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Rick and Morty‘s new season will feature the series’ best episodes yet — and its worst ones, too.
With the animated Adult Swim show returning Sunday for season two, co-creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland tell The Hollywood Reporter that they felt heavy pressure to live up to fan expectations when writing the new episodes, with Harmon pointing out that the season will have higher highs but potentially lower lows than the last group of episodes.
They also discussed why they have yet to hire a female writer on the show’s staff, Roiland previously saying he “f—ing hates” the new season’s premiere episode and the chances of Harmon’s Community getting a movie and more episodes.
What did you learn from making Rick and Morty‘s first season?
Harmon: In terms of the structure of the show, we learned to relax a lot from season one to season two, meaning that the show is no longer rigidly templated, episode to episode. The irony is, in terms of the writing process, I think it was twice as stressful to write the second season because we were now writing for a show that had been on TV, and I think that’s always going to be challenging, compared to making up a new show as you go on.
How different is the new season?
Harmon: The show gets more chaotic in season two, and I think it’s the good kind of chaos. The universe gets bigger, the characters gets more dimensionalized and overall there are way better episodes than the best episodes of season one, side by side with maybe worse episodes than your least favorite from season one. I compare it to fishtailing as you round a corner — your car is careening, and you’re correcting the steering. It’s a little more out of control, but it’s kind of cool.
Justin, you said earlier this year on a podcast that you “f—ing hate” the first episode of season two. Do you still have issues with the season premiere, or were you just concerned about expectations?
Roiland: I feel like I said that when I was posting it in color, and it was just destroying me because of how difficult it was to post. Just try to imagine 64 frames, all different, and then outputting that — it was a nightmare. Plus, Harmon was off at Community, and I was really wishing he was here for that particular episode. But all things said and done, I was shocked at the reception. [That episode] leaked, obviously — it shouldn’t be out there, but it is — and people really, really seemed to like it. It still accomplishes something that I think is important that we set out to accomplish with the episode, which is, you should never f— with time. We wanted to tell a story of why we don’t do time-travel on the show and why time-travel is a f—ing nightmare and just a complete f—ing mess.
You had previously mentioned that you didn’t have any female writers on the show’s staff for the first season. Was that still the case for season two?
Harmon: We have not had female writers on the Rick and Morty staff so far. But it’s by choice — they’re terrible people. They vote wrong — I don’t know why we gave that power to them.
Roiland: They make my wee-wee feel weird.
Harmon: I blame them for the inflation and the recession at the same time. They don’t ask for directions, and they leave the toilet seat down. (Roiland laughs.) The real answer is, send your writing sample to UTA, I guess.
Dan, do the notes that you guys get from Adult Swim differ from what you would hear from NBC about Community?
Harmon: Absolutely. (Laughs.) Pretty much, yeah. The really refreshing key is to be able to talk to a human being like a human being, and it really has nothing to do with being told what to do. It’s [like], can you trust the person that you’re talking to to simply be giving you feedback based on their humanity. When [Adult Swim exec Mike] Lazzo reads a script, he gives you reactions from the perspective of one individual reading a script. He doesn’t say, “I know from this script how your TV show is going to turn out, and I also know how people watch television, and I’m now going to speak for all of them when I say this is too dark because my boss said that show’s too dark at lunch yesterday.” So I hope someone who works somewhere in television is reading this interview.
You mentioned at Comic-Con that you learned from Community to not rely too heavily on callbacks to previous episodes. What other lessons from that show helped to inform decisions on this one?
Harmon: I learned from season six of Community that I’m the problem because Yahoo gave me full permission to do whatever I wanted, didn’t yell at me, never pressured me, and I was still miserable. So I learned that the misery wakes up in the morning with me, and I am in therapy now and learning that I’ve worked hard for 20 years, and I don’t necessarily need to create a situation where I’m not allowed to be a genius just so I can pretend I’m a genius. I can actually just be a mediocre guy just trying to entertain people, and I can either succeed or fail. That was a big lesson that I had to learn by working with my first wonderful, unconditionally supportive parent in the history of my career, which was Yahoo.
What’s the status of more Community? How likely are a movie and a seventh season at this point?
Harmon: I think there’s a higher chance of a movie than a seventh season. I think it has to do with talent contracts. We’ve got a lot of very talented people whose contracts have run out, and they get to explore the world and see what comes of it. In that kind of situation, anybody coming to those people and rounding them up like the Magnificent Seven and saying, “Who wants to do a movie?” I think the chance of getting a yes to that is much higher than, “Who wants to come back to Vietnam — the war’s not over yet.” I think the idea of a movie just sounds more fun and also sounds like it has a hard out in terms of schedule.
Is there a movie script yet?
Harmon: There isn’t, no. (Laughs.) I’m not going to start writing it because what if I write 20 pages of hot Jeff and Annie action, and then Joel McHale gets hit by a bus. That’s 20 pages I can’t get back. I could have spent that at the chiropractor.
Roiland: (Laughs.) “I could have played Batman: Arkham Knight.“
What are your favorite Rick and Morty episodes from season two?
Roiland: Rick learns a lesson in an episode — I think you’ll find that pretty delightful. There’s an episode where Summer (Spencer Grammer) and Jerry (Chris Parnell) have a father-daughter storyline, which I think is touching. And you’ll get to meet a lot of zany new characters that hopefully will join the ranks of the beloved characters from season one. And a lot of planets — we’re going to visit a lot of alien planets this season.
It sounds like there is a Mr. Meeseeks cameo?
Roiland: We didn’t realize how popular that character was going to be, so I don’t know how that’s going to affect us as we move forward. We didn’t think to do a story or do anything too much with him in season two aside from a couple of little subtle, inconsequential cameos.
How does it feel when something like Meeseeks takes off that you didn’t expect to be a fan favorite?
Roiland: It’s crazy. Even in season two, we don’t know what people are going to react to, what episodes are going to be the favorites. We’re always wrong — season one, we were wrong. We thought the “scammer” episode was going to be the worst episode of the season, and people seem to hate the one that we thought was going to be the best episode, which is the sex robot [one] — it’s just bizarre. You can never tell what people are going to love, which is interesting. It keeps us on our toes. It keeps us from getting too precious about stuff.
Rick and Morty‘s season two premiere airs Sunday, July 26, at 11:30 p.m. on Adult Swim.
July 24 at 10:50 a.m. Updated to give proper context for Harmon’s comments about working on Community at Yahoo.
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