The Paley Center for Media's 8th annual PaleyFest NY is taking place virtually as we speak (check it out here), highlighting the casts and creative teams behind some of the most acclaimed and buzzworthy television shows going right now: All American (The CW), The Boys (Amazon Prime Video), Eli Roth's History of Horror (AMC), Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (TBS), the 20th Anniversary of Girlfriends (Netflix), A Million Little Things (ABC), Supernatural (The CW), and The Undoing (HBO). One show panel in particular that caught our eyeballs was Adult Swim's look behind the scenes of the two-time Emmy Award-winning series Rick and Morty. Cast members Chris Parnell (Jerry Smith), Sarah Chalke (Beth Smith), and Spencer Grammer (Summer Smith), as well as series co-creator Dan Harmon, joined panel moderator Mike Schneider (Senior Editor, Variety) to talk COVID, Space Beth, and how things are looking with the fifth and sixth (?!?) seasons.
So How Was It Working During COVID-19? Like many animated series, Harmon says the team found the transition to working at home and long-distance much easier than their live-action series counterparts. In fact, Harmon reveals that production is "more on schedule" than it's been in the past. "We were certainly not already doing it the way we're doing it now, definitely more than our friends in live-action we were able to make a transition. During this time 'Rick and Morty' was already anticipating a shutdown and we were able to because it's digital," Harmon explained.
That said, Harmon understands that there are those in the production process who still have to put in extra time and physical effort. "I have survivor's guilt. I like working this way. I can do it in my underwear and I always wanted to do it in my underwear, but the storyboard artists and the sound engineers have to put a little more time and effort. That keeps me from being jubilant about the whole thing," he said. "Everything always trickles down to labor and it sucks you don't want to go 'this is great creatively.' We're more on schedule than we've ever been. You have to have a remote bee colony so the honey is made more consistently."
So What's the Deal with "Space Beth"? Still not sure who the real Beth is, the Beth we saw throughout the fourth season or the season finale-returning "Space Beth"? Don't feel so bad: even Chalke doesn't know for sure- and she voices both characters. While still not offering a definitive answer, Harmon offered some background on his purpose for having such a personal twist thrown into the mix- and further teased that viewers might be getting more "Space Beth" in the near future. "You know as much as Rick knows. I don't want to keep secrets with the audience. She's Schrodinger's Beth right now," Harmon explained. "The fact she may or may not be a clone is actually the important thing. It's the profound revelation about Rick's commitment to non-commitment and how abusive that can be as a parent. That is the important thing here. We're adding aunts to the family. We're having fun looking at more options with space Beth."
So What Can Harmon Tell Us About Seasons 5 & 6? Harmon was asked what he could offer up about the fifth season- and it was definitely good news. After a brief pause to consider what he could and couldn't discuss (we were this close to getting a cryptic tease), Harmon admitted that he gets confused between the 5th and 6th seasons because of how far along they are with both seasons. He revealed that after the panel, he would be reviewing animatics for late-season 5 episodes while also in the middle of writing late-season 6 episodes (also joking about how he's working with two season finales at the same time).
More specifically, Harmon teased an episode during the fifth season where Morty gets into a relationship with a female character who is not Jessica. Written by Rob Schrab, Harmon says the episode is "a great little story" and even looked ahead to next year's Emmys: "My Emmy's going to that one." Though jokingly not looking to curse the show's two-year run at the top of the Emmy animation mountain, Harmon wanted to clarify that he actually means his "heart Emmy" (so disregard the stuff that came before it, Emmy voters).