Dan Harmon Finally Speaks Out About Justin Roiland’s Departure From ‘Rick and Morty’
When news broke that Rick and Morty star and co-creator Justin Roiland faced domestic violence charges back in January, it didn’t take long for Adult Swim to announce that they were cutting ties with Roiland and moving on with their flagship series sans the face (and voice) of the show. Soon after, reports of behind-the-scenes strife and a nearly severed relationship between Roiland and Harmon painted the firing as a long time coming, as Roiland’s creative input in the project had been nearly negligible since some time in the show’s third season when he decided to step back from any responsibilities beyond his vocal performance.
As stories about Roiland’s alleged misbehavior continued to break, the typically outspoken Harmon remained unusually tight-lipped on the topic – that is, until he spoke to The Hollywood Reporter in a feature published this morning. “The easiest thing for me to say about Justin has been nothing,” Roiland admitted. Now he’s ready for the hard part.
Harmon confirmed rumors that had been swirling around his and Roiland’s fraught professional relationship (many of which were published by The Hollywood Reporter itself) recalling how his efforts to transform the loosely guided chaos of the show’s early-season production process into a more professional hit-making machine unintentionally alienated Roiland from the project that was, at its core, his own brainchild. Harmon filled out the writers’ room that was previously populated by his and Roiland’s outlandish fringe comic friends from their Channel 101 with ringers from Harmon’s other projects, including Harvard-educated writers who had less patience for the previously meandering, unfocused writing process that was characteristic of Rick and Morty’s inaugural season.
“If I had felt like I was imposing something, I would have never done it,” Harmon said of the institutional changes he introduced to Rick and Morty. “If anything, what I wanted was for Justin and I both to be able to be increasingly lazy and not show up for work. That was the dream,” he continued. “We’d be these rich idea men. He could roll around and go, like, ‘What if a genie had a butt instead of a dick?’ And I could be like, ‘Yeah, and plus, we’re going to make people cry about it, and that’s going to make them freak out. It’s a story about a genie butt dick, but then we’d win an Emmy, and it’d be more ironic than ever.’”
Roiland, however, didn’t see things that way. “I’d come to find out later that it was like, ‘Oh, Harmon brought in his Harmon writers,’” Harmon explained. Their relationship began to deteriorate as Roiland pulled back from the writing process, which culminated in Adult Swim bringing in a mediator to attempt to mend the partnership that was producing sky-high ratings and critical acclaim like the channel had never seen before. “I always felt like Justin wanted everybody to make him feel more comfortable, and I was just like, ‘Everybody wants to make you comfortable, communicate, tell us how to do that,’” Harmon said of his attempts to salvage their relationship. “I was freaking out about the whole thing because I wanted the partnership to function. I wanted him happy because when he’s happy, we have a hit on our hands.”
According to Harmon, he and his former creative partner last spoke over text in late 2019. “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,’” Harmon recalled. “But then this conversation became unprecedentedly confrontational.”
As for what Roiland’s last words were to his former partner that started the four-year silence between them, Harmon refused to divulge the damage that was done. “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.”
Then, of course, there’s the allegations. Though the domestic violence charges against Roiland were dropped, since the story broke, eleven different women have come forward to accuse Roiland of sexual misconduct up to and including sexual assault and grooming underaged girls. The stories of the alleged victims show a pattern of manipulative and predatory behavior centered around the power Roiland wielded over impressionable young fans due to the success of Rick and Morty, and the implications of those alleged abuses weigh on Harmon heavily.
“It’s other people’s safety and comfort that got damaged while I obsessed over a cartoon’s quality,” Harmon told The Hollywood Reporter after the most recent wave of accusations against Roiland surfaced. “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.”