Olan Rogers got started making YouTube content in high school alongside two friends. That’s probably a backstory for a huge percentage of millenials that considered themselves funny. The difference is that Rogers transitioned this into a full-time career and a number of great projects. In 2016, this took the form of a pilot for Final Space: the story of an astronaut named Gary, his alien friend Mooncake, and their misadventures in the inky black beyond.
That animated pilot became an entire season on TBS in 2018. The show shares DNA with Rick and Morty, but much more so with Futurama and its crew-based serial shenanigans. There’s a mix of dark comedy with deep emotional arcs and an overdose of hard science fiction details as a foundation. There’s also a voice cast that includes Fred Armisen, Ron Funches, Conan O’Brien, Alan Tudyk, Ron Perlman, John DiMaggio, David Tennant, Steven Yeun, Gina Torres, Ashly Burch, Keith David, Andy Richter, and more.
Yeah. Kinda… kinda unsure why you haven’t seen this yet, right? It’s real good sci-fi and all the people you like are here. Pretty easy sell.
Final Space did that first season on TBS but will premiere its new season on Adult Swim on June 24. Ahead of the second season premiere, we sat down with show creator and voice of Gary Goodspeed, Olan Rogers.
Paste: What is it like to have a show that switches networks season to season?
Olan Rogers: A little confusing, for sure. Season one—it was funny enough, they showed it on Adult Swim, they just flipped it this year. TBS showed it and Adult Swim did reruns, now Adult Swim is premiering it, and TBS is doing the reruns. It’s a little interesting, but I think it’s definitely a little confusing as to whose show is this. Either way, it’s just two places for people to watch the show.
Paste: It also feels like there’s kind of a place for temporal anomalies in a show about space nonsense. That feels pretty okay. It’s such a beautiful show, how did you guys settle on the art style for this?
Rogers: I always wanted to do a show that looked like this. Growing up in the early ‘90s, a lot of the ‘80s cartoons were incredible. Like the Transformers movie. That was mind-blowing. With this, I wanted to create something that had a lot of weight and gravitas. When we got our art director, I was like, “Dude, just have fun. Let’s make the coolest thing we could possibly make.” When you tell that to an art director, their eyes go all big. They’re so used to being on shows where it’s a certain style; with this, we can do whatever the hell we want but we want it to look cinematic. From the get-go, that was always the plan.
Paste: I saw some videogame influences, but now that you bring it up, I can’t not see Transformers as an influence. Do you guys ever jump in and grab things like, “This episode should be like this thing,” or is it cohesive in a way that flies on its own?
Rogers: I think a lot of it is that there’s so many influences in the sci-fi world. Like the movie Sunshine. It was an amazing movie, but nobody knows it; they think I mean Little Miss Sunshine! There are so many movies out there that we pull from for inspiration. Maybe the ship looks a little Star Wars-y. Maybe the A.I. is very 2001. We really love the idea of creating a show that celebrates sci-fi, but there’s also so much fun to be had. We think about a lot of the movies we love and put homages in there. I think we did more of that for season two than we did for season one.
Paste: How do you define an animated space adventure, especially on Adult Swim, when you are on the same network as space adventure show Rick and Morty?
Rogers: People always kind of ask that question; I’ve never viewed it that way, ever. People can watch more than one show. I love Rick and Morty, I think it’s a great show. Season one, I told people that it was something to bridge the gap for Rick and Morty. But I always felt that we were a cool companion for people that want Rick and Morty to return or want something more grounded in sci-fi. They did a sitcom, but they enabled their show to do whatever they want. I love shows like that. With that portal gun, they can go anywhere. With ours, we wanted to make a show that was distinctively different. We purposely wouldn’t do stories if Rick and Morty touched it. We tried our hardest to make a show that was different. Still, we get those comparisons. I just think that we’re a good companion.
Paste: When will you and Dan Harmon fistfight?
Rogers: [Laughter] I don’t know, I don’t know if I can fight Dan Harmon.
Paste: What about Justin? Pick your fighter.
Rogers: With Justin, man, I don’t know. I would just want to sit down and talk to those guys, they’re geniuses.
Paste: So crossover episode; if there can’t be war, then there must be peace.
Rogers: Yeah! Look, I will never say no to anything, and I doubt they would ever want to do anything like that, but I think it’s something where animation is such a big thing right now. If two shows can co-exist in the same platform, then more power for it.
Paste: What’s the philosophy of the show? What’s the worldview and what’s the message you guys stick to?
Rogers: One of the big things that we wanted our show to stand for is positivity. Once you see a lot of the episodes—even when it goes to a dark place, there’s always that little bit at the end where it pops back up. There’s always something warm about the show and these characters. Much like Futurama, they did something special with their show. They wanted to make something heartfelt and emotional, and that’s the same thing we’re doing with our show. It’s in this massive universe, but it’s still the human condition. If I had to wrap it all up, it’s positivity. I want people to feel good, you know?
Paste: I think you show has more positivity than Futurama has.
Rogers: Yeah, hopefully. That’s always a good thing.
Paste: So starting with Fred, Ashly, and Ron, and working your way down through the list, you have a Murderer’s Row of voice actors here. How did you ever put it together, and are you ever in awe?
Rogers: Yeah, once we started casting, the first person to sign on was Fred Armisen. A lot of our first choices said yes, and it was crazy. “Oh man, David Tennant would be awesome for Lord Commander, I wonder if he’ll do it.” Then he says yes and you’re like, “What is happening?!” I still don’t know why so many people said yes, but it’s always surreal to direct or sit in the booth with these living legends. They’re so funny. Ashly Burch is one of the best voice actors I’ve ever seen in my life. She’s so good and it makes me want to get better. I’m not much of a voice actor, but I’m trying my darndest.
Paste: Pick your favorite. Do it now. Who is your favorite?
Rogers: Oh, man. I would probably say three, I’ve got three favorites. One is Ketih David because every time that guy gets in the booth, it’s like you’re listening to angels sing. His voice is so good. The next is Tom Kenny because he can do any voice known to man. He’s Spongebob and nearly every character in the cartoon industry. It’s always really cool to let him go at it. The last one is Conan O’Brien; he doesn’t think he’s much of a voice actor, but he’s so funny. I’ve had to walk out of that booth so many times, because I’d just be cracking up.
Paste: How do you create and maintain a show ostensibly about loss and the human condition with a show that also has a cold open dedicated to a literal pissing match between the entire cast?
Rogers: At the core of the show, it’s always comedy but it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s meant to be something fun to watch, as well. So I think as equal as it is trauma and drama, there’s also comedy. Whether or not that joke lands, it’s something that everyone can relate to at least one time, having a cat piss on something.
Paste: So being a master of space and time and sci-fi, what are your thoughts on Space Force? Sub-question: is the moon part of Mars?
Rogers: The moon a part of Mars…? No, it’s a part of our solar system. Are you talking about the Steve Carell/Greg Daniels show…?
Paste: I mean the Trump administration’s choice to form a Space Force.
Rogers: Well, I kind of want to go back to the moon. Trump is out there talking about how we went once—it’s like going to In-N-Out once and being like, “I’ve tasted it, I’m done. I’m not going to explore the menu, that’s all.” I feel like there’s more stuff to be had on the moon but maybe that’s just me. Mars is also great. I’d go to Mars. I don’t think anyone is going to survive on Mars, but we did the moon.
Paste: I like how your critique of NASA is that they haven’t tried Animal Style fries.
Rogers: Exactly, yes. They only went in and got the regular fries, it’s time to go Animal Style!
Paste: Having only seen the first two episodes of the season, where does Final Space season 2 go from here?
Rogers: Man, we go all over the place. It’s a big space adventure this season, and we really wanted to have a lot of fun with it. We go to a lot of different planets. We got one back from episode 10, where Clarence is trying to seduce this queen, which is Conan so it’s a big Conan episode. It’s ridiculous, one of the most ridiculous episodes we have this season. We essentially have an episode for each character this season, which is really cool. It’s just a big, epic space adventure.
Paste: That’s such a great part of having a season two for any show; setting aside time for each character. Finally, if there is one device from the history of science fiction that you could personally own, what would it be?
Rogers: Probably a teleporter. Air travel sucks, man. That sucks.
Paste: Anything to get around TSA, I’m on board with that.
Final Space season 2 premieres on June 24th on Adult Swim.
Brock Wilbur is a writer and comedian from Los Angeles who lives with his wife Vivian Kane and their cat, Cat. He is the co-author (with Nathan Rabin) of the forthcoming book Postal for the Boss Fight Books series.