Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland was ousted from his partnerships with Hulu, Adult Swim, and video game company Squanch Games just two weeks ago, but a new in-depth report from The Hollywood Reporter, “Inside the Implosion of Justin Roiland’s Animation Empire,” shows that his behavior has been troubling for much longer. On January 12 it was revealed that Roiland was charged with one count of domestic battery with corporal injury and one count of false imprisonment by menace, violence, fraud or deceit in Orange County in 2020 — he’s due back in court on April 27 for a trial.
As of now, his shows Rick and Morty, Solar Opposites, and Koala Man are set to continue without him, with his executive producer title stripped and voice to be replaced. But still his former colleagues are worried about the fate of the series now tainted by Roiland’s behavior. Several of those colleagues spoke anonymously to The Hollywood Reporter to reveal alleged behavior that’s been plaguing the writers’ rooms of these series for years.
In the aftermath of Roiland’s removal from several projects, multiple women published crude messages that were allegedly sent by Roiland. One such person was Allie Goertz, who shared a screenshot of DMs from Roiland on Twitter asking her to write a song with sexually explicit requests and aggressive questions involving a slur. Tattoo artist Veronika Sweeney also posted DMs from Roiland, and multiple employees alleged that Roiland would send “really creepy” texts to one female employee. And a 2011 podcast segment was unearthed in which Roiland said that he would be attracted to a 14-year-old who looked older, punctuating the statement with “I’m not a pedophile though.”
Rick and Morty had an all-male writers’ room until 2017 during the show’s third season. Multiple anonymous sources claim that Roiland was involved in at least one instance of sexual harassment during Season 3. In 2020, Cartoon Network conducted a formal investigation looking into Roiland’s inappropriate work conduct, though it was not reported whether or not any actions were taken. Still, it’s a sign that the network was aware well before this year that there were issues with how Roiland was interacting with his colleagues and employees.
It was around the same time, during the third season of Rick and Morty, that Roiland stopped showing up to the office, avoiding the writers’ room when he was there. One source says that the staff wouldn’t have even known he was there if not for a remote-control car with a microphone on top that he would steer into the writers’ room. It was an extension of behavior of physically distancing himself that started up during Season 2, when Roiland would sit as far back from the story whiteboard as possible, performatively using binoculars to read the notes.
Despite his name being attached to all these projects, Roiland’s former colleagues say that for several years he hadn’t had a meaningful creative presence in these series other than his voicework. Roiland allegedly revealed to a source early on that he strategically attached himself to prominent voice roles to keep himself safe from being fired one day. That plan proved to be unsuccessful even before his official ousting — writers killed off Roiland’s Koala Man character in the first episode he appeared in because Roiland’s unreliability caused the writers to nearly miss their deadline for the episode.
In the weeks since the accusations against Roiland have come to light, it’s been complete radio silence, according to a colleague who works on multiple projects. But even before then, several of Roiland’s colleagues said it had been years since they interacted with him. Roiland hasn’t been on speaking terms with Rick and Morty co-creator Dan Harmon for multiple seasons, and many of the newer writers on Rick and Morty, Solar Opposites, and Koala Man have never met Roiland. That’s at least a small source of comfort for fans and current staffers that he is likely not behind what is most enjoyable about these series.
Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R.
TOPICS: Justin Roiland, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Hulu, Koala Man, Rick and Morty, Solar Opposites