Exclusive Interview: Dan Harmon & Justin Roiland on ‘Rick and Morty’

Rick and Morty

Earlier this year, Adult Swim presented a panel to the Television Critics Association for their new animated series “Rick and Morty.” Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon co-created the show about a mad scientist and his grandson’s adventures in sci-fi. The TCA was naturally interested in Harmon’s return to “Community,” and we ourselves broke a “Community” news story out of our interview with Harmon.

Now, with “Rick and Morty” having premiered on Adult Swimt, we present the rest of our interview with Harmon and Roiland. 

CraveOnline: You worked a Duh-Doy into the pilot.
Justin Roiland: Yes, there is a Duh-Doy. Yeah, that’s a Harmon thing.
Dan Harmon: I guess it’s my old trademark. 
Justin, when you look at the titles on your resume, you have “Laser Fart,” “Eat My Sh**,” “Phone Sexxers” and “Super F***ers” among others.
Roiland: “Adventure Time,” “Fish Hooks,” Disney cartoons.
Harmon: Kung Fu Panda, Monster House.
Quite a diverse slate.
Roiland: Yeah, yeah, between the two of us, yeah. A lot of the stuff you listed is sort of Channel 101 stuff but it is funny that there are so many filthy titles in there. “Super F***ers,” James Kochalka’s cartoon, a cartoon called “Super F***ers for God’s sake. It’’s insane.
A lot of people are thinking about “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” for a scientist and his child partner. Were you thinking in any tangential fashion about Doc Brown as an influence on Rick? 
Roiland: I mean, certainly the inception of the two characters was my horrible impersonation of Doc and Morty. Or Marty, geez. Doc and Marty. It sort of evolved and that impression and the characters that I did have evolved and took a life of their own. I started putting those two characters into different projects that I would be developing here and there, figuring out new ways to just use those voices and personalities because they were so far removed from Back to the Future from Doc and Marty, but that’s what got me there.
It was just me doing my horrible Doc Brown manic impression and this dumb horrible Marty impression. So to answer your question, yes it influenced the characters but really it hasn’t lately. It influenced the inception but they’re so different and so far removed in both their personalities and their relationship with each other and everything is very unique and different on the show in my opinion. We’ve come a long way. They’re related. It’s a grandpa and a grandson. The science that we employ, sci-fi/science that we employ is as far away from time travel as you can get across the season. 
You would think Morty would be the name for the older scientist character. Do you have a reason for why the family named their modern day son Morty?
Roiland: Take a wild guess. Honestly, it was because I was calling them Rick and Marty. I was going to change it to Jerry and Billy. There were so many names we were throwing around and ultimately there’s something just hearing Rick be like “Morty, come on Morty, we gotta go Morty.” It was like, “Jerry, come on Jerry” just didn’t… 
So it came from actually doing the voice?
Roiland: Yeah, it’s like “Marty, we gotta go Marty. We we we gotta run Marty.” Now it’s Morty. It’s close. It almost makes me wonder, maybe we should have gone with “Ezekiel! Come on, Ezekiel!” Rick’s fine. “Oh geez, Rick. I’m sleepin’. Rough night.”
On the panel you alluded to an even more unmarketable version of the show. What was that unmarketable version?
Roiland: Oh boy.
Harmon: Well, if you go online you can see a horrible version. Just give it a google. 
Roiland: You can go to my website. It’s on my website RoilandTV.com. Even if you misspell my last name, you’ll get there. It’s on there. You just go to the cartoon tab and you’ll see a few things I did with them. I did a Gatorade commercial, the original short, I did a thing promoting Scud, the comic book that Dan worked on with Rob Schrab many years ago.
Harmon: I think that one’s my favorite.
Roiland: Yeah, that one’s my favorite too and there’s no testicles in it so that one’s a safe one for people to see.
You’re doing a 30 minute show on a network that pioneered the 15 minute show. Was there ever any debate about how long the episodes would be?
Harmon: I know Justin was a huge fun of Adult Swim’s prior hits and was very comfortable with the idea of doing a half hour block of two episodes, almost like “Ren & Stimpy.” 
Roiland: Or “Beavis and Butt-Head.”
Harmon: Ultimately, Adult Swim’s plan from the beginning I think was “We want to start to encroach on prime time. Let’s create a mutant prime time Adult Swim monster” so part of that is doing an actual 22 minute show, which I sparked to more readily because I’d been working those muscles for several years.
Roiland: Yeah, I wanted to do a 15, or 11 minute at first but I’m really, really glad. I never really pushed back on it. I was just like, “Oh, that’s what they want? Okay. Let’s do that.” If it had been left up to me back then, I would have said 11 and we would be sitting here with an 11 minute show, but I’m so glad we did the 22 minute. The storytelling that you can do is just so much deeper. It just turned out so great. I’m so proud of the show and excited for people to see it. 
What is episode 2 and beyond going to be?
Harmon: It’s just a lot of intersteller, intergalactic shenanigans married to a lot of relatively dark, emotional family conflict.