Rick and Morty argue and yell at one another a lot. It’s kind of a hallmark of the show. However, back before the first episode ever premiered, when co-creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland were working on the show, there was a period where it seemed like Morty was going to sound and act very different.
The recently released Season 3 Blu-ray and DVD includes a small documentary about the history of Rick and Morty among its special features, and the doc reveals that Roiland wasn’t always going to voice the two titular characters. Rick and Morty evolved from a short Roiland made called The Real Animated Adventures of Doc and Mharti a Back to the Future spoof starring proto-versions of Rick and Morty. Roiland voiced the two characters, and further developed the voices and rapport that would become Rick and Morty.
When Adult Swim asked Harmon about making a series, he turned to Roiland, and the two began to develop Rick and Morty with Roiland voicing both characters. There was only one problem: Adult Swim’s Creative Director Mike Lazzo didn’t think Morty was working.
“I just felt, wow, I don’t like Morty. I really like Rick,” Lazzo said. “While Morty is really funny for a couple minutes, I’m going to get really tired of this.”
At first Lazzo, Harmon, and Roiland supposed that the voice wasn’t working, so they began to interview potential Morty voice actors. Eventually, though, they realized that it wasn’t the voice that was working, it was the character. He was too stupid, too much of a punching bag.
“He was designed to be a stupid machine so that Rick could cuss at him. That’s okay for five minutes, but if you’re going to make 10 half-hours, it’s not going to work,” Lazzo said.
So, Roiland took back the reins and began to voice Morty again, but the character was tweaked so that he was a little less dumb and a little more willing to stick up for himself, even as he still was at Rick’s mercy and the subject of all Rick’s ire.
Roiland, who was reluctant to let somebody else voice Morty, was thrilled when he got the okay to voice the retooled Morty.
“You got it, you can do Morty,” Roiland recalled Lazzo calling him. “And I’m like, ‘fuck, okay, holy shit.’”
Rick and Morty Season 3 is on DVD and Blu-ray now. Season 4 and beyond doesn’t have a premiere date yet.