showtime back in 1989 and still holds up today.
 

Jeff F.

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Great interview, but "Coach" was originally on ABC for all of those years. NBC is the network that's doing the reboot.
 

Neil Middlemiss

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Jeff F. said:
Great interview, but "Coach" was originally on ABC for all of those years. NBC is the network that's doing the reboot.

Thanks for catching that.
 

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