In August 2020, Justin Roiland was arrested for domestic battery in California. The victim was an unnamed woman that Roiland had been dating at the time. He was released on bail and has a trial date of April 27th, 2023. However, the arrest was not made public until January 2023, when NBC News reported on the story. And when that story dropped, others came forward with similar allegations, including predatory behavior toward minors.
So with all this information revealed, what happened next was dismissing Roiland from current projects he’s involved with. And he is involved in a lot.
Roiland was Rick and Morty’s co-creator, writer, director, executive producer, and central voice actor. He has voiced Rick, Morty, and a host of other characters for the past six seasons. Roiland has voiced Rick in other media projects. This includes a slew of ad campaigns, a skit for the Emmys, and cameos on The Simpsons, Space Jam: A New Legacy, and the Red Letter Media YouTube channel, which will age about as well as that time they had on Max Landis. The other co-creator, Dan Harmon, is also very problematic, but that’s a whole other can of worms.
Roiland is also the co-creator, writer, and executive producer of Solar Opposites. He also voices the primary character Korvo, who essentially sounds like a less drunk and more angry version of Rick Sanchez. Three seasons of Solar Opposites have aired on Hulu, and the current contract goes up to five.
Roiland also has an executive producer credit for the animated series Koala Man.
Roiland helped with the concept for the video game High on Life, in which Roiland also voices the player’s gun with little distinction from his Morty voice.
Once Roiland’s arrest, trial, and sexual harassment were made public in January 2023, the housecleaning began. Adult Swim dismissed Roiland from Rick and Morty, stating that the show would continue and that the characters of Rick and Morty would be recast.
Squanch Games, the developer of High on Life, confirmed that Roiland had resigned from his position.
Soon after, Hulu announced that Roiland would no longer work on Solar Opposites or be involved with Koala Man. Solar Opposites will likely recast Korvo, while Koala Man won’t be affected much since Roiland’s involvement was minimal, having been one of several executive producers and voicing one supporting role for one episode.
I’m not going to say something as reductive as, “I never liked Rick & Morty and always suspected Roiland was bad news.” That’s not adding anything to the conversation.
I’m also not going to try to slander anybody who loved Rick & Morty and feels awful about liking it now with everything that has come to light. Roiland’s record was not known while these shows were airing. Nobody has to blame the fans for unwittingly supporting a TV show created by a recently-revealed abuser.
Some fans, however, might react despairing towards the future of Roiland’s many projects. There’s already been talk about how Roiland made Rick & Morty great, including Elon Musk, who palled around with Roiland. Without Roiland, some argue, Rick & Morty won’t be a funny show anymore.
But…was Roiland really that essential?
Despite how much influence Roiland has on his many animated shows, his contributions outside of voice acting and executive producing are minimal.
Remember when I mentioned that Roiland was a writer and director on Rick & Morty? Those contributions were minor. Roiland has only written six of the 61 episodes of Rick & Morty and only one as the sole writer. He’s also only directed one episode, the pilot.
Some of the series’ most highly regarded and award-winning episodes did not have Roiland’s association as writer or director. Season 4’s The Vat of Acid Episode won the series an Emmy. It was co-written by Jeff Loveness, who most recently wrote Ant-Man 3. Season 3’s Pickle Rick, the most famous episode of the series, which also won an Emmy, was written by Jessica Gao, who went on to be the head writer of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.
Considering Roiland had stopped writing and directing episodes by season 4, the show’s creative team seems to do just fine without him. From the sounds of it, the production might actually be better.
According to The Hollywood Reporter and their sources, Roiland had checked out of writing by season 3. He’d be absent for weeks, and the few times he did show up, he’d actively avoid the writer’s room. The staff would only know he was in the office because he was driving a remote-controlled car with a microphone attached. He was so paranoid he was spying on his own staff’s conversations in the most childish way possible!
If you’re wondering why Roiland was so standoffish with the writers, there’s a reason for this. Season 3 was the first season when Rick & Morty had female writers. During this time, Roiland paraded a porn star through the writer’s room, spoke openly about having threesomes with his fiancee, and had at least one act of sexual harassment in the workplace. Roiland’s actions were reported and investigated in 2020 by Cartoon Network, which revealed he was going over the line, but it’s not clear what, if any, disciplinary actions were taken.
Roiland would constantly interrupt pitches, doodle genitals on the whiteboard, and derail meetings by playing with toys. Those who worked on the show claimed that writing Rick & Morty was far easier when Roiland was not present, and they’ve probably preferred this format ever since.
His creative involvement with Solar Opposites is even lower. How low? He co-wrote the first episode and directed none of the episodes!
Since Roiland is one of many executive producers on Koala Man, there will likely be no change if Koala Man continues without him.
The distancing continued for Solar Opposites and Koala Man, where many staff had never met or spoken with Roiland, in-person or online. Even getting Roiland to voice one character on Koala Man proved challenging, as the show nearly missed its deadline while waiting for Roiland to record his lines.
I’ve already mentioned Roiland’s drinking tradition for recording his voices, but it should be noted this was not always an effective strategy. Sources claimed that Roiland often left recording sessions early due to being sick. He would also drink before attending press events and fan appearances. His constant drinking likely led to him ditching his various obligations early or simply not attending them.
Roiland’s unprofessionalism was brought up by several of his collaborators, but executives always seemed to run defense for him. They declared his behavior was simply “an eccentricity of a genius weirdo.”
In reality, Roiland was relishing in how much power he had. So much money and other people’s jobs were tied to ensuring this guy provided voices for the most popular Adult Swim cartoon on the planet. One source on Solar Opposites stated that Roiland knew about the power of his voice, as he revealed that he took on many roles to avoid being fired. This is ridiculous, considering voice actors are far easier to replace than live-action actors.
Perhaps some fans feel that Roiland is irreplaceable, but for everybody else who doesn’t worship Justin Roiland as some uncancelable god of adult animation, being a prominent voice actor is not protection from being a criminal recluse. His so-called genius weirdo eccentricities had gone too far, and the ties were severed. And for as much as Rick & Morty fans will feel like they’ve lost their favorite show, it’s worth excusing Roiland’s abusive, unprofessional, and criminal behavior so that fans can hear Rick Sanchez sell them more Wendy’s.
If there was one thing Roiland did right with producing these many shows, it’s that he wasn’t as involved with the creative process going forward. It’s a blessing in disguise, as it’ll mean Rick & Morty, Solar Opposites, and Koala Man will progress without him. These productions have made smart calls to bring in new and flourishing talent rather than relying on one man to helm everything.
For as much as people want to believe that Roiland was what made these shows work, he can be replaced. Based on complaints from those working with him, everybody will be much better off without him.