Q. How much did you know about SpongeBob SquarePants before getting involved in this movie?
To be honest, not too much. But that was OK because what I wanted to do was focus on the movie, as it is slightly different from the TV show.
Q. So, what did you focus on to prepare the role then?
I focused especially on the script and the character of the pirate Burger-Beard I play, who is really almost three characters in one. And I just tried to have a good time with him and follow the director’s indications.
Q. What are those three aspects of your character?
Well, on one hand he is the narrator; then he turns into the main villain of the story; and he also becomes a cook! So, playing him in a way was like juggling those three roles.
Q. What did you enjoy the most about working on a family film that, in this case, combines animation with live action?
Kids have a world of fantasy in which many things are permitted that are not allowed in the real world. And that enables you as an artist to be able to enter that universe and expand. I enjoy the possibility of playing a character that is larger than life and being so expressive.
Q. And you have done it before!
Yes, I did it with the Spy Kids movies, and then later in animation with the Shrek series and Puss in Boots. And here I am, still fascinated by that world!
Q. Is this a way to also bring out the kid you have inside?
Absolutely! Many people ask me if I do these movies for my kids, and my answer is always the same: “No, I do them for me!” Picasso used to say that even though he came from afar he was still a kid, and I feel the same way. I will never abandon my inner child.
Q. But how is it as an actor to work opposite animated characters that are not really there in scenarios that are not animated?
It’s technically challenging, because there is no one there to relate to. So, they would move these sticks with colors in front of me and I would have to remember which character was attached to each stick. And then all their voices would come from the same place – which can also be confusing, as you are normally used to looking at whoever is talking to you. But once I got used to it all, I would arrive to the set and just do it!
Q. So, what was your biggest challenge on this set?
Believe it or not, and even though it may sound silly, my biggest challenge was wearing that pirate beard! At the end of the day – after 12 hours of wearing it – my skin was really irritated. It almost felt like my face was on fire!
Q. Why do you believe actors normally say they prefer to play villains?
Because you can go further with the villain. Heroes tend to be a bit more constrained. It’s just fun to play someone who is somewhere there in your hard-drive, but that doesn’t exist in real life.
Q. And on top of that he is a pirate!
Yes, and to play a pirate is even more fun because in a way they represent freedom. You have to understand that back in their time they did all the things that normal people couldn’t do. So those characters are bigger than life, and they do not limit you. And in this particular context even more, due to the extraordinary imagination and the humor. To be able to laugh while you are doing your job is great.
Q. But what kind of a man is he?
He is an interesting and fun character because he is as bad as he is naïve. And he is also kind of romantic, as he is obsessed with making these perfect hamburgers. The problem is that the way he sets out to achieve his goals isn’t very nice…
Q. And he has a really cool vehicle! How would you describe that pirate boat on wheels he drives?
Oh, I’d love to have one of those! It does everything: goes in the ocean, drives on land and at the same time can turn into a restaurant! It was another part of the crazy imagination of this movie and the world of SpongeBob.
Q. And how was the shoot in Savannah, Georgia?
It was hot! And the fact that I had to wear all those layers of clothing didn’t help… By the middle of the day, I was dying in that pirate costume! But it was fun.
Q. How do you see the world of SpongeBob?
As a surreal painting with extraordinary ideas that is very different from anything else, which is why The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water is also very different to anything that comes out of Hollywood in terms of family films. This phenomenon that first exploded on television really surprised me by how far it went with its propositions.
Q. In your opinion, what makes a good family film then?
I believe that family films should be entertaining and also have an educational aspect to them, with certain universal values that stand out. In this movie we show the importance of friendship, teamwork and loyalty. And it’s all there, even though it’s also a fun story that is even surreal at times due to the fact that the main protagonist is a sponge. From then onwards anything is possible…
Q. But why do you think SpongeBob is such a worldwide phenomenon?
Precisely because kids have a great imagination. They have a mind that is much more open than ours and that makes them connect with things that are out of the box. Kids just have a unique way of seeing things, and SpongeBob bends all the rules because he is not a cute little animal but a sponge!
Q. What do you like the most about him?
I love how positive he is! SpongeBob never gives up, regardless of the obstacles that are laid out in front of him. He always has a smile and a laugh ready.
Q. And humor plays an important role in the universe of SpongeBob and in this movie too.
Yes, it has humor for everyone! It’s part of a universe that has fans of all ages.
Q. So, what can we expect from The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water?
A movie that is entertaining and that has good messages and a completely unique universe. In other words, a film that is different. That’s the main attraction about seeing this character and his world on the big screen. And it clicks in really well with kids’ mentalities, because they don’t feel the need to explain everything. A sponge talks because it does, and that’s it!
Q. Do you believe that sometimes we can take kids for granted, as they are capable of understanding more things and in a richer way than we imagine?
Absolutely! And I love how honest they are as an audience . If they don’t like a film they will let you know, but if they do they will watch it 20 times!