Justin Roiland's Career History Before He Rose To Fame From 'Rick and Morty'
Justin Roiland is a name synonymous with the hit quirky animated show, Rick and Morty. He is the leading voice cast ( of both Rick and Morty) of the project he co-created with fellow writer/producer Dan Harmon.
Through Rick and Morty’s vast universe filled with surreal characters, plot blended with sci-fi, and metaphysical elements, the California native has garnered a huge fanbase since the show premiered in 2nd December 2013.
And the fanbase even extends to celebrities like Elon Musk and Kanye West.
Justin Roiland with Kanye West when the rapper visited the shows’ set in 2018
But long before creating the famous show, Roiland struggled in the arena of animation and filmmaking for many years in several positions.
Before gaining notoriety from Rick and Morty, Justin was affiliated with various projects in the creative field of animation and moviemaking.
The artist landed his first job in 2001 (right after graduating from Modesto Junior College) as the production assistant in Ryan Seacrest’s reality show, Ultimate Revenge (2001-2002). However, he did have to work in as a background actor now and then since it was a prank show requiring some extra actors.
Justin Roiland (on the left) on an episode of Ultimate Revenge (2001-2002) (Photo: youtube.com)
Later on, in 2004, Justin ventured towards filmmaking professionally through Channel 101—a non-profit short-film screening online platform founded by Dan Harmon (his frequent Collbeater and co-creator of Rick and Morty) and Rob Schrab.
In collaboration with the independent channel, the California native made his directorial debut from the 2004 short TV series Friends and Lovers. Roiland then went on to direct several episodes of shows such as Reporters (2007) and The Most Extraordinary Space Investigations (2005).
One of the episodes of Justin’s show The Most Extraordinary Space Investigations (2005) featuring Sarah Silverman and Dan Harmon (Video Source: Youtube)
Most of these shorts that he worked on for Channel 101 consisted of low production value. Most of the scenes were shot at his own apartment with the availability of limited cast members. He served diverse positions on his projects ranging from writer, sound mixer, cinematographer to even a makeup artist (on Make Up Department, 2004).
Breakout Show in Channel 101
Notably, Roiland’s earlier works with Channel 101 contained the most prominent signature trait of his successful show, Rick and Morty—most of them were adult gags or hilarious take on already well-known generation-defining shows.
For instance, his 2005 animated show House Of Cosbys (2005) premise consisted of a man who resided with 100 clones of Bill Cosby. The comedian (Bill Cosby) portrayed in the show was the reiteration from the popular comedy show The Cosby Show (1984-1982), whereas the plot was a spoof of movie Multiplicity (1996).
House Of Cosby was a spoof of the 1996 movie Multiplicity
Also, his next animated short The Adventures Of Doc and Mharti created in 2006 was a parody of another movie titled Back To The Future. The short skit was also a part of the project he created for Channel 101, and it eventually influenced Rick and Morty’s core plot.
Voice Acting Career
After the stint with Channel 101, Justin was offered to create animated sketches for VH1s program Acceptable TV (2007). During the artist’s time in his new show, he created and voiced a fan-favorite character named Mr.Sprinkles.
Through this character, he explored some mature and controversial topics such as homegrown terrorism and racism in an adult fashion yet again. But most of the sketches he created for the show didn’t end up being telecast due to a content publishing limit from the network.
Mr.Sprinkles (2007) was an adult cartoon series Justin made for Acceptable TV (Source: vimeo.com)
Post Acceptable TV, he then worked on shows such as 2 Girls, 1 Cup (2008), The Sarah Silverman Program: Animated Webisodes (2007). However, his voice acting career only took off when he was approached by Disney to star in its cartoon named Fish Hook (2010-2014).
Although the content on the show was drastically different from the adult humor Roiland was used to performing, he gave it a shot to learn the craft of the animation. During an interview with Vanity Fair in 2020, he shared:
"They pitched me this fishhooks thing and Alex was looking for someone to develop it.And it was very different.I was like oh, I haven't done this before, I could learn stuffs and this could be very fun just to see how Disney makes a show here so and how can I rise to that challenge and try to help make something that can be good."
During his time at Fish Hooks, another mainstream project from Disney’s followed called Gravity Falls(2012), in which he voiced a titular time-traveling character named Blendin Blandin.
One of the behind the scene scenes from Fish Hooks featuring Justin Roiland in the voice booth (Video Source: youtube.com)
And from 2011 to 2018, Roiland was also involved in another popular show titled Adventure Time (2011-2018) as a voice cast of a weird character named Earl Of Lemongrab.
Justin Roiland voices Earl Of Lemongrab (left) on Adventure Time and Butter Robot(right) on Rick and Morty
Interestingly, his misadventure in the show even led to the creation of a memorable character named Butter Robot in Rick and Morty (2013).