From the mind of Community creator Dan Harmon and the voice of Adventure Time’s Lemongrab Justin Roiland comes a new animated comedy called Rick and Morty. I’ve had the opportunity to watch two episodes of the series and sit down for a chat with the creators and cast of the new Adult Swim show, read along to learn why this show is about to become your new favorite. It’s the story of an insane inventor who drags his reluctant grandson with him on various adventures across the multiverse. It’s smart, funny and hilariously inappropriate. I’m in love.
Rick and Morty are based on an impression Roiland used to jokingly do of the Doc and Marty from Back To The Future, which has quickly grown into something entirely unique. “We’ve made a point to avoid any and all time travel,” Roiland says with a laugh. Don’t worry though the origins of the characters are barely visible in the final product and halfway through the pilot episode they transcend their inspirations to become full-fledged creations of their own.
As pictured above, to the left you’ve got Morty a weird little boy with a nervous stutter and obvious learning disabilities. Morty is seated next to Rick, his brilliantly maniacal grandfather who also happens to be both a raving lunatic and accomplished alcoholic. Roiland provides both voices, which means he spends a lot of time arguing with himself in a recording studio, “I’ll run scenes with the characters together and just sort of throw the script out and improve and riff the two characters. Weird shit will come out of my head when I do that and sometimes we’ll get a run that’s amazing and we’re like let’s just use this.”
Harmon says he’s equally comfortable working in animation as he is with live action, “I don’t see any difference. The story-breaking process is identical.” He does admit that, “on Community I’m always trying to figure out how to bring sci-fi into a medium that’s about people being together, but on Rick and Morty I’m the stabilization guy.”
“Justin will come in the room and say, ‘I think there should be a testicle monster…and… I don’t know much else about him but… testicle monster,’ and then I’m the guy who has to ask how does a testicle monster make you feel, and try to find the story in that,” says Harmon.
The most familiar voice on the show is that of Chris Parnell, perhaps the most recognizable to Archer fans as Cyril Figgis, “Jerry’s a dad so he’s got his family to think about, so I think at the end of the day he’s a bit of a better person than Jerry, although he is very selfish.”
Summer is Morty’s stereotypical teenage sister and actress Spencer Grammer (Frasier’s daughter, you guys!) was quick to express why she wanted to be a part of this project, “Because it’s freakin’ genius!” Spencer found the key to understand her character, and giving her a personalized perspective in the memory of a close friend, “She’s this cute but kind of nerdy girl that you might know. So I thought of my friend Nora who is super funny and an amazing actress and I imagine her as a high school girl.” The actress was eight months pregnant with her son when she auditioned for the show (for reference he is now two years old), “I remember getting the sides and I was with my husband on a vacation and I’m studying the sides and I was reading them endlessly and it was sooo funny.”
“The audition sides were so funny I was like, ‘what can I do to be a part of this project, please!’ I auditioned over-the-phone from Canada,” says Sarah Chalke, who’s animated avatar has her back in scrubs as Beth (Morty’s mom). Once again Chalke plays a blonde doctor (a horse doctor… you’ll see), and she’s thrilled to have to job. “It’s been fun to find her (Beth) with Justin and Dan, she wants to be really good at her job, and her marriage is hanging by a thread,” she says, “Her dad comes home after like 20 years and she’s got blinders on to everything he’s up to.”
Equally impressive to the creators and talent behind the show are the visuals. This series has a totally unique look with background that are as gorgeous as they are unfamiliar and bizarre. “The initial family was me and a guy named Myke Chilian sort of working with me… like I was the Art Director and he was my lead character designer,” said Roiland, “Rick and Morty was me, but Myke really helped me find the look of the dad.”
The backgrounds of this show are so impressive I am using one for my desktop background, as I also admitted to Roiland. “A guy named Jon Vermilyea designed the one you’re screen-grabbed,” he replied, “We just had amazing talent working on the series. Our art director is a guy named James McDermott and he is just a fucking perfectionist. This guy is really talented and i stuck gold with him because he’d had a kid in the first month of production and yet he was still working twelve hour days just to make sure the show was as good as it could be.”
“It was very easy in production for me because I’d get these stacks of line art and out of that huge stack I’d only have notes on like five percent of it,” Roiland gushes about McDermott saying he, “was the first guy I interviewed and I hired him. And that’s like the biggest no-no but ultimately it was the best decision I’ve ever made. His style was like my style but perfect.”
You need to watch the first episode linked below and then check back here for my ongoing coverage of this amazing new cartoon.
Rick and Morty premiers December 2nd on Adult Swim at 10:30 pm Eastern.