The seventh season of the critically acclaimed cartoon series Rick and Morty premiered on Sunday, marking the first time the cult animated franchise played to audiences without its original voice actor and co-creator Justin Roiland, who was fired earlier this year after being charged with domestic violence.
Despite pleading not guilty in 2020 to charges of domestic battery, false imprisonment and initiating a violent incident with a woman he was dating, Roiland appeared in court in January 2023 as part of a pre-trial hearing. He has since been cleared of all charges.
As the voice actor for the two titular characters and a whole host of supporting characters, the remaining creative team behind Rick and Morty faced a significant challenge in finding a replacement. In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, co-creator Dan Harmon and showrunner Scott Marder revealed the “exhaustive” process of listening to “thousands” of actors.
“Our metric of absolute success in the transition would be if the hypothetical casual viewer, who was out of the loop on any behind-the-scenes drama about the show, were to keep right on watching it and say: ‘This season’s better than the other one’ or ‘This may be my favourite episode,'” Harmon explained.
He also added that they wouldn’t make any in-show references to the change-up, which some fans thought may happen based on the show’s previous penchant for self-reference. “That would preclude being meta and mining this stuff… We want to suck it up, play it grown-up style, and get back to work.”
Confirming that newcomers Ian Cardoni and Harry Belden were eventually found as worthwhile voice replacements, Harmon emphasised the lengths they had to go to find them. “It was harder than we thought… Rick was a lot harder than I expected; everyone sounded like Macho Man Randy Savage or like a cousin of his. No one sounded exactly like Rick… [the search] was exhaustive.”
Praising the new talents of Cardoni and Belden, Marder said, “I’m just grateful we found these guys and that they sound the same and that everyone can enjoy what we know, what we’ve had for a while, which is maybe one of our best seasons.” Harmon, meanwhile, thanked the “200-plus people’s dedication to this collective religion.”