Life with Rick and Morty: Dan Harmon and the Cast Discuss Season 5

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Life with <i>Rick and Morty</i>: Dan Harmon and the Cast Discuss Season 5

Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland aren’t working towards an end with Rick and Morty. Years ago, their hit show received the mother of all renewals to the tune of 70 episodes over a non-specific number of seasons. Considering how often Harmon’s last big TV project, Community, struggled to get renewed every year, Rick and Morty’s success was a bit of a reversal of fortune. Now, as Harmon and his cast have wrapped on their fifth season, which debuts this weekend, and with yet more to come, they just seem to be enjoying the batshit ride that Rick and Morty has been.

When asked about what he was looking forward to in the future for Rick and Morty, Harmon amusingly offered, “I mean retirement is a big goal for me. That makes it sound like I don’t enjoy my work. I’m just getting old and I don’t enjoy the audience as much as I used to.” He shared that what ’s been really exciting for him is “working with new writers, and watching old writers be cultivated,” calling the writers room and Zoom meetings “a thing that keeps you liking other humans because writers are good humans.”

While Harmon’s looking forward to being able to rest, and fostering the talent of his writing team on the way there, he is still obviously enjoying the process of doing whatever the hell he wants with Rick and Morty. Though he acknowledged there wasn’t a planned end in sight, he did admit that as the show goes on it’s of course going to reckon with what’s come in the past, and incorporating it seems like it’s been a refreshing challenge to someone constantly weighing the merits of serialization and building proper arcs. Serialization, in Harmon’s eyes, is “like gravity” in its inevitability, and he welcomes it, even if it tries to do “its inevitable job of taking over your show and strangling it.”

That’s a long way off though, and for now Harmon’s resisting giving into it. Instead, he’s favored “modularity,” which he understandably likens to crack. “Every crack rock should get you just as high as the other rocks. You shouldn’t have to like smoke crack rock number one before number three, and there should of course never be a final crack rock plan. It just happens.”

These “crack rocks” have guaranteed that the family at the core of Rick and Morty have gone through just about everything in the book, and then some. The cast finds this very refreshing though. “I think we’re better for it,” Sarah Chalke, who plays the matriarch and Rick’s daughter Beth, told us. “If I think about Beth at the beginning of the series and where she is now, and how much she’s grown in the confidence and ownership of her life, I think that it’s been good for her.”

Spencer Grammer, who portrays the family daughter Summer, and Chris Parnell, who plays Beth’s husband Jerry, both seem in agreement on that point. “Life is tough anyway, without being able to jump to another dimension. And in some ways, I think Summer is grateful,” said Grammer of the trials of being related to Rick, the eccentric and crude scientist who is the cynical and deranged heart of the show. “I think it makes Summer cooler, where Summer would be some really lame high schooler but because her grandpa is who he is, she can hold onto that.”

“Jerry’s had a connection with Rick that didn’t used to be there, and I think he knows deep down that there are times that he needs Rick for sure,” Parnell said of his character’s often adversarial relationship with his father-in-law. “And that Rick can be helpful, but you know, obviously it’s a hate-hate-love relationship. Mostly hate, but there’s a little bit of love there.”

Not only do the cast think their characters are better off knowing Rick, they’re also just happy to be part of a show that’s willing to go to every place possible. According to Grammer, “it’s the best.”

Parnell shared that the “boundary-lessness of the show, and how far it can go, is always exciting.” Chalke doubled down further, saying, “It’s kind of a two-part experience, because you experience Rick and Morty on the page, but obviously it’s so different from any other job where you read it and have a pretty good idea of what a family sitting and eating dinner is gonna look like.” The dissonance between the expectation and the often twisted and absurd reality of the show makes it hit even harder.

This willingness to explore anything and everything has led to constantly fresh turns for the cast’s characters, who on another show might’ve remained a plain old family. Instead, when asked what their favorite developments were, the cast was able to offer morsels like Chalke playing an inter dimensional clone of herself or Jerry’s brief flirtation with having Rick assassinated.

The cast and Harmon were equally reluctant to share much of what to expect from the new season, though a screener made available to us did at least reveal that the show will be as off-the-rails as ever. The fifth season premiere introduces Rick’s nemesis (another inevitability Harmon said would have to occur at some point) who humps the air constantly and invites himself into the family’s life in more ways than one. All the while, Morty finally asks his longtime crush Jessica out and that goes about as well as you might think if you’re at all familiar with the show.

Rick and Morty has always seemed like the ultimate “it’s the journey not the destination” kind of show, and that still rings true headed into the fifth season and beyond. You’ll just have to see for yourself if the ride is worth it when the newest season premieres on Adult Swim on June 20.


Moises Taveras is a former intern for Paste Magazine and the managing editor of his college newspaper, the Brooklyn College Vanguard. He was that one kid who was really excited about Google+ and is still sad about how that turned out.

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