We don’t hear Rick or Morty talk for the entire cold open of Rick and Morty season 7. For those attuned to behind-the-scenes upheaval — of co-creator and star Justin Roiland being fired after allegations of domestic violence and troubling professional behavior surfaced — it seemed like a slow play. For months, the creators behind Rick and Morty talked about hiring “soundalikes” to step into the lead roles (both played by Roiland), but wouldn’t say who they were. At San Diego Comic-Con, executive producer Steve Levy would only say that they sound the same, and “the characters are the same characters. No change.”
When we finally do hear them after the theme song, both Rick and Morty sound… virtually the same. Now played by actors Ian Cardoni and Harry Belden respectively, it’s possible even a seasoned viewer of the series wouldn’t notice Rick and Morty are played by new people at all. Morty is just as nasally and awkward; Rick’s voice is slightly less gravelly but no less grouchy.
This was the hope of showrunner Scott Marder and co-creator Dan Harmon, who told Hollywood Reporter they screened “thousands” of voices to get the transition as seamless as possible. “For all those people who are just tuning in to the show as if nothing has changed, I wanted them to have the maximum fan experience they could have without any distraction,” Marder said.
Over the course of the premiere, even the slight differences wear off, and it can be easy to forget you’re listening to a new cast member entirely. In fact, you might not even notice that Mr. Poopybutthole — prominently featured in both the cold open and the episode — is also a Roiland soundalike. In “How Poopy Got His Poop Back,” Rick stages an intervention for Mr. Poopybutthole, which of course leads to a wild night out drinking.
If that sounds a lot like any other season of Rick and Morty that’s by design; the voices may be new, but Marder and Harmon say again that the voice change is relatively in line with the ever-so-slight tweaks to Rick’s or Morty’s characters over the years. Mr. Poopybutthole is just one of many voices that will sound a tiny bit different (or maybe just the same!) moving forward.
During the first six seasons, Roiland played several characters on the show, including Poopy. Now, Poopybutthole is played by Jon Allen, though Marder says they’re open to Cardoni and Belden to take on more of the smaller characters Roiland once did.
But they’re also open to change, which is part of why there’s separate actors for Rick and Morty now: “For sheer quality of life, it’d be easier for the amount of work required for both characters,” Marder told The Hollywood Reporter. “We watched it over the years wear down on Roiland’s voice. It felt unfair to do that to someone.”
So what happens now? Well Rick and Morty will start to sound a little different in some ways — intergalactic cable episodes were basically just one Roiland character talking to another, while his two main characters flipped through channels — and very similar in others. As for Marder and Harmon, they both say they just want to give “as little disruption as possible” for the fan experience. Rick will still get into a lot of debauchery, with high-profile guest stars (like Hugh Jackman, playing himself, in season 7 episode 1). But for fans hoping for high-profile stand-ins for well-known characters like Rick, Morty, Poopy, and beyond, Marder says they never really considered any famous voices.
“Imagine Homer Simpson sounding different. I would have been instantly out. As much as I love this show, I felt like it needed to be exactly the same.”