Rick And Morty: Interview with Chris Parnell and Sarah Chalke - SciFiNow

Rick And Morty: Interview with Chris Parnell and Sarah Chalke

We speak to Beth and Jerry themselves, actors Sarah Chalke and Chris Parnell about what we can expect from the most complicated family in the universe with Rick And Morty Season Five.

Rick And Morty

After being commissioned for an epic 70 episodes, our favourite sociopathic genius scientist is back in the latest season of Rick And Morty as it hits our screens on E4.

The fifth season of the Emmy-award-winning animated comedy comprises ten 30-minute episodes and will air hot on the heels of the American transmission (hurrah!).

This new series will see the outrageous dynamic duo, Rick Sanchez and his grandson Morty (Justin Roiland) get into all sorts of chaotic trouble, and without a doubt dragging Rick’s daughter Beth (Sarah Chalke, Scrubs), son-in-law Jerry (Chris Parnell, Archer) and granddaughter Summer (Spencer Grammer, Greek) along for the cosmic ride.

We spoke to Sarah Chalke and Chris Parnell about playing complicated couple Beth and Jerry and what Season Five has in store for us…

Can you tell us a bit about Season Five of Rick And Morty?

Sarah Chalke: Well the animation first of all is off the hook! I can’t believe how that’s grown. If you look at the show from an animation perspective, I think the show’s always been extremely ambitious. It’s one of my favourite things and I think the animation just continues to get more and more ambitious, [especially] where you have many moving parts like in Rick And Morty. In season five it’s apparently incredible – we haven’t got to see a tonne of it yet, but apparently it just even increases more.

We also get more family adventures [in Season Five] where everybody goes off together – those ones are always really really fun to do.

Chris Parnell: Yeah, the family aspect is nice that they’re doing more stuff together. Also the writing staff has hit a certain stride. Once we got the order for the 70 episodes everybody sort of knew ‘okay we’ve got this job and it’s going to continue to go and so we can plan ahead’.So I think they felt even freer in a way to explore crazier ideas and go to different heights of imagination. I think they really continued to grow with that. Not that it was ever stale. It’s just gotten even bigger!

Beth and Jerry are in a sex-positive place right now, how do we see that develop over Season Five?

SC:  I mean we can say… very little actually, but definitely Season Five has a couple of my favourite episodes that we’ve ever done.

CP: I can say this… lots of orgies…

SC: That’s fair.

Chris, we’ve seen Jerry become closer with the family throughout the show, does his dynamic within the family change in Season Five?

CP: I think the dynamic is pretty much the same! I don’t think he’s really any more in charge than he ever was. He’s kind of in the same place in the pecking order. If anything Summer’s probably gained more power. But the aspect of it where Jerry and Beth are more connected and working together and the fact that we do get to see these family episodes is exciting. Deep down though Jerry’s place in the family hasn’t particularly changed that much!

Have there been any particular episodes, creatures or situations that have stood out to you over the five seasons of Rick And Morty?

SC: Definitely where Werner Herzog plays Shrimply Pibbles and the only way Jerry can save him is to donate his penis and Beth is really against that and then she’s flipping through the catalogue…

You read [things in the script] and visalise it in your mind, and then when you see it animated it’s obviously a thousand times more amazing than what you pictured! It’s almost like you get to experience Rick And Morty twice when you get the script in your inbox and then when you watch it on TV because you’ve made this up in your mind and you’re never gonna picture what the incredibly talented animators will come up with.

You often read something and wonder ‘how’s that gonna look?’ and then if you picture it… I mean, Invisible Garbage Truck Jerry for example – when I pictured it in my head and when you watch it… it’s even funnier. I laughed so hard reading that on the page because it’s so insane and then watching what they did with it, I think it definitely should be a spin-off!

CP: There have been several of these so it’s hard to remember specifically which is which but I think it was one of the interdimensional channel episodes where you just have so many different screens active at the same time on our screen. The degree of detail that it took for the animators to create all of that is just mind blowing.

One of my favourite and most interesting episodes was getting to go on the adventure with Rick where I plotted to have him assassinated (briefly before I changed my mind). That was fun.

I’m excited about that aspect of Jerry and Rick’s relationship where they’re not just in full rage at each other all the time but there is the opportunity for some connection there.

You’ve been recording Rick And Morty from home since the pandemic, what have been the challenges with that?

SC: The unique thing about animation recording is for the most part we actually just record on our own. When you’re recording your scenes, usually you’re going through your dialogue one chunk at a time so it’s just your character, so you’re able to try something many different ways, unlike in live-action where you say ‘oh I want to do another take’ and there’s a hundred crew members that are waiting for you! With animation, you can try something different 30 times in under a minute with a line so it’s so liberating just as a genre.

In terms of recording from home, at the beginning of the pandemic, we were just doing pickups from the previous season so it was like a couple lines here or there. We were tasked with finding the most acoustically friendly environment in our home. So I took all the duvets and all the pillows in the house and padded them around my son’s lower bunk bed! Then I stacked a bunch of Harry Potter books and balanced the microphone on top, and then I took my daughter’s play tent and we duct-taped seven moving blankets around it because I’d heard that moving blankets really dampen the sound!

Then when it looked like we were going to be doing this for a while, there’s a place actually in Oregon that builds professional sound booths and they put them in a crate and they ship it to you and you just put it together. There’s something very fun about being in your own little chamber. I’m still recording Season Six now from my sound booth at home.

CP: Sarah and I have almost exactly the same sound booth as it turns out! Because I’m in LA most of the time I am able to go into the studio there and record. Even with a pandemic, because you just wear your mask until you get into the studio recording booth by yourself and then you take it off and you record and you put it back on and you walk out. It’s one of those things that it’s been able to go on, even in the face of the pandemic without too much interruption!

There are a lot of fan theories surrounding the show, what has been the craziest fan theory you’ve heard?

CP:  I don’t really read about the show to be honest. I am not on social media, and I am kind of cut off from that side of it. The only time I really encounter the fans is when we do Comic-Con which we were unable to do last year and aren’t doing this year, at least as far as I know.

SC: I’m the same as Chris. My main interaction with the fans has also been Comic-Con and that’s just so cool. That was one of the sad parts of the pandemic, not getting to do that in person this year because it’s just so cool to see how passionate people are about the show and how it’s grown over the years. Our first year at Comic-Con the show hadn’t aired yet so all the questions were mostly to [creator] Dan [Harmon] about Community and then the next year there was like a few Ricks and then the next year was like a sea of Ricks and a few Mr. Poopy Buttholes. Then the year after that we got to watch a couple of episodes of the show with five thousand fans in Petco Park! That was such a cool experience.

It’s been so neat how the show has been so embraced. When I read the script I just fell in love with it and couldn’t believe how unique it was. It’s just so smart and so quick and so funny and so different from anything that I had read.

You’re currently recording Season Six of Rick And Morty, and it’s been commissioned for another series after that, how long are you willing to play these characters for?

SC: Forever and ever in every multiverse that exists in this dimension and every other dimension!

CP: When you’ve got a good gig as an actor, especially when it’s on something that you’re proud of and you enjoy watching yourself and is beloved like Rick And Morty you just do it do it as long as they’ll have you!

In terms of how long it’s planned out, I think they’ve got stuff written into season seven, they’ve got a lot of stuff planned out, they’ve got a lot of stuff boarded and they’ve got a number of stories.. They’re able to be on much more of a roll now and keep that going, knowing that there are more and more seasons ahead. So that makes recording quicker. It doesn’t necessarily make the animation any quicker but we’re able to stay ahead in a way that we weren’t in the past!

You have both worked in animation and live action, how do you find the differences between them?

CP: When it’s an on-camera show, there are a lot of people there and a lot of things happening. That is wonderful in its own way and I hope to continue to be able to do that as well. With animation, it’s more separate. You don’t get the pleasure of the camaraderie in the studio like you do with an on-camera show. But it’s very freeing to not have to worry about what you look like or what you’re doing with your hands. I gesticulate a lot, so it’s freeing to put all that into your voice and into your performance. I feel very lucky I get to do both.

SC: It feels like getting to do a whole different sport. You get to flex different muscles. Like Chris said, it’s fun to be on set with everybody, especially when we haven’t been for so long. For Rick And Morty, we mostly only get to hang out at Comic-Con and at the wrap parties. Other than [creator] Justin [Roiland] and Dan – who will often be giving us notes [as we’re recording]. The similarity with most of the comedies that I’ve been on, including Rick And Morty and Scrubs, is they’re all very collaborative environments that just feel like you can be free and try things out.

You have also both worked a lot in comedy, do you find yourself corpsing very much these days?

CP: I mean it’s very easy in a voiceover record session to not break. Usually on camera, it’s pretty easy not to as well…

SC: Well in voice, you don’t at all. Usually, for me it’s the other person that corpses me. So if I’m not with somebody else or doing a scene with somebody, you’re just in your booth and you’re trying different things [I don’t].

But if it’s been a long enough day, I definitely am the one who will break! I got to the point on Scrubs where there was a noise that Zach [Braff] and Donald [Faison] could make that really would just set me off! It’s one of those things where once you start you can’t stop. You just have to think ‘well at least it’s maybe going towards the gag reel!’. But you’ll just start to swear at yourself in your head like: ‘Come on Chalke, get your shit together, everyone has families they want to go home to’!

You’ve been playing these characters for a while, what are your favourite elements of them?

SC: I think for Beth, my favourite thing is just how much she’s changed. When I read the pilot versus who she is today in Season Five, and the stuff we’ve recorded in Six – I never would have guessed it or predicted it. As with everything else with Rick And Morty, you could never have guessed anything!

The last episode of Season Four was one of my favourite episodes – just to see how much we’ve got to learn about Beth and watching her come into her own through Space-Beth. It was fun to figure out how to tweak her a little bit so Space-Beth and Beth are a little bit separate.

CP: For me, I was able to relate to Jerry very quickly. The insecurity and those other dorky aspects of him were not far from home for me! But the most fun thing is what Sarah said is – to see the character grow and evolve and change. We get to see other sides of Jerry, darker sides and he becomes more interesting as the show goes along. Or at least he does for me. That’s one of the pleasures of getting to do something like this that you’re lucky enough to do for multiple seasons, to get to see the characters evolve and then discover new aspects of them.

Rick And Morty Season Five is currently showing on E4.