The main cast of the science fiction sitcom Rick and Morty includes comedy and television veterans. Created by Dan Harmon of Community fame and animator and writer Justin Roiland, Rick and Morty has asserted itself as an offbeat and critically appreciated comedy, praised by fans and critics as a refreshing and exceptional program well worth a watch. Part of its appeal is the staggering talent of its cast, whose voices bring the coarse, odd, and distinctive characters to life.
Telling the story of a prickly mad scientist Rick and his neurotic grandson Morty, this TV show offers one whirlwind misadventure after the other as Rick’s science projects go awry, whisking himself and his family off to other planets or other planes of existence. Rick, after going missing for 20 years, lives with his daughter Beth, her husband Jerry, and their two children Summer and Morty just outside of Seattle, Washington, but their adventures take them all over the universe and into other dimensions. Rick shakes things up in the Smith household quite a lot, using his makeshift laboratory in the garage as the center for his experiments and sci-fi gadgets, all of which are volatile and dangerous. The juxtaposition of a self-centered, loose cannon of a grandpa taking his grandson along for mind-bending adventures intercut with domestic family drama makes for some refreshingly unique comedy.
In the years since its creation, Rick and Morty has garnered a devoted and passionate fan base. Its rough and tumble origins and sardonic tone have endeared audiences and critics alike, and the show holds a 94% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The nihilist comedy has proven fun to dissect and rollickingly witty, with a dark, frenetic sensibility and offbeat, original humor. Though sometimes viewed as over-the-top, the voice acting has been praised for its ability to keep the show exciting and relevant and has earned the show several awards and nominations. Here is what the voice talent of Rick and Morty looks like.
Rick Sanchez is rude, sociopathic, selfish, irredeemable, and capricious. An unapologetic alcoholic, Rick is a sometimes frightening figure, particularly to his family, causing them to worry about the safety of Morty as he follows Rick around on his adventures. Rick is a nihilist to the core, disparaging the ordinariness of human conventions and holding himself as more intelligent and valuable than other people. Every once in a while he shows a softer and lonelier side along with affection for his family, but such moments are few and far between. He encourages Morty to focus on science rather than love, which is something he considers a trick of nature. Not much is known about grandpa Rick’s past life other than that he used to be a rock star playing the bass guitar and that he’s an intergalactic terrorist.
As the youngest of the Smith clan, Morty is a naïve and impressionable youngster who has difficulty in school but is perfect sidekick material for his egotistical grandfather. Though often deemed unintelligent, Morty has proven an asset on more than once occasion, such as his defeat of the gaseous being Fart or when he comes up with the solution for beating Gonorrhea. Morty has low self esteem, however, and berates himself for not being able to keep up with complex concepts. Morty Smith’s sense of morality and compassion has proven a benefit as well, as it acts to keep his grandfather in check every now and then. By the end of season 3, Morty starts showing more self-reliance and confidence, interpreting Rick’s twisted thought process and making sense of things.
Both Rick and Morty are voiced by Justin Roiland, the co-creator of the show. In 2004 he got involved with L.A. media collective Channel 101, run by Harmon and Rob Schrab. Roiland began a career in movie shorts and parody, along with voiceover work in hit shows like Adventure Time. He made appearances on Comedy Central and The Sarah Silverman Program, asserting himself as a connoisseur of shock-comedy. Rick and Morty came about when Roiland submitted short films to Channel 101 and Harmon took to his dark sense of humor. In 2006, Roiland created The Real Animated Adventures of Doc and Mharti, a series of short parodies on Doc Brown and Marty McFly from the Back to the Future franchise. The irreverent cartoon took off, and when Harmon was fired from Community, the pair of animators decided to explore the validity of turning Real Animated Adventures into a sitcom. Roiland’s voice performance on Rick and Morty has earned praise from critics, and in 2015 he won Best Male Lead Vocal Performance in a Television Series — Comedy/Musical at the BTVA Voice Acting Awards. Along with Rick and Morty, Roiland voices some other favorite recurring characters on the show such as Mr. Poopybutthole and Mr. Meeseeks.
As the mother of the Smith family, Beth is also the intellectual stronghold. She is dealing with dissatisfaction in her home life and abandonment issues, for which she inexplicably blames her mother instead of Rick, the parent who left her behind. Like her father, she has a superiority complex which is stymied by her occupation as a veterinarian instead of a “real” surgeon, a career she was forced to give up when she became pregnant with Summer at age 17. Beth is somewhat disappointed in her choice of spouse, as Jerry leaves her to do all the emotional labor and be the breadwinner for the family. Due to her struggles, Rick offers to make a clone of her that can freely wander the universe. This results in Space Beth, and it’s left up to the audience to decide which is the original Beth and which is the clone. Space Beth fuels her resentment into a fight to save the galaxy from the Galactic Federation at the cost of being a wanted outlaw.
Beth is portrayed by actor Sarah Chalke. Chalke began acting in musical theatre at age eight, and at twelve became a reporter on the Canadian children’s show KidZone. She is known as “the second Becky” on Roseanne, as she earned the role of Rebecca Conner-Healy on the show when Lecy Goranson left the series. Her next big role was as the neurotic and awkward Dr. Elliot Reid on Scrubs from 2001-2010. She came in contact with Channel 101 in a parody of The O.C. with The Lonely Island, and continued in television and film, appearing in such things as Ernest Goes to School and How I Met Your Mother. She was cast as the role of Beth in Rick and Morty in 2013, for which she has been nominated for Best Female Vocal Performance in a Television Series in a Supporting Role — Comedy/Musical at the BTVA Voice Acting Awards. Most recently, she starred in the critically acclaimed Netflix drama Firefly Lane alongside Katherine Heigl.
Morty’s hapless dad Jerry Smith is the unimpressive patriarch of the family. Jerry is insecure and meek, unable to confront Rick about his habits and influence despite his strong displeasure at having the scientist around. Jerry lost his job at a low-level advertising agency due to incompetence, and his bumbling weak-willed personality often leads to strife in his home. When Jerry is the only member of the Smith family to thrive under the earth’s allegiance with the Galactic Federation, he delivers an ultimatum to his wife, saying she must choose her father or him – and Beth chooses Rick. Beth tells Rick that she and Jerry are divorcing, but after a brief separation Jerry wins his wife back.
Chris Parnell has also been nominated for a BTVA for his performance as Jerry. He has a huge background in comedy, starting out as a company player with the Groundlings. Parnell was cast in commercials and landed roles on sitcoms like Seinfeld and Murphy Brown. In 1998 he joined the cast of Saturday Night Live. He was laid off due to budget cuts in 2001, but rehired midway through the following season. Parnell participated in memorable sketches such as “Lazy Sunday,” one of the first viral videos on YouTube, and “More Cowbell,” during which he was the only cast member able to stay in character. He was cast in a recurring role in 30 Rock as the zany and inept Dr. Leo Spaceman. Parnell has lent his vocal talents to the animated films Hotel Transylvania and its sequels, as well as the animated series Archer on FX. He reunited with former SNL castmate Ana Gasteyer in the ABS sitcom Suburgatory, and provides the voice of the “Progressive Box” for Progressive Insurance commercials.
Summer is Morty’s older sister and is more conventional than the rest of her family, with her largest concerns resting in popularity and acceptance, and with a typical obsession with her phone and social media. Summer takes after her mother in intelligence and humor, but she also has some of Jerry’s insecurities. Beth doesn’t get to go on many adventures with Rick and Morty at first, but her trips with them become more and more frequent, particularly when she proves herself an asset. She impresses Rick with her quick thinking and hidden dark side, which comes out when her parents’ marriage teeters on the brink. She demonstrates that she perceives more keenly than others, understanding her mother’s emotions and Rick’s insanity as demonstrated in episodes like “Morty’s Mind Blowers” and “Big Trouble in Little Sanchez.”
Spencer Grammer, daughter of actor Kelsey Grammer, provides the voice of Summer Smith on Rick and Morty. Grammer had an uncredited role as a child actor on Cheers and caught the acting bug. She got the lead role of Casey Cartwright in the ABC Family series Greek in 2007 following a stint on As The World Turns. She has had guest roles in shows such as Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Grey’s Anatomy. In Ironside, she acted across from Blair Underwood in a remake of the hit 1960s television show. In 2020, Grammer made headlines for receiving slash wounds from a knife-wielding man outside a New York city bar when she and some friends tried to intervene on behalf of the bar’s wait staff. Luckily, she and a friend who was stabbed came away without grievous injuries.