'Rick and Morty's Morty Almost Wasn't Voiced by Justin Roiland

The Rick and Morty Season 3 Blu-ray and DVD, out now (our review), has a gutload of special features, including a two-part mini-documentary on the origins of the series. From the character's origins in Channel 101, a monthly contest of five-minute TV show pilots (voters determine if a show is "renewed" for next month or cancelled) founded by Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab, to its greenlight from Adult Swim, the documentary offers up some surprising revelations, including the story behind the voice of Morty, which very nearly wasn't that of series co-creator Justin Roiland.

After a short called " The Real Animated Adventures of Doc and Mharti," Roiland started deploying the duo's voices and back-and-forth bantering style to other Channel 101 shorts, including one with a guy who looks like Jerry "trying to do science in the basement" and yelling at a Mitchell, instead of a Morty.

"I had fallen in love, throughout the course of making that cartoon, with the voices of the two characters," Roiland says in the Blu-ray documentary.

When Adult Swim came to Harmon about an animated project, Harmon turned to Roiland. But after seeing animatics for Rick and Morty, Adult Swim's Creative Director Mike Lazzo was unsatisfied with Morty's voice. "I just felt, wow, I don't like Morty. I really like Rick," Lazzo says. "While Morty is really funny for a couple minutes, I'm going to get really tired of this."

Though Roiland was hesitant to give up voicing Morty, since a big part of the Rick and Morty style depends on him riffing freely back and forth between the characters, they began auditions of, as Harmon describe it, "just a billion people."

After failing to cast a suitable replacement for Roiland as Morty, Lazzo suggested working on the character. "You know, it's not the voice, it's the fact that the character is such a punching bag," Harmon said, describing Lazzo's critique.

"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 they retooled Morty. The very first scene from the Rick and Morty pilot—Morty takes command of Rick's flying saucer, made of trash, after his grandfather arms a world-extinguishing neutrino bomb—portrayed a new dynamic between the two. Morty's still hopelessly out of his depth with Rick, still swept up in forces beyond his control, still whines and kvetches, but at least now he pushes back in his small way. It was a dynamic smartly drawn enough that Rick and Morty made a joke of it in the series pilot, as Rick castigates Morty for being "not very charismatic" and "an underfoot figure."

"Morty, to me, is one of the deepest characters in the show now," Lazzo said. "When I watch Rick and Morty, I am Morty."

Rather than fixing Morty's voice, Roiland and Harmon fixed Morty's character. Adult Swim approved. "You got it, you can do Morty," Roiland says, describing the greenlight call from Lazzo. "And I'm like, fuck, okay, holy shit."

The Rick and Morty Season 3 Blu-ray and DVD is out now, with much more behind-the-scenes reveals and even hints at what the showrunners might have in mind for Season 4.