Dan Harmon spent a chunk of his career as one of TV’s more outspoken creators and showrunners, but reversed course in recent years after past transgressions (and particularly icky and offensive online sketches) came back to haunt him. And as his merchandising monolith co-creation Rick and Morty grew in popularity, it was his comedy collaborator Justin Roiland whose behavior in and out of the workplace made headlines, culminating in domestic violence charges and a host of sexual assault accusations coming to light in 2023. As the Adult Swim hit readies its Season 7 premiere with new voice actors replacing the since-fired Roiland, Harmon has broken his silence about it all.
For his first all-encompassing public profile in several years, Dan Harmon spoke with THR about his current situation as it compares to where he was at a decade prior while still in the throes of being rehired on Community, and reflected on the calamitous early seasons on Rick and Morty that led to his falling out with Roiland.
Dan Harmon On Recasting Justin Roiland For Rick And Morty
Though Justin Roiland’s felony charges were later dropped over insufficient evidence, the animator and video game developer had already been ousted from Adult Swim, and was also fired from his other TV and streaming series. The studio revealed that the sci-fi comedy would be recasting for the various roles that Roiland voiced, following a point when it seemed like the powers that be could actually renege on the massive episode order from years ago. Fans were finally able to hear the new (and currently unidentified) stars when the Season 7 trailer was released, and reactions have been largely positive.
Dan Harmon says he chose not to be actively involved with seeking out a Roiland soundalike for the casting process, saying it was a matter of denial, due to the conflicting goals involved. In his words:
It’s all just sad because the goal is for it to be indistinguishable, at the same time, it would be absurd to suddenly decide that the entire foundation of your creative project was, oh, coincidentally, unimportant.
Having to listen to a variety of voice actors come in and mimic Justin Roiland’s Rick and Morty performances (among other characters) apparently didn’t seem like a positive mental experience for Harmon. Giving due honor to a co-creator’s instantly recognizable character voices while also dismissing his presence and impact in most other ways is not a situation that brings many comparisons to mind from elsewhere in the pop culture sphere. It’s complicated, and it only makes sense for someone like Harmon to have complicated feelings about it.
Dan Harmon Addresses Falling Out With Justin Roiland, And The Accusations
Despite all the ups and downs behind the scenes of Rick and Morty — which centered partly on Justin Roiland taking an affront to Dan Harmon bringing Community writers to the show in its second season — things were reportedly hunky dory once more after Adult Swim set up its 70-episode order in mid-2018. But the happy days soured anew, and the two men essentially ceased communication in 2019, with their personal relationship capping off with a harsh text message exchange that the former Harmontown host addressed, saying:
He said things that he’d never said before about being unhappy, and I remember saying to him the last time we spoke in person, like, ‘I am worried about you, and I don’t know what to do about that except to give you all the string and also just say I’m scared that you’re not going to come back.’ But then this conversation became unprecedentedly confrontational. I think that’s as far as I get to take the story. At that point, we’re no longer both there for it, and it starts to become not only unfair for me to continue but totally uncomfortable because, from there, a friendship goes away, and I still don’t fully understand why.
Fans may never know the specifics of what led to Harmon and Roiland’s seemingly permanent rift, unless they’d somehow reunite and both choose to address the falling-out publicly. After that point, Harmon largely avoided speaking much about Roiland in interviews regarding Rick and Morty, which remained the case through early 2023 after the Solar Opposites co-creator’s charges were filed, and after the initial sexual assault accusations were spread.
But while Harmon maintained that choice for the initial THR interview, he was contacted again days later, following the release of a new report that further detailed past and new allegations from women claiming they were groomed and/or assaulted by Roiland (which his lawyer denied in full soon after), who is said to have used his Rick and Morty clout to attract the accusers. In response to the resurfaced claims, Harmon had this to share:
The easiest thing for me to say about Justin has been nothing. Easy because he isolated so well and easy because I’m nobody’s first choice as a judge of anything or anyone. This is where I’d love to change the subject to myself, to what a piece of crap I’ve been my whole public life. I would feel so safe and comfortable making this about me, but that trick is worthless here and dangerous to others. It’s other people’s safety and comfort that got damaged while I obsessed over a cartoon’s quality. Trust has now been violated between countless people and a show designed to please them. I’m frustrated, ashamed and heartbroken that a lot of hard work, joy and passion can be leveraged to exploit and harm strangers.
Several Rick and Morty staff members have spoken out about Justin Roiland's alleged lack of input on the show in later seasons, claiming he largely just wanted to record lines alone without dealing with writers and oversight. Which obviously plays into the specific humor that's been at the heart of the show's central characters since the beginning. So one has to wonder if and how that will change going forward, with new voice actors who will likely be relying far more on scripts than Roiland supposedly did.
For those who haven't heard the new actors in action yet, check out the trailer below.
Rick and Morty Season 7 will arrive on Adult Swim with its new voices in tow on Sunday, October 15, with eps available to stream with a Max subscription.