'Rick and Morty': Inside the Long-Awaited Third Season

Co-creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland, joined by star Sarah Chalke, explain the nearly two-year break between seasons and promise more backstory between Beth and Rick in the upcoming season: "You get a little more insight into her childhood."
Courtesy of Adult Swim
Dan Harmon, Sarah Chalke and Justin Roiland

The long wait for Rick and Morty's third season is nearly over. 

Nearly two years after season two's cliffhanger finale, in which Rick is incarcerated in an intergalactic prison, Adult Swim surprised fans worldwide by airing the premiere episode of season three on perhaps the most appropriate of days for the outrageous animated comedy: April Fool's Day.

The result was an expected fervor of excitement for new episodes, but zealous fans would have to wait another two months for a premiere date to finally be announced as July 30. Now, just days away from the kickoff of the new season, show creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland, as well as star Sarah Chalke, have dished up a fresh slew of teasers and hints for avid fans on what to expect from their favorite dimension-hopping convict grandfather and his family — but first they had to address what has become possibly the best April Fool's joke in TV history.

"That was Mike Lazzo’s (Adult Swim executive vp) pitch," Roiland told The Hollywood Reporter. "He has these insane ideas which, upon first hearing, your gut reaction is, ‘That’s fucking crazy. That’s a horrible idea.’ " He quickly added, "You don’t audibly say that, you think it."

Harmon got in on the joke via Twitter, having fun with one particular fan. "I picked one kid [on Twitter] five minutes before [the episode aired] and just said ‘What do you want? You want me to wave a magic wand and make season three start happening?’ He was like, yeah, that’s what I want. So I said, okay, everybody gets one. Then it started airing and that kid now is definitely going to have a warped life," said Harmon.

As for the long wait between seasons, Harmon and Roiland were definitely aware of the pressure from fans. "We get tweets all the time, ‘Where the fuck is season three at, you piece of shit?” That kind of stuff," said Roiland. 

"I think if we worked as fast as we possibly could there would still be enough time between seasons that people would still feel that," added Harmon.

However torturous the long wait may have been for fans of the show, it has, at last, reached an end and Chalke was eager for fans to get a glimpse at the new season. "Its definitely been fun for me because Rick and Beth’s relationship gets fleshed out," the star explained to THR of the new aspects of her character's never-before-seen backstory in season three. "You get more time with Rick and a little more insight into her childhood which is one of my favorite episodes and then obviously the separation and what that’s like for Beth. One of the cool things about this year is they really paired different characters together who haven’t been together before and really flesh out those relationships."

In a show known for its weirdness and creativity, there's always the challenge of pushing the envelope even further, something that Harmon and Roiland knew from the onset. "The real conversation we had was to keep jumping the shark," Harmon explained. "Anytime you perceive a boundary to the universe, anytime Rick encounters his Moriarty —," he froze, having hit at some creative vein of inspiration. "Oh, that’d be great."

Roiland was quick to jump in, sporting the gruff voice of Rick (whom he voices on the show). "My Morty-arty," he belched, before deftly switching to the pubescent, naive voice of 14-year-old Morty (whom he also voices). "Geez, that’s pretty corny, Rick," Roiland wheezed.

Jokes aside, the concept of always pushing the creative boundaries of the show is serious business to Harmon. "Anytime there’s ‘no bad guy that’s a bigger threat than this’ or 'these are the rules to sonic screwdriver,' just break those rules so the show is never based on canonical limitations," the showrunner said. "It should be based on character, and the character of a Rick is a character who can basically do anything. We made that decision very early on. It was terrifying but it also felt so good."

"My favorite part of the show is that it deals with such real, painful, interesting, funny aspects of life and real relationships and then you have that juxtaposed with the two-headed testicle monster," said Chalke. "I think there is such a balance of both of those things in season three."

Despite the lag between seasons, the show's popularity seems to have only grown in the absence of new episodes. Rick and Morty is one of Adult Swim's biggest commercial hits and has consistently earned critical praise. Despite plots that can be a bit "out there" for traditional viewers, the show has also become a mainstream hit — something that is a bit of shock to its creators.

"You always hope that what you make is going to be loved, but it's truly surprising to see the extent to which it has ballooned and grown," said Roiland. "I was just at Raleigh Supercon, and that was the weirdest experience I think I’ve had so far. There were people crying. I was just like, ‘Don’t cry!’ "

Harmon, who also created the cult hit sitcom Community, echoed the sentiment of surprise by the show's popularity. "The saturation is [something] that no one could have been prepared for. It feels like its South Park or something," Harmon said, referencing the Comedy Central hit's overarching pop culture reach. "Everybody I encounter in every elevator now — it’s just shot up parabolically. It wasn’t because we were pumping out episodes. It happened while we were still taking too long for season three. It just grew by itself."

Roiland compared it to a movement: "We have all these fans who love the show and show everybody they know and those people become fans…I feel like that’s what’s been happening. It’s like grass roots. It’s almost like a virus."

The wait, however, wasn't far from their minds. "It makes my heart ache for anybody who feels that way about the show, because [for us] we got to get faster at pumping these out," Harmon said.

Roiland seemed optimistic on the subject: "Hopefully we’ll try to ramp it up a little bit more."

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