Justin Roiland Breaks Down His Career, from ‘Rick and Morty’ to ‘Adventure Time’ | Vanity Fair

published on July 2, 2020

I haven't done this before I could learn

stuff and this could be really fun just

how how does Disney make a show you know

what I mean like what kind of checks and

balances and nets of mediocrity are we

gonna be working with here

I'm Justin roiland and this is the

timeline of my career there's something

out in space that could use just a

little investigation

all right most extraordinary space

investigations that was a channel 101

show that me Dan Harmon and Sivan de

Jerian put together for fun one night we

wrote it or we didn't even write it we

just kind of outlined it and then we

shot it in one night and then Dan took

the footage and we kind of forgot about

it and then at the at the chat the panel

meeting we were watching tapes and Dan

produced it and he's like I've got a

tape and he put it in and he had edited

it and like made it into this ridiculous

show it was really funny and it got

screened it got voted back and we just

kept making episodes Sarah Silverman

joined us I think on the second or third

episode as it as like a regular cast

member of the space investigators so

dumb we would shoot it in my old

apartment in Sherman Oaks and just like

it was the most lo-fi like there was

zero production value but people liked

it anyways whatever it was it was it was

a lot of fun to make that show because

we we weren't allowed to write anything

until he got together the night we were

gonna shoot it so we would get together

having no idea what the story was gonna

be and then we would all sit around and

just kind of smoke weed and and you know

then we just come up with the story and

then just start shooting it all night

long we'd usually wrap shooting around

like 4:00 in the morning in my apartment

it's like everything was in my apartment

or around my apartment it was so funny

here goes nothing I just want to let you

know that I don't trust

Marty Marty we have a problem so the

real animated adventures of dr Marty

was I I wanted to just do those voices

and kind of screw around but I also

wanted to make something really shocking

and disgusting on purpose I had done it


with a thing called unbelievable tales I

got a huge rush off of being in the

audience and here in the audience like

just scream and cover their eyes and I

don't know there was something really

cool about having that kind of effect on

you know 400 people in a theater it was

like it was just insane to to elicit

reactions like that and so that was kind

of the the primary motivation and then

and then as I was making it I kind of

found I really liked the characters and

the voices a lot and I liked I just

liked you know the talking to myself as

those voices and there was a lot about

it that I liked so I I kind of

accidentally stumbled upon that

throughout the course of making it but

the audience definitely freaked the

out which was amazing I'm confused

I'm already trust me I built this car

with my need to adjust I can help you

have fun I'm a friend you can trust

acceptable TV that was a show on vh1 for

a minute the show was kind of a little

microcosm of channel 101 so we basically

banked a bunch of sketches and

animations and then when the show was

live the audience would vote on their

favorite two shows through this website

that was designed on Ruby on Rails and I

remember that being a huge problem

because the website sucked it was easy

to hack and all this to the show

would air there'd be five little mini TV

shows that were like sketches and then

people would vote on their favorite – we

would find out Sunday what shows came

back and then we would get to work and

basically start writing the second

episode of whatever shows they voted on

and start producing them we did a thing

called mr sprinkles for the first

episode and got voted back and I had an

animation department that I was

where we were having to animate the

second episode in basically three and a

half days it was insane because it was

on light boards you know classic

animation painted backgrounds and the

after-effects and then the show kept the

animation kept getting voted back eight

weeks in a row we were in debt the

animation Department was just on fumes

because we weren't sleeping

I remember eight weeks I was just like I

can't do this and I was also bumped

because all these cartoons we had banked

are never gonna air like we had we had

we had animated I think four different

cool fun little cartoon TV show ideas

and it was just mr sprinkles the whole

time the audience really likes this mr

sprinkles stuff it was good I like mr

sprinkles it's fun whatever final day

when the Sun is out but when it rains I

scream and shout but this isn't about

screaming and shouting is it mr


I took a meeting with Mike moon at

Disney Alex first was there that was the

first time I met Alex and then they

pitched me this fishhooks thing and Alex

was looking for someone to help him

develop it it was very different I was

like oh I haven't done this before I

could learn stuff and this could be

really fun just how how does Disney make

a show you know what I mean like what

kind of checks and balances and nets of

mediocrity are we gonna be working with

here so and and how can I rise to that

challenge and try to help make something

that's this that's really good or as

good as it can be okay B then it's a

date see you tomorrow I mean not a date

date because you know why would I want


Adventure Time ah the French wine

Adventure Time was fun that was pin war

he was a fan of my podcast and coke

grandma's virginity check it out all the

episodes are still online and actually

don't check it out Tony

who cares but um he came on an episode

and then I think I feel like on the

episode I was like come on pin put me in

this show I might have been doing that

and then he ended up he ended up like

actually offering me apart and I didn't

know what it was gonna be and I went and

record I went there and I just started I

just was like how about this and I just

screamed I just did this screaming voice

and he was like that'll do it was really

cool and I did the I did the first

episode and then by the third episode it

was there was so much of Lemongrab there

were a bunch of clones of him tonight

and I was doing all of them and they all

screamed and I was in the booth for

about three hours

and after that I went back to the Rick

and Morty writers room and I remember

that we were talking about something and

I tried to do Morty's voice and I

couldn't do his voice it just wouldn't

happen then Tom Kenny told me I think I

was recording him for an episode and he

was like you need to go to this doctor I

went to see this doctor and he it was he

was like okay yeah you don't have any

vocal nodules but your vocal cords are

super super swollen you need to not talk

for like two weeks and here's a

cortisone shot boom cortisone that stuff

no it doesn't it just hurts I don't I

couldn't talk and so I had to download

this app this text-to-speech app called

like talkbot it sounds really depressed

like everything you type and if you type

out what you want or what you need to

say and you can't play and the voice

sounds really sad and so people thought

I was sad the whole time and I wasn't i

we ended up using that voice for the

butter robot that's literally how I was

talking if you listen to the butter

robot in that Rick and Morty episode

that one famous Rick and Morty episode

with the butter robot you know the one

I'm talking about pass the butter

thank you that's literally what I

sounded like for two weeks all because

of Lemongrab

there's only one way out of here

gravity falls I knew Alex he was around

when we were working on Fish Hooks he

was literally in like down the hall and

he always had his door closed and he was

developing gravity falls in that room

when they got going with the first

season he had me come in and do a few

different characters he knew he wanted

me in there somewhere and so I was just

like coming in and doing a voice and

then it wouldn't stick and then I come

in and I think I did maybe two I can't

remember what characters and then I came

in and did blendin and that one looked

that would that one clicked it was like

okay this is this one feels right that

was fun it was fun to be that character

because I knew there was a lot of stuff

that that character was involved in a

lot of Easter eggs like throughout the

course of the season so that was really

cool to be that character belinda and

blend jimin Blandon how could you not

know my name after you ruin my life

exist you're trying to say so Rick and

Morty that was the genesis of that

obviously was with dr marty as we

discussed earlier as you heard me ramble

about then I kind of started work

shopping those characters you know into

stuff that's a bit more legitimate not

just shock gross stuff and then Harmon

called me and said hey Adult Swim once

an animated show for me and at the time

he was working on community he's like do

you have anything because you're the you

know you're the animation guy I don't at

the time he's like I don't I don't know

I don't know animation

he knew the characters cuz I had been

doing them in channel 101 for years he

was like yes okay I love those

characters like that's the perfect

that's the perfect thing that we can

work around I ended up meeting up with

him and we just sat and developed the

show and kind of built a sturdier more

broad frame around the characters which

is what became Rick and Morty the family

a stable foundation to build up serd

craziness on top of I didn't realize how


that was in retrospect it's it's

insanely valuable and it's like a lesson

I learned

I still think you can make really cool

that's just insane everything's

insane and it doesn't need to be super

grounded and palatable and and stuff but

I see the strengths for Rick and Morty

and where that where that takes us it

doesn't feel like it's just a bunch of

nonsense it's like it's very there's

it's very grounded I remember um doing

the animatic for the pilot and turning

that in and the network did not like my

voices at all hello for Rick and Morty

they did not Lazo hated it I think a lot

of people there were like oh we like to

show a lot but the voices are terrible

and at the time Morty was more like jeez

come on what's going on really obnoxious

and grating so they had a phone call

without me and Harmon called me

afterwards and he's like okay I'm just

gonna rip the band-aid off here they

love the pilot they don't like the

voices I fought for Rick so you so

you're gonna get to do Rick but we got a

recap we have to cast somebody from

Morty we have to look for somebody I was

like like that completely defeats the

whole point because I really wanted to

be able to bounce back and forth and do

these characters the way I had been

doing them and a lot of that stuff is me

making up and and just weird

will come into my head doing that but I

was like okay let's I'm not gonna freak

out let's let's play ball

we'll audition people we auditioned a

bunch of people a bunch of good people

we picked our favorite three we

submitted them Lazo hated them well I

hate as a strong word he just was it

didn't work he was like this isn't


I called Lazo and I just said listen

we'll keep looking because he the note

was he wanted it grounded he wanted it a

normal voice not Barbra Lee and

over-the-top this is the conversation

that I found out oh that's why they

didn't like it cuz I'm doing this crazy

version of more do I need to just make

him more grounded and normal and it's

really about the acting so I had my

buddy Bryan Newton storyboard these

little recordings I did like dan dan

wrote up like a couple like little

sentences of like okay these this is the

scenario Rick and Morty are in the car

and Rick's talking about how he's gonna

start a new world but he won't he's

gonna get Jessica but he's not gonna

do anything with her and I was like just

a little like blurb so I took that as it

like a you know my prompt and I just

recorded that like a whole step whole

scene and I did Morty normal and and

made Morty pissed like III I remember I

needed Morty to get mad like I needed

Mordy to show some spine in him to fight

back and and I knew that I knew that was

super important to selling the the

character and the voice and then I cut

the audio and I gave it to Bryan who's

storyboarded it all and I cut those

boards into an animatic and I sent that

to LA so two days before we sent our top

three picks for the morning voice and I

swear to god one of those people would

have gotten the part because they were

really good like today we're all like oh

this is what he wants he called me the

next morning and he's like okay you got

the part this is this is great just you

know be the best Morty you can be he or

something I can't remember what he said

but I was like whew thank God and then

we ended up taking that that animatic

that I improv and we put it as the cold

open to the pilot it's not anything to

do with the story you're about to watch

but it's a really great scene that

introduces you to both Rick and Morty in

a really interesting funny way then we

went on and we were making episodes to

this very day and they're about to

premiere what a world with the with the

the in my garbage dungeon was able to

finally get a garbage dungeon is it on

camera yeah that's a live feed from the

other room back there anyway let's keep

going what are you crazy


Krampus was my buddy Michael Dougherty

making another one of his a knee horror

movies that he tends to make that

character he was like hey dude

do it do the voice of one of these

little goblins he's little cookie

gingerbread monster guys it was so fun

it was easy but yeah he did it on his

giant soundstage it didn't even feel

like work like it was just like goofing

around in this giant soundstage and

there was just me and Michael and the

engineer was like super there wasn't a

bunch of people there and we just sort

of hung out and then we recorded and

then watched a little bit of the movie

not the whole thing but you know

different scenes it was super exciting I

was like really I was like dude this is

moving awesome I I'm a big fan of his

stuff he's great I want to see him do

more like low-budget horror stuff and

not movies like Godzilla cuz it's like

who wants to direct a 300 million dollar

movie that sounds like a nightmare you

know think of all the cooks in that

kitchen that does not sound like

something that you'd be able to have

much fun doing in my humble opinion

oh he wants more murder powder that's my

little drug addict

oh sorry world out hot streets was my

friend Brian show I helped him I helped

him sell that show and I

executive-produced it for him in full

disclosure need to make sure that's

clear for legal reasons and I did the

voice of chubby Weber's and Brian was

right he was writing lines of dialogue

for this character that didn't speak so

I was I would see this script and I'm

like there's all this dialogue that I'm

not you want me to just mumble stuff so

that was pretty good it was in the days

before the coronavirus so it was it was

a good time you know I think we'd take

those times for granted or we took them

for granted you know now here we are

quarantined and living in trash dungeons

but back then it was good good times

were good you know it's like it's like

that Dazed and Confused movie you watch

that and you're like oh man that was

those were the good old days you know

and that's how I feel thinking about my

part on hot streets

I'm pop-up yeah okay you fixed the

helicopter murder powder is for doggies

to fix helicopters small foot was a

small experience because I went in they

offered me the part and I said oh yeah

that's fun and I went in and it was like

I was there for maybe an hour tops

maybe less because Gary's lines are just

a few lines but there's sprinkled

throughout the movie he's got a nice

Runner you know it's pretty good the

crew there was really great I gave him a

hundred and ten percent on the team

player and

yeah I just I just I just kind of like

they told me how Gary should be and I

did it exactly as they asked and it was

really fun I was actually really fun it

was cool to see that and krampus both

were really interesting to see how

movies are mixed it's extravagant it's

like a massive theater room we'll just

generally don't like us one guy hates

you who's some Duke Tyler I don't even

know anyone named Tyler it feels like

I'm covered in being this Tyler guy what

did I ever do it it we can act different

Corvo I mean we can make people like I

need to repair this God forsaken ship

and if people don't like us that will

make that job so much harder in so many

ways so to be clear I don't need to be

liked it's strictly a work necessity

well I need to be like solar opposites

the reason why you've sat through all of

this you want to learn more about this

brand new thing this was a show that I

originally had the idea for a very

different version of it in 2007 on

acceptable TV the show was basically two

aliens that were kind of an odd couple

that were stationed on earth I mean it

was gonna be live-action with like paper

mache heads and then like CGI mouths and

eyes and it was gonna look really cool

we started from there and then and then

Mike and I were work Mike McMahan and I

were developing it in between seasons

two and three of Rick and Morty so a

long time ago we were having a lot of

fun when we started building a frame

around the show that was like okay well

let's let's set it up where their planet

got destroyed there is no Supreme Leader

that they're reporting back to they're

on earth living amongst humans sort of

stranded like Gilligan's Island on this

planet with with us with people and they

have their replicants with them but they

don't understand human human culture and

one of them Corvo the one I do the voice

of is very buttoned down and my

you know doesn't want to like things and

just is just grumpy and wants to just

have things be clean and simple and

structured and really wants to get the

off earth because earth is just not

his it's just not okay

Terry the character who's voiced by

Thomas Middleditch who's sort of the

earth loving human culture loving alien

Terry sort of brings Corbeau into the

human world tour buh buh grudgingly you

know finds things he likes but he's just

a grump you know what I mean real

classic case of The Odd Couple

thanks so much vanity fear for letting

me reminisce about my career that's for

sure done because of the coronavirus and

let's all take a moment to remember the

past and the good times I know that's

too long

okay wait what do you want me to do

again sorry hey thanks a lot for letting

me discuss my career at length in this

echoey room my trash dungeon room okay

I'm sorry

hey thanks for letting me discuss my

career it was real a real pleasure for

me what did he do huh

hold on hey thanks for letting me babble

on not about my career thanks a lot I

want to thank Brock Obama and Jesus

Christ and let me start over

hey thanks for letting me babble about

my career for you huh Brendan be fair

Vandy fear or whatever what are you guys

up to over there anyways so I'm gonna

just hang out here my Coronas

trash dungeon I'm gonna be playing

Minecraft I'll see you all after the

coronavirus and please be safe that's

too long it's too long let me do one


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