At Comic-Con International 2013, “Community” creator Dan Harmon and voice actor Justin Roiland stopped by the CBR yacht to discuss their upcoming Adult Swim animated series “Rick and Morty,” which centers around Rick (a genius inventor) and Morty (his less-than-genius grandson). Harmon and Roiland discussed the genesis of the show, the appeal of the titular characters, how it compares to doing a live-action sitcom like “Community” and more.
About the genesis of their upcoming show, “Rick and Morty”: “Dan called me and said, ‘I’m starting up an animation studio and Adult Swim is looking for a show. You got anything?’ There were these two characters that he was familiar with that I was just screwing around with that I did the voice of,” said Roiland. “He said, ‘I love those characters,’ and then we took what was a really rough — just me blowing off steam, absurd little shorts I was making with these two guys — and we re-thought it. We packaged it, we created a family, we built it out maybe into a TV show, into something that could sustain a 22-minute episode, added a great supporting cast. In terms of the genesis, there were no fiery hoops.”
On the appeal of Rick and Morty as characters: “What appeals to me about the grandson is he makes the grandpa feel a little more palatable,” said Harmon. “The thing that appeals to me about the grandpa is everything that appeals to me about Justin’s work, which is it makes a really good metaphor for — call it mental illness, call it creativity, whatever it is that’s wrong with us that makes stuff, I like characters that are so smart they’re crazy, so smart they can’t function. Rick is a sociopath, he’s an alcoholic, he has such bigger fish to fry cosmically speaking, that human beings are relatively worthless to him — especially their emotions. It’s a really resonant character.”
“To be clear, the original two characters weren’t this fleshed out,” added Roiland. “That was all part of the process of teaming up with Dan. Looking at who Rick is now, it’s almost eerie how much or Rick is [Dan.] There are so many parallels of Dan in the character. I see parts of Rick that are me. The creative process across the first season could not have been more fun, effortless and collaborative — dan doing what he does best, me doing what I do best, but without ever getting in each other’s way or stepping on each other’s toes, manage to create this really awesome animated narrative show.”
On the aura of the show and the relationship between the characters: “It’s like the relationship between Doctor Who and a companion,” said Harmon. “There’s a lot of — and I don’t know how it happened — there’s so much British-ness about the show. No one in it is British or anything, but the sensibility feels like my favorite stuff growing up, like ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.’ It seems to be a very British thing to create characters that are incredibly smart and incredibly socially challenged — characters that indoctrinate innocence into relativity and do so with a lot of tough love.”
Comparing “Rick and Morty” to “Community”: “It’s like an inversion of ‘Community’ — anything is possible as long as the relationships remain believable,” said Harmon. “On ‘Community,’ it was always my task to figure out how to make time travel possible within a sitcom. On ‘Rick and Morty,’ it’s my job to figure out how to make feelings possible in a world where time travel grows on trees.”