You may not have seen the face of Carolyn Lawrence before, but chances are you’ve heard her.
When she speaks, Lawrence, who voices the iconic character of Sandy Cheeks on SpongeBob SquarePants, echoes her character, so much that you can almost hear her spouting her signature phrase, “We could be tighter than bark on a tree!”
A Baltimore native, she’s been a performer and an actress her whole life. On top of her role as Sandy, she’s the voice of other favorite animated characters, including two known globally, Cindy Vortex on “The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius,” and the voice of Orel on “Moral Orel.”
As SpongeBob Square Pants celebrates 20 years on the network this month, Lawrence reflects on her time spent as Bikini Bottom’s only resident rodent aquanaut and scientist.
“I feel like I won the voiceover lotto,” she says. “I’m very aware that for 20 years I’ve been lucky enough to be a series regular. It brought me a career, obviously, but it brought me a lot of my closest friends. It’s been a phenomenal experience and I’m just beyond grateful.”
And, she doesn’t mind getting sentimental about her favorite moments on the show either.
“The first one I ever did, ‘Tea at the Treedome’ is always going to be a sentimental favorite because that was my very first record,” she says. “One of my other favorite episodes is the Texas episode that Vincent Waller wrote because Sandy got to sing. I love singing even though I’m not very good at it. But the squirrel doesn’t have to be good.”
While she will be best known as the woman behind the Texan squirrel on Nickelodeon’s zany cartoon, Lawrence wasn’t always in voice work. She calls her life a “series of random events,” because she began her career as a professional dancer in Ohio.
“I was with a ballet company and then I moved to Chicago and joined a company called Gus Giordano Dance School,” she says.
While she was there, she was scouted for her feature dream role, voice acting.
“There was a gentleman there who worked at Universal Recording and one day he asked me to audition for a voice part, because he thought I had a unique sound,” she says. “I got the job which was for a line of stuffed animals and started working in the Chicago market. Then when I moved to L.A. and I met a casting director named Donna Grillo on the sidewalk. She brought me in to read SpongeBob, and that was that.”
Her new favorite episode, she says, is going to be SpongeBob’s 20th anniversary special, as the cast of SpongeBob will be taking on their roles in live action and not in animation. The cast will all appear on the show together in person for the first time, portraying surface-world counterparts to their Bikini Bottom characters.
“We are doppelgangers of ourselves. It’s the very first time that we’ve played ourselves on camera and it was a surreal experience,” Lawrence says. “It was fun to be in an actual set and be able to move around as our characters. We can improv with one another and I think it helps.”
This isn’t a new concept for the crew, though, as they don’t record like typical voice actors. In traditional voice work, actors are usually alone in a studio, and often each character is recorded one at a time, Lawrence explains. This makes a voice actor’s job tougher because they can’t take nonverbal cues from the other actors. But the SpongeBob cast records episodes together as a team.
“Part of the magic and the fun of our show is that we record it like a play. We’ll all in the room together, and that way, we’re kind of like grown children in that we can tease each other and we can play with each other,” she says. “You can see each other. I can throw spit balls at plankton. We can have fun in the booth and it also brings new energy to it every time.”
As for what she is most thankful for? She is happy to have forged such strong bonds with all of her cast mates.
“I’m just beyond thrilled that we’re all still together. We all still like each other, and that’s saying something when a cast has been together as long as we have,” she says. “We truly are a family at this point. It’s neat to have that kind of love and support.”
“SpongeBob’s Big Birthday Blowout” will air on Friday, July 12 at 7 p.m. ET on Nickelodeon.