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The 10-episode half-hour entry, co-created by Harmon and Justin Roiland (Adventure Time), follows a brilliant inventor (Rick), his dim grandson (Morty) and the adventures they share. The series will premiere on Cartoon Network’s late-night block in December.
The series features a voice cast including Sarah Chalke, Spencer Grammer, Harmon, Brandon Johnson, Chris Parnell (Morty’s dad), Ryan Ridley, Roiland (who voices both title characters) and Kari Wahlgren and features the trademark elements that helped make Harmon’s Community a cult favorite. Rick is a boozing, aggressive and outspoken grandfather, while Morty is the timid grandson reluctantly dragged along as his partner in crime. Think Back to the Future only if Doc was an alcoholic and Marty was a backbone-less teenager just discovering puberty.
“I was between jobs…,” Harmon, who graces the current cover of The Hollywood Reporter, joked of why he connected with Roiland on the series, a clear nod to his recent firing (and subsequent rehiring) from NBC’s Community. “Justin has incredibly juvenile ideas that I enjoy … I like being the boring person.”
“Dan and I got together and merged our different sensibilities and created a show where he boxed in all my insanity,” Roiland said of the show’s beginning. “At its core, it’s about a crazy genius scientist estranged from his family who shows up and moves in with them and takes on his idiot grandson as his apprentice.”
Producers are hoping that the series catches on the same way Fox’s animated family comedies have, with often outrageous characters grounded by their family dynamic.
“We’re hoping this is like The Simpsons of Adult Swim,” Roiland said, noting that the series is a grounded family comedy mixed with a mad genius scientist. “We try to hit as many sci-fi movie types throughout the course of the season.”
The inspiration for the series did come from Back to the Future, Roiland said, noting that the first notion of what would become Rick and Morty started with his “x-rated” impersonation of Doc Brown and Marty McFly. Other stories — according to writer Ryan Ridley — may have come from Harmon’s Community.
“A lot of our stories came from the Community leftover pile,” Ridley said with a laugh, noting he heard several times that some of the ideas for the animated series were at one point ideas for Community. Added Roiland with a laugh of the Harmon-less season: “Community season four, the real deal: Rick and Morty.”
Rick and Morty and Community do have some fundamental similarities but at the end of the day, Harmon said role on both is completely different.
“They both marry absurd almost sci-fi conceits with very grounded emotional dynamics; they’re both allowed to do crazy things because the physics of emotion are held together with internal logic,” Harmon explained. “On Community, I’m the weird sci-fi guy trying to figure out how to do this on TV. On Rick and Morty, I’m the happy, sane one trying to make this about feelings.”
When a fan asked whether Chevy Chase, with whom Harmon had publicly clashed in the past, could have a voice role, Harmon seemed to use the opportunity to take another dig at the actor who departed Community in 2012.
“That’s actually a great idea, I hadn’t even thought of it. This is a perfect medium for him — you won’t be able to see the edits,” Harmon said, quickly adding that he hoped everyone realized that they were friends.
Summed up co-star Wahlgren of the series: “It’s disgusting, completely inappropriate and you’re going to want to get a bag of Doritos and a bong.”
Harmon returns to Comic-Con on Sunday with a panel for Community inside the event’s biggest ballroom, Hall H. Stay tuned to The Hollywood Reporter‘s The Live Feed for full coverage from the session.
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