Rick and Morty’s Dan Harmon and Scott Marder on working smarter

However Rick and Morty‘s resident supergenius misanthrope, was introduced as the kind of angry cynic who would openly mock people who were in therapy, the new seventh season of the series saw Rick Sanchez come up with the idea to talk about his feelings in a big way. Rick is still an asshole who deals with his most difficult feelings by drowning them in alcohol and/or zapping them with super science.

But even as Rick works to keep his friends, enemies, and loved ones at arm’s length, he also knows that there’s a lot of baggage to unpack in this dynamic — the kind of stuff best handled by a professional and with a deep understanding of science. human relationships.

As the redesign of Rick and MortyManagers holdingThis season’s emphasis on Rick giving therapy a serious chance seemed to be one of its most explicit ways of acknowledging the firing of co-creator Justin Roiland and Adult Swim’s plan to continue the show without him. Roiland played a key role in Rick and Mortybut he did not do it alone, and just like his disgraced collaborator, Dan Harmon was also the centerpiece of a high-profile sexual harassment scandal it almost seemed ready to put his career in jeopardy.

Rick and Morty isn’t meta enough to incorporate its co-creators’ behind-the-scenes issues into its own text (yet). But in Rick’s turn toward therapy, you can see the show grappling with what it means to be known for both genius and self-destruction, but wanting to be in a better place emotionally.

When I spoke recently with Harmon and executive producer Scott Marder, they explained to me that more than taking Rick and Morty in a new direction, they wanted Season 7 to address how the two of them — and by extension, the rest of the show’s creative team — strive to have healthier relationships with work. All the reflective, introspective work we see Rick doing this season was inspired by Harmon going into therapy himself, he told me. And although it may seem Rick and Mortyis setting up a big joke about people working on their mental well-being, Harmon insists that’s not the case.

In addition to obtaining Rick and MortyThe audience of two new starswhat have been some of your biggest creative goals for this season from a storytelling perspective?

Scott Marder: I think we were just trying to keep the tradition of Season 6, which felt like a more confident, well-constructed season from top to bottom. We wanted to show people that it was almost like a blueprint for what we plan to continue doing, with kind of a sprinkling of all the little things that I think make a great season of Rick and Morty.

And what about how you wanted to… I guess “evolve” the series? Was this really a priority for either of you, because one of the most impressive things about the episodes that have aired so far is how a lot like a classic Grindstone And Morty they all feel.

Dan Harmon: I don’t think we ever had time for those conversations because, behind the scenes, the show was always sort of adapting and dealing with one unexpected bout of turbulence after another. Scott arrived on this show at the end of season 4. He was hired to start handling things for season 5, and the first sign that he had bit off more than his therapist could chew was that he was supposed to help us finish Season 4, which was just That’s not what he was hired for, you know?

SM: SO our executive producer [J. Michael Mendel] deceased. So much has happened.

DH: That’s right, the pandemic, the loss of our patriarch Mike Mendell, the WGA strike, recent events with voice replacements on the show. And before that, the show was its own problem. Before Scott joined us, the show itself was a turbulence for the network because we were always over budget and over schedule.

To get back to your question, I don’t think we ever – even in our wildest dreams – had that kind of clarity and poise between Seasons 6 and 7 to say, “Let’s talk about the tone we’re taking.” is going to hit with season 7. Since Scott joined the team, there has been this desire to create a healthy work environment that allows for a reliable series that is both creative and productive, to try to move into a world where, low and behold, 10 episodes of the thing can come out on a reasonably predictable schedule. And we can make everyone who works on it feel safe and happy enough that they can continue to make the show and promote people from within without losing them to Netflix shows or to Marvel.

SM: I feel like a lot of the success we’ve had with all of this is due to maintaining a roster that keeps getting stronger every season. They know so well the continuity we all yearn for, and they are such rabid fans themselves that this elective joy somehow continues to fuel new seasons and new episodes.

Would you say that Season 8 will look more distinctly like the product of the changes Rick and Morty has crossed?

DH: Season 7 is just another brick on that road, and that’s season 8, which is already written, when it comes out I think it will be even more so. It’ll feel like a return to form and a bit of a “we’re back, baby” feeling, and I hope season 9 will be that, but, you know, even more SO. But it will be because it’s been a gradual process of just trying to get back on track.

Dan, you’ve been very open about going to therapy, reevaluating your relationship with work, and just trying to navigate the world differently. How has this personal process of moving into a healthier emotional space changed the way you create this world that has always had, you know, a sort of nihilistic streak and a morbid sense of humor?

DH: It’s funny, the most terrifying thing in the world for me when I started therapy was the idea that I would come home from work at 5 p.m.; that I would have trouble. Because that would be like saying, “We’re going to make the greatest movie of all time, but we’re going to have to cast with all our heads.” » How will these two things sync up? What are the chances?

But it turns out that when you work backwards from a goal like that, it starts to trickle down to your people. You discover that darkness, while still a storytelling tool and a very important one, still fills the human heart, and that’s good.

And what does your “good” look like now after going to therapy?

DH: I can go home at 5 p.m., and that requires trust, delegation, and acquiescence. I’m not able to take breaks from the show. I’m still the reason the show isn’t as scheduled as it could be, but I’m no longer the reason it literally stops while I finish a passage on a script or something. That.

Therapy has taught me: Start with this simple step: set your schedule. Because if you don’t, this city will suck the life out of you, and when it ends in your divorce, or your suicide, or you drink yourself to death, this city will say, “Who’s the next workaholic?” ? Bring him here.

And how to protect yourself from it?

DH: If you set boundaries for yourself, it starts to benefit the people around you because it means you have to trust them, you have to communicate with them, and you have to accept their leadership. Scott is my boss, and at the end of the day, we rely on people like Heather Anne Campbell for our blackness; she has enough to go around.

How much of that reality and your experience, Dan, did you want to be reflected in characters like Dr. Wong and through the emotional trough that we find Mr. Poopybutthole in at the start of this season?

DH: Initially, it was honestly for a reason that was ironic, a little bit bold and comedic because I think it’s hack comedy to bash therapy. It’s a bit like what mime became in the 80s. We had it in the 70s; mimes irritated us, and then the 80s were full of jokes about mimes and wanting to kill them, and it’s like “everyone hates mimes.”

But I was seriously starting therapy at that time, and so, just wanting to be original, I wanted to present therapy as valuable. At the end of “Pickle Rick,” it’s like, “Sure, let’s let Rick do all his monologue that you’ve come to expect and respect from this edge lord, but then let’s give him the last word.” » And writing from his point of view about him was an incredibly therapeutic experience for me because I certainly had to put myself in the shoes of a shrink who called me out on my bullshit without denying it. I just say, “Look, man, I think you need to come back. I want to make you happy. You pay me. You could pay me to make you happy. I’m not your mother. I’m not your guidance counselor. This is the deal my therapist made with me.

In your mind, did Dr. Wong make the same kind of deal with Rick?

DH: I think a character like Rick in therapy could be fun and cool the more he takes it seriously and uses it. I love that he goes to her to sort out her Pissmaster problem, and he still treats her like she’s a saleswoman. He can’t cross that threshold where he truly respects her. But he recognized that therapy is a science that he himself has not mastered.

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