According to an exposé from The Hollywood Reporter, Justin Roiland—the animation auteur behind Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty and Hulu’s Koala Man and Solar Opposites—engaged in toxic workplace behavior. The writer and voice actor, whose 2020 felony domestic violence charges were first reported on last month, allegedly sent multiple women lewd messages and ultimately removed himself from major creative decisions regarding his many series after a major falling-out with his Rick and Morty cocreator, Dan Harmon.
The charges stemmed from an alleged domestic violence incident that occurred in January 2020 with a woman whom Roiland was dating at the time. (Roiland has since pleaded not guilty.) Per The Hollywood Reporter, the news “blindsided both his employers and his colleagues” and led Adult Swim and Hulu to sever ties with Roiland. According to the trade, though, Roiland also allegedly had a history of misconduct separate and apart from the charges. Multiple sources told THR that Roiland would openly discuss threesomes in the office. Former Mad magazine editor Allie Goertz told THR that Roiland direct-messaged her while she was working on a Rick and Morty concept album, asking her to “write a song about 9 Dick’s of different sized and ethnic origins hanging above your face, and then in the lyrics describe how they each splatter you with semen.” Goertz said that Roiland also propositioned her and sent her pornographic GIFs.
Another woman, who claims she began corresponding with Roiland when she was underage, posted on an anonymous Twitter account that Roiland allegedly told her she “should just run away from home and go into sex slavery YOU FUCKING STUPID FAGGOT BITCH (!!!) (Jk).”
Roiland and Harmon’s creative partnership was also a source of tension. By season two of Rick and Morty, THR writes, it began to sour, apparently leading the show’s writers to divide themselves into opposing camps. “They just weren’t going to mix,” a source told THR. “Dan is all on the page and mathematical about story breaking, and these guys that Justin hired were like, ‘Look, I drew a turd with eyes, let’s do a story about that.’”
Eventually, as a result of the schism, Roiland reportedly became a rare presence in the Rick and Morty writers room. Staffers told THR that oftentimes they only knew he was at work because they could hear his dogs or his remote control toy car in the office. “You wouldn’t have seen him in weeks, and then you’d see the car come in, which was insane,” said an anonymous staffer. A number of staffers on Rick and Morty, as well as some on Solar Opposites and Koala Man, told THR that they’d never even met Roiland, even on Zoom. Harmon and Roiland have reportedly not been on speaking terms for a number of seasons. (Harmon did not reply to THR’s requests for comment.)
Rick and Morty’s third season, which aired in 2017, marked the show’s first time using female writers. Multiple sources told THR that during that season, Roiland sent a female employee a “really creepy” late-night text requesting that she come to his home; this also occurred around the time that Roiland was freely discussing having threesomes with his partner. “She didn’t want to run it up the flagpole, and then it was just this really fucked-up, awkward thing,” said a source. Roiland had at least one sexual harassment allegation lobbed against him while working on Rick and Morty; in 2020, Cartoon Network, which operates Adult Swim, reportedly launched a formal investigation into Roiland’s inappropriate workplace behavior. As of now, it’s unclear what, if anything, the investigation found. (Both Roiland and Cartoon Network declined THR’s requests for comment.)
Before Adult Swim and Hulu ended their relationships with Roiland, Rick and Morty had been renewed for a whopping 70 more episodes; the show concluded its sixth and most recent season last December. Roiland both cocreated Rick and Morty and voiced its two titular roles, even after allegedly stepping away from his other duties on the show. He also was the main voice actor on Hulu’s Solar Opposites and provided voice work for Koala Man. “He knew the power of being the voices,” a source told THR, insinuating that Roiland believed he’d be insulated from termination if he provided essential voice work for his shows. Now, though, both Adult Swim and Hulu have announced that they are continuing their programs without Roiland.
In January, Roiland’s attorney, T. Edward Welbourn, responded to news of the charges by giving a full-throated defense of his client. “To be clear, not only is Justin innocent, but we also have every expectation that this matter is on course to be dismissed once the district attorney’s office has completed its methodical review of the evidence,” Welbourn said in a statement. “We look forward to clearing Justin’s name and helping him move forward as swiftly as possible.”
Roiland is due to appear back in court on April 27.