Movies & TV / Columns

SpongeBob SquarePants Star Bill Fagerbakke on Playing Patrick Star for 20 Years, His Favorite Memory With Late Creator Stephen Hillenburg

August 7, 2019 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
SpongeBob SquarePants Movie

During this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, 411mania was able to catch up with SpongeBob SquarePants star Bill Fagerbakke, who has voiced the legendary character of Patrick Star since the show first hit television back in 1999. That means Fagerbakke has been voicing the iconic marine echinoderm for over 20 years.

Fagerbakke is a veteran actor with a career spanning more than three decades. He’s also known for his run as Michael ‘Dauber’ Dybinski on the hit sitcom Coach for the entirety of the show’s run from 1989 to 1997. His other credits include the voice of Broadway in the iconic, fan-favorite show Gargoyles, Bulkhead in Transformers: Animated, Marvin Sr. in How I Met Your Mother, and too many other credits too numerous to mention. Fagerbakke is also hard at work at the third SpongeBob theatrical film, which thankfully won’t have the 10+ year gap between similar to the first and second film releases. Here’s what Fagerbakke had to say at Comic-Con on celebrating 20+ years of Patrick Star for this amazing series:

Jeffrey Harris: What’s it like to be at Comic-Con this year?

Bill Fagerbakke: It’s great as always. Getting to look at so many faces that are filled with joy, you know, that is an extraordinary experience, let me tell you.

Jeffrey Harris: SpongeBob SquarePants has been on the air for 20 years. What is it like looking back to play a character you’ve played for two full decades?

Bill Fagerbakke: It’s ridiculous. There’s no way — I’m an actor. I’m a transient hobo, and then I walk into this incredible job. And 20 years later, I’m still doing it. It’s fantastic. It never happens. And to make it even greater, I love it. I love Patrick. He makes me laugh. I love the people I work with. Tom Kenny is a freaking genius. He’s so skilled. And you know work together on something for that long, and things happen. We lost Stephen Hillenburg, and that was a tough one because he was one in a million.

Jeffrey Harris: When you first heard about Patrick, what was your initial impression of this really sweet and pure character?

Bill Fagerbakke: I didn’t get it. When I did the pilot, I didn’t really understand what was happening. I just thought it was this goofy preschool thing. I just went, “Why am I saying ‘Who’s ready,’ three times?” I didn’t understand the nature of it. Then, when I saw the pilot, I couldn’t believe what a great cartoon it was. That’s when I really realized [it] because I hadn’t really done a lot of animation, so I didn’t know how to anticipate what Stephen was doing. It was so unique, you know?

Jeffrey Harris: What is your favorite quality about Patrick? Even though he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, he’s very honest with everyone. He’s always true to his friends. He’s a very loyal friend. He’s a friend to the end I think. I mean he went on that journey with SpongeBob in the first movie, and they almost dried out.

Bill Fagerbakke: Well, I suppose it ties in with a lot of what you just described, but I always think of Patrick as the friend every seven-year-old wants, and then the friend that every inner seven-year-old [wants]. So, your inner seven-year-old and my inner seven-year-old, that’s the buddy we want, right? And I love that.

Jeffrey Harris: Last year, we lost the creator of the series Stephen Hillenburg. Do you have any anecdotes to share on what he gave to yo with this character and how he impressed you?

Bill Fagerbakke: Well, I mean aside from providing us all with this remarkable creation, I will always remember working with Steve in the first three seasons. He was our session director, and he would come into our room with us, the actors, instead of sitting down in the control room. And he would sit at the table, and he would doodle [?], he’d wear headphones, and he created an environment of — it was like this ensemble feel and this free rapport that was very unusual. I always think of that.

Jeffrey Harris: Do you ever notice the Patrick memes, and do you have a favorite? Of course, I like , “Well, Patrick. We saved the city,” and also, “What do you do when I’m gone?” “Wait for you to get back.” He’s such an iconic and classic character, that he’s part of the cultural lexicon now.

Bill Fagerbakke: Yeah. There’s one I saw with Patrick and Julia Roberts. Have you seen that one?

Jeffrey Harris: I don’t know if I’ve seen that one.

Bill Fagerbakke: Oh, check it out! Check out the one with Julia Roberts. That’s really fun.


Jeffrey Harris: Are you fine with letting children know that you voice Patrick, or do you like to maintain the illusion?

Bill Fagerbakke: I’ve realized that the typical cutoff is around age 7. I think a four-year-old, I’m not going to say anything because to them, Bikini Bottom is a real place. And I don’t want to [ruin it for them].

Jeffrey Harris: And any message you want to send to the fans at Comic-Con as Patrick?

Bill Fagerbakke: [In Patrick’s voice] I think everyone should have some ice cream.

Thank you to Bill Fagerbakke for taking time to speak with us at Comic-Con. Fagerbakke is currently hard at work on the third movie for the franchise, The SpongeBob Movie: It’s a Wonderful Sponge. It arrives in theaters on May 22, 2020. The SpongeBob Squarepants animated series currently airs on Nickelodeon and was recently renewed for its 13th season.