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After a successful first season as part of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block, Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland’s Rick and Morty is set to return for more episodes next summer (as well as launching a brand new comic series from Oni Press come spring). The stories may hinge on the outrageous interdimensional and interplanetary adventures of the titular characters, but it’s the parental figures portrayed by Chris Parnell (Jerry) and Sarah Chalke (Beth) that are responsible for grounding the show.
“All of us in the family are needed for that,” Parnell said during a roundtable interview at New York Comic Con on Friday regarding his character’s role in balancing the show’s more fantastical elements. “And hopefully for a little humor.”
But while Jerry and Beth gave viewers an anchor during Season 1, they’re not going to be moored to Earth much longer. “We get to get in on the crazy Season 2,” Chalke said with excitement. “We have a lot of trouble in our marriage, and so Rick suggests that we go for couples therapy off planet. So we do.”
“Everything goes really smoothly,” Parnell said sarcastically, adding that their characters will “go on some adventures and go to other dimensions and other planets and things” during the upcoming season.
Specifically, he mentioned an episode where Jerry champions the idea that Pluto is still a planet, bringing the appreciation of the Plutonian denizens. “So they bring me to Pluto and sort of hold me up on a pedestal. And that’s good for Jerry because he needs to be built up and supported.” He added, “And it’s good for me, Chris Parnell, because I need that, too.”
Asked what she thought Beth actually sees in Jerry, Chalke admitted there isn’t much. “In couples therapy, a mythological creature gets created of what’s going on in your subconscious, of how you see the other person, so neither of them know what’s gonna pop up. And he’s a spineless worm man, so that’s how Beth kind of sees him. And he sees her as a giant warrior queen cyborg.”
She went on to say that they tried many different voices for the Xeno-Beth projection, something that is unique to animation. “If you’re on a set and you ask to do another take there’s like 100 crew members waiting for you, but in the sound booth you can do 1 line 10 different ways in under a minute, and so it’s such a fun, creative way to get to work.”
Despite their marital distress, Chalke is rooting for Jerry and Beth to succeed, if for no other reason than “if they divorce, between the two of us, I’m the one to go. They’re keeping Parnell.” Even with their problems front and center, there will be moments of tenderness between the couple in the upcoming season, especially during the aforementioned couples therapy episode.
And that won’t be the only time Jerry and Beth get off world. Chalke said series creators Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon wanted the second season to take “the show more interplanetary and the sci-fi direction even further.”
Roiland reiterated the point when he came around to the table. “We really had a focus on forging ahead and continuing what we did in Season One, just keep moving ahead. The world is so huge, the universe is so huge, the multiverse is so huge — let’s just move forward and keep building, keep building, keep building.”
That forward momentum may mean that many fan-favorite characters won’t be revisited. Harmon admitted he was “gun shy” about bringing back too many side characters. “We’re a little worried about the curse of Community, which is that if you do do a callback or exhibit some continuity, even if it functions on its own, then the critics say, ‘Oh there’s this thing, it’s called the Human Being or Annie’s Boobs,’ and then somehow the culture gets created that somehow the show isn’t appropriate for new viewers, which isn’t true.”
Though this means we probably won’t see Pirates of the Pancreas come to fruition, it doesn’t rule out the eventual return of the Meeseeks, some of the inaugural season’s most popular characters. Roiland admitted he didn’t know how the creatures would return, but Harmon said he sees the Meeseeks Box as the show’s “cosmic screwdriver.” “Every once in awhile you need something done, so you get the Meeseeks out,” he said.
Speaking about their writing process, Harmon said that with Season One, “We had a list of sci-fi tropes that we wanted to do — teleportation, invisibility, rocket boots, cloning — and then we made a list of domestic tropes, if you want to call them that – divorce, credit card debt, house training the dog. We thought early on that we need to stick to a template of pairing those two columns in each episode.”
Season Two, however, will deviate a bit from the formula. Whereas the first season was driven largely by Rick’s wacky inventions, Roiland said Season Two will be “a little more open. It’s a little bigger. There’s still Rick’s inventions and stuff, but it’s not like, ‘Jerry, here, use this. See ya’ later!’ And then whatever he gave him wreaks havoc.”
What about the chance of seeing episodes done in different mediums, as Harmon has done on his NBC show, Community, with everything from anime to G.I. Joe-style animation? While puppets created by Roiland’s sister’s boyfriend (who appeared on Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge) were used in commercials for the Season One DVD, Roiland doesn’t see them doing a whole episode that way. “I think it would just be bizarre to do a show with them as puppets. I think it would be confusing for people who aren’t familiar with the show.”
Still, when Harmon mentioned stop-motion, Roiland seemed open to the idea. “I think if we made it like a special,” Harmon said, “basically what we did with Community, I could see you doing that with Rick and Morty like, ‘This is the Rick and Morty Christmas Special,’ and doing it in a different medium.”
Asked if there would be more special guest voices like there were in Season One (John Oliver, Dana Carvey and Alfred Molina, to name a few), Harmon and Roiland racked their brains to come up with names of the many guest they’d nabbed for Season Two. Stephen Colbert, Werner Herzog, Jim Rash, Andy Daly, and Keegan-Michael Key were all mentioned by name, as well as “a bunch of Mr. Show guys” and “some great Battlestar Galactica folks.”
The creators didn’t reveal much more about the next season of their own show, but they did have something to say about the current season of The Simpsons. “We got Matt Groening and Al Jean and a bunch of the Simpsons guys to do a commentary track for the [Rick and Morty Season 1] DVD, and that’s where they first asked us to do a couch gag for The Simpsons,” said Roiland. “We’re in the processes right now. We have it submitted and we’re just in the processes of figuring out the production timeline.”
For now, however, that seems to be the only animated crossover in the works for Rick and Morty.
‘Rick and Morty’ returns to Adult Swim in summer 2015.