Rick and Morty’s Justin Roiland: JoBlo Scandals

We take a deep dive into the scandal surrounding Rick and Morty creator Justin Roiland, which led to him being replaced on all his shows.

Last Updated on January 30, 2024

Throughout the 90’s, the popularity of more adult-oriented animation on TV would continue rising until the traditional kid-friendly Cartoon Network began airing more adult-animated programs after 11 pm. They eventually launched their Adult Swim slate of programs that catered to an adult audience that would be watching TV at that late of an hour. We would see the rise of cult hits such as Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Space Ghost: Coast to Coast. But no show seemed to have true crossover success until December 2, 2013, when an animated show debuted that resembled a more adult version of Back to the Future. The show came from controversial figure Dan Harmon who had recently been fired from his network series Community, yet it would be the show’s other creator that ten years later would make headlines for his off-screen behavior. It’s time we delve into the controversy surrounding Rick and Morty, and its co-creator, Justin Roiland.

Any fan of Rick and Morty knows that it toes the line of what you can get away with on TV. Whether it’s something as innocent as Pickle Rick or starting a worldwide craze by simply mentioning McDonald’s Szechuan Sauce to more disturbing plot points like the time a Jellybean sexually assaulted Morty in the bathroom. The show has never shied away from going places in the name of comedy that would make even Larry Flynt blush. But when some of the texts Justin Rowland had sent out to various women were released, some of those more controversial jokes got slightly less funny. They went from being sick and twisted brushes of dark humor from a comedic mind to just sick and twisted.

Rick and Morty began its life as a short animated film called The Real Animated Adventures of Doc and Mharti which was a direct parody of Back to the Future. At the time, Dan Harmon had made a name for himself with live action shows such as The Sarah Silverman Program and Community. It would be during Harmon’s hiatus from Community, one brought on by Harmon’s own highly publicized chaotic leadership approach, that Adult Swim would approach him to produce a new animated show for their network. Harmon, having been a fan of Roiland’s short when it premiered at Harmon’s Channel 101 short film festival, contacted the Doc and Mharti creator and the duo would transform that short into Rick and Morty.

With the massive success of Rick and Morty, Roiland would launch his own Video Game Studio named Squanchtendo, later renamed Squanch Games and his star would be on the rise for the next several years. On the outside, Justin Rowland seemed like a simple comedic and animation genius who would launch several successful endeavors including art galleries that sold pieces for hundreds of thousands of dollars including several NFT’s, to video games and other successful shows such as Solar Opposites and Koala Man. But internally, the people that worked with him, and we use the term “worked with him” loosely as many people say that even though Roiland was a co-creator and main vocal talent of these shows, they never actually worked with him!

In an in depth report from the Hollywood Reporter in 2023, several people said that besides the voice work he does for the shows, Roiland has absolutely zero meaningful creative input into these shows. With many saying they haven’t even heard from Roiland in years and several others saying that despite working on his shows, they have never met him.

For Harmon, the relationship had gotten so strained that by the time the accusations against Rolland were made public, the duo hadn’t spoken for several years. But Harmon says it wasn’t always like that. In the early days of Rick and Morty they would have a fun writer’s room populated with men they met at the Channel 101 film festival. Harmon says that the writers room would come up with a funny bit and Roiland would immediately jump up and draw it. But by Season two, Harmon wanted to make the show even better and brought in some of his Community writers who apparently didn’t treat Roiland with the same respect the first season writers did. On the one side you had Dan Harmon and his team of writers who were all about breaking down the story and on the other you had Justin Roiland’s crew who were more animators who liked to create just zany off the wall pieces of art. That divide became more pronounced when Roiland would start sitting in different rooms for meetings. Many people say that Roiland was an introvert who would always pitch doing meetings in Virtual Reality so that they would never have to be around each other.

Season 3 would be when things seemed to take a turn for the worse as Roiland became so disassociated with the production of the show that often times he simply didn’t show up for meetings with several sources saying that when he did show up he would derail meetings so badly, by talking about his love of threesomes and other non-productive topics, that it was better on the days he wasn’t there while he would also show up with famous friends such as Kanye West and Adult Film Star Riley Reid. Eventually Roiland would stop coming to the office altogether and would record his voice work from a home studio without any direction or input from the people making the episodes.

It wasn’t just Rick & Morty that Roiland was bringing down but his other shows Solar Opposites and Koala Man. Despite being largely responsible for both shows, he simply stopped showing up to the writers room. Roiland took pride in his voice work inasmuch as he once said that the reason he took key voice roles in his projects was because it safe guarded him from being fired. But on Koala Man, Roiland was set to voice a character but dragged his feet so much that the show almost missed its deadline and the writers decided to kill off the character at the end of the episode.

But Roiland was a hero to many animation fans and he would be asked to do press junkets appearances where he would consistently show up under the influence if he even bothered to show up at all. But it was all laughed off by those in charge as the behavior of an eccentric genius.

Rick and Morty, Justin Roiland, charges

Behind the scenes, these shows was falling off the rails, but fans were none the wiser as Rick & Morty maintained it’s schedule and received a massive 70 episode renewal in May 2018 due not just to its successful ratings but also in the hundreds of millions of dollars the tie in merchandise was generating each year.

And then came January 12, 2023 and everything that was not exactly a secret, but not public knowledge either, finally came to mainstream attention when NBC News had an exclusive report that Roiland had been charged with Felony Domestic Violence along with False Imprisonment by Menace, Violence, Fraud and/or Deceit based off a complaint filed against the animator back in May 2020. Roiland would plead Not Guilty with his Lawyers adamant they would get the charges dismissed.

From there, the floodgates opened and the personal life of Justin Roiland became not so personal anymore. Reports of Roiland using his fame to target fans of the show, many of whom were under age at the time, on social media began surfacing. Fans from around the country said that Roiland used their fandom to groom them by using his dark sexual humor as a way to disarm them because it wasn’t this older man they were talking to online but it was the creator of one of their favorite shows with many saying they couldn’t believe they were actually talking to him.

By January 25, Roiland was dropped by Adult Swim with the company saying simply “Adult Swim has ended its association with Justin Roiland.” While they maintained Rick and Morty would continue with co-creator Dan Harmon taking over as sole show runner. Shortly after the rest of Roland’s professional associations dropped him including Warner Bros. Discovery, Hulu,

20th Century TV Animation while Squanch Games, the gaming company Roiland had founded, announced that he had resigned shortly after the charges were made public.

In March 2023, just as Roiland’s lawyers had promised, the charges against their client had been dropped due to insufficient evidence. Roiland would release a statement saying he was determined to move forward and focus on both his creative projects and restoring his good name. Of course, with everyone in town dropping him, he really didn’t have any creative projects to work on as on August 14, 2023 Roiland’s show Solar Opposites returned for its fourth season with actor Dan Stevens taking over the lead voice role of Korvo, previously voiced by Roiland.

As it would turn out, restoring his quote unquote good name was also a bit of an uphill battle as in September 2023 more allegations of sexual assault, grooming and targeting minors were reported by NBC News. This time NBC News didn’t just cite one incident but rather a history of Roiland communicating with underage girls online dating all the way back to 2013. This time it wasn’t a police report that was the smoking gun, but rather hundreds of explicit text messages that were released painting the picture of a sick and sexually depraved human being. Suddenly the dark jokes we laughed at on shows such as Rick & Morty weren’t as funny. It’d be like watching Scream if it was written by Jeffrey Dahmer.

The text messages Roiland sent seemed almost juvenile in how pathetic they were, but I guess it was because Roiland knew his audience and wanted to speak like an adolescent while actually speaking to adolescents. But the messages were disturbing in their content, jumping from asking them how they knew the show to asking them sexually explicit questions like if they had ever been with other woman. Some woman claim that Roiland offered to meet up with them and pay for the bill, including airfare, with some claiming that on these dates Roiland forced himself on them after supplying these underage girls with plentiful amounts of alcohol. While some of these woman have admitted they drank the alcohol of their own free will, they never gave consent for anything sexual to happen and that it was Roiland who took advantage of them by knowing the power dynamic between them as he was basically a heroic figure to these girls.

Some girls would give consent to sexual activities with Roiland, but would later text him saying that they felt they were pressured into these things with Roiland sending an apology text while another woman reported that Roiland messaged her on Tinder and when the two met up for drinks, Roiland would buy her some clothes at the local shops and suggest they go back to his hotel room for a fashion show. The woman was a bit drunk at this point and she went up to his room where she says Roiland consistently asked her to perform oral sex on him, which she declined several times before she says Roiland forcibly pushed her head towards his crotch.

The allegations against Roiland continued with most cases having similar trajectories. A fan would write on social media that they were huge fans of Rick & Morty, Roiland would then DM them making small talk about Rick & Morty before asking if they were 18, if they said no, he would call them “jailbait” and continue speaking to them for years until they turned 18, at which point he would continue his line of questioning that involved asking if they were into other woman and then asking for sexually explicit photos and to meet up, saying he didn’t have any bad intentions and even apologizing for being drunk.

So here lies the problem with Justin Roiland, many of his encounters seem to have been consensual in nature, but for these woman, the consensual nature of these encounters was not really black and white. They all felt preyed upon by a man they looked up to, a successful Hollywood animator who made a piece of entertainment they loved and identified with. Roiland knew this and used that fandom to find these woman and spend lavish amounts of money on

them and then pressure them into sexual acts. This was his M.O. And whenever one of these girls called him out on what he did, Roiland was quick to apologize and then do it all over again.

Today, Roiland has remained radio silent since he last posted on Instagram after the charges against him were dropped where he said he always knew the claims were false. When the later reports came out, with the photographic evidence including screen shots of text messages, Roiland remained quiet and has not been seen in the public eye since. Season 7 of Rick & Morty would premiere on Adult Swim on October 15, 2023, but for the first time in the shows history the title characters were voiced by people other than Justin Roiland (Ian Cardoni took over the voice of Rick Sanchez while Harry Belden took over voicing duties for Morty) but there was still a bit of controversy as Justin Roiland’s name still appeared in the credits as an Executive Producer, a credit he will have for the remainder of the series as he is a creator of the series and TV rules stipulate he gets that credit, even though he has absolutely nothing to do with Rick & Morty for the remainder of its run.

So now the question is: with all of the controversy surrounding Justin Roiland, will we ever see another project bearing his name again? Hollywood can be a very forgiving town, but the things Roiland did seem to step beyond the “I got help and now I’m better” comeback story Hollywood loves. He is a man who helped create one of the best adult animated series of all time, but the truth is, when Season 7 of Rick & Morty premiered, many publications wrote about how the series is just fine without any input from Roiland.

I do believe we have seen and heard the last of Justin Roiland in mainstream media. He made some good money selling NFT’s and will even continue making money from Rick & Morty, but the controversies that surround him are just too toxic for him to ever make a comeback, and for Roiland, I don’t think that matters much to him. He always seemed to be a person who preferred the solitude of his own home, although I bet the real realization Roiland has had is that he is not the deity he thought he was.

About the Author

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Brad grew up loving movies and wanting to work in the industry. Graduated from Full Sail University in 2007 before moving to Los Angeles where I was fortunate enough to join SAG-Aftra in 2012. I love every second I get to write about movies for Joblo!