Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland, who was charged with domestic violence last month and booted by his employers at two networks shortly thereafter, made working on the cult cartoon hellish, colleagues tell The Hollywood Reporter.
Among the new round of accusations, “Roiland once paraded a high-profile porn star through the Rick and Morty writers room, openly discussed threesomes and was involved in at least one instance of alleged sexual harassment during the show’s third season, notably its first with female writers.” He has also been estranged from Dan Harmon (Community), with whom he created Rick and Morty, for “multiple seasons” of the show.
The 42-year-old Roiland was, until recently, a beloved name in alt-animation largely due to the fandom around Rick and Morty, a demented twist on the Back to the Future duo of Doc and Marty that debuted in 2013. Roiland also had a new show, Koala Man, that arrived on Hulu just last month, starring the voices of Hugh Jackman and Sarah Snook. But mid-January, Roiland was hit with two felony charges by a partner who lived with him in 2020. Days after those domestic violence charges—corporal injury and false imprisonment by menace, fraud, violence, and deceit—became public, Roiland was fired by both Adult Swim and Hulu, the latter of which airs Koala Man and another Roiland show, Solar Opposites. Squanch Games, the video studio he founded in 2016, also announced that Roiland was resigning as CEO.
Sources who worked with Roiland on Rick and Morty spoke to THR on condition of anonymity about alleged problematic behavior from the co-creator and lead voice—which they claim began years before the charges in 2020.
As early as season two, they say, he had begun to be a noxious presence in the writers’ room, when he bothered to show up at all, and by season three—the season that saw the hiring of the show’s first female writers—he was sharing with the room his and his fiancee’s predilection for threesomes. As one source tells THR, it “was something we just ignored because it was disgusting.” During the same period, Roiland also supposedly sent a female employee a text asking her to come to his house. “She didn’t want to run it up the flagpole, and then it was just this really fucked-up, awkward thing,” says the source.
Meanwhile, Roiland’s relationship with Harmon, a noted perfectionist, deteriorated as Roiland’s work became more erratic, according to the report. As the voice of both the show’s main characters, he had made himself indispensable (and reportedly did the same as one lead in Solar Opposites), but he made a habit of bailing on PR appearances—or doing them, allegedly, after drinking.
Earlier clues have surfaced too, such as a podcast appearance in which “he joked that he would be attracted to ‘a fucking 14-year-old that looks like she’s 18 and [has] big titties’ and riffed on Dateline NBC‘s ‘To Catch a Predator’ segments.'” Roiland then assured the podcaster, “I’m not a pedophile though.”
The news of Roiland’s felony charges was also followed by disturbing direct-message disclosures from women who’d worked with him. Allie Goertz, a former editor at MAD magazine, had been working on a Rick and Morty concept album, for which Roiland messaged her, asking, “Can you write a song about 9 Dick’s of different sized and ethnic origins hanging above your face, and then in the lyrics describe how they each splatter you with semen.” Another woman, who claims to have been underage when he slipped into her DMs, says he told her at one point: “You should just run away from home and go into sex slavery YOU FUCKING STUPID FAGGOT BITCH (!!!) (Jk).”
Roiland is the latest in a string of once high-flying male artists in the animation world who have been accused of being harassers and predators.
In 2014, Skylar Page, creator of Cartoon Network’s show Clarence, was publicly described by colleagues as a sexual harasser and subsequently fired.
In 2017, Chris Savino, creator of Nickelodeon’s Loud House, was let go following, as Cartoon Brew reported, as many as 12 women coming forward to accuse Savino of “inappropriate behavior, ranging from unwanted sexual advances to threats of industry blacklisting after the end of consensual relationships with co-workers.”
The same year, Pixar heavyweight and Toy Story director John Lasseter was described in a lengthy THR story as being known to people in his industry “for ‘grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes.'”
In 2018, Dylan Brown, director of the animated movie Amusement Park, was fired by Paramount after “multiple women” who worked with him complained of “inappropriate and unwanted conduct.”
Harmon himself admitted that year to having sexually harassed a woman who worked with him, albeit on the non-animated Community.
Also that year, John Kricfalusi, a.k.a John K., creator of the seminal alt-cartoon Ren and Stimpy faced numerous, including extensive and controlling relationships with two underage girls and a well-known track record of harassing other young women, as well as alleged possession of child pornography.
It’s almost as if there’s something fundamentally wrong with a still-heavily-male-dominated industry (72 percent male, as of one 2022 report) that lionizes creepy man-children.
Or maybe it’s just a few—er, seven—bad apples.
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