Rick and Morty is three episodes into its long-awaited fourth season. Those three episodes, however, represent just 4% of the output that Adult Swim expects for the beloved animated sci-fi comedy in the coming years.
Back in 2018, Adult Swim came to terms with Rick and Morty creators Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon on a new deal that included an order of 70 new episodes! To fans, that means many new Rick and Morty adventures await. To the cast and crew, it means that and more.
“It’s a blessing,” Spencer Grammer, who plays Morty’s older sister Summer, says. “It’s the greatest because as an actor you’re constantly hoping that you’re going to do something that’s going to stand the test of time.”
Grammer has been acting since 1992 when she turned up on Cheers, the show that featured her father as Frasier Crane. She then scored major roles in shows like Greek and Ironside. Now it’s the animated world that has proved most fruitful as Summer is a major part of one of TV’s most popular and buzzworthy shows.
“The fact that this was the one I got to do is just luck,” Grammer says. “I didn’t go ‘Oh, I’m going to be on a show that people are going to love.’ I was more like, ‘Cool, I’ve got a gig. Awesome! Let’s see what happens with this one.’”
We spoke with Grammer about getting that gig, what’s in store for summer in Rick and Morty season 4, and what it means to play an at-times adventuring high schooler for the foreseeable future.
How did you actually get into voice acting? Was animation something that you were always a fan of?
I was pregnant and was like, “how do I get into this voice thing because I’m going to be chubby,” was my thought process [lauhgs]/ Also, I’ve been a huge fan of animation for a really long time. I grew up watching things like Beavis and Butthead and Invader Zim. I always had comics and I was also into manga and anime like Sailor Moon and Blood+ and all those kinds of weird things. I used to stay up and watch those shows on MTV. MTV was God when I was in middle school. I still watch The Simpsons at night to go to sleep. It’s the best.
The idea of doing a comedy through animation is really great too because it pushes boundaries and comedic elements that you couldn’t necessarily do in live action. So yeah I’ve always wanted to. The fact that this was the one I got to do is just luck. I didn’t go “Oh, I’m going to be on a show that people are going to love.” I was more like, “Cool, I’ve got a gig. Awesome! Let’s see what happens with this one.” It became a wonderful place to work as well as and a great character to play in a great show that feels very timely. It connects with audiences in ways that other shows I’ve worked at haven’t necessarily. I feel like it elevates our intellectual thought processes as well. It highlights different family dynamics and dysfunction.
You mentioned The Simpsons, which has obviously been on forever. Now Rick and Morty has this 70 episode order pending. Animation affords opportunities for longevity that live-action can’t. How do you feel about that fact that you’ll probably get to be with Summer and Rick and Morty for quite a while?
It’s a blessing. It’s the greatest because as an actor you’re constantly hoping that you’re going to do something that’s going to stand the test of time. It’s all about time. How long is this show going to be on? How long can you get to play this character? Because it takes a lot of time to develop these characters and there is an emotional cost to you to do so. You know, when you play a character it’s not like you give up being yourself. You don’t go like “oh forget it, I’m no longer Spencer. I’m going to go live as a sherpa in the mountains.” You take yourself wherever you go.
The creator developed a character and it then becomes your progeny. You’ve grown it and you’ve manifested it, you’ve committed to it, you’ve cried over this character. You get invested and you fall in love with them. I mean, that’s the best way I can describe playing a role. And it’s hard to say goodbye when it’s over. It’s because of the muscle memory right? A show is all the people who sat in the writing room and created these scenarios for how many hours that took. Then there are rewrites, and then the recording of it, and then the people who do the animation, and they’re all building up that show. It becomes this big hive of creativity and to know that you’re going to be able to do for 70 episodes is better than not being able to do it at all.
It’s especially interesting because Summer is going to grow and change as character but she’s also probably going to be a high school student forever.
Yes, exactly. I don’t have to grow up it’s great.
I feel like high school is the worst time of your life by the way. You think you know everything but you still have to live in your parents house. You have to go to these classes that you don’t know what they’re going to mean for your future. You don’t understand love but you have crazy hormones pumping through you. You maybe never have had sex yet. Like all that these things that are like huge issues and they’re coming to fruition at the same time. I’m going to be living with that (high school world) for a while now. But also if I need some clarity I can think thank God it was a while ago. Playing Summer I can have a little perspective of where my life got to and it’s not so bad.
Summer gets to straddle both worlds of Rick and Morty as she’s involved in the day-to-day family stuff and then also occasionally goes on the Rick and Morty adventures. What’s it like to portray that? Do you have a preference for either kind of Summer plotline?
I think in the beginning we only knew the high school Summer, right? Then as her world got larger it made high school seem not as important. I like a little bit of both versions of Summer. But I do think I prefer the alien adventures just in general because as a performer I get to imagine things that I’ll never see in my lifetime. Whereas, I went to high school. I experienced that and it wasn’t my favorite. So there’s that. In your imagination there are aliens and parallel universes. What could be more fun to perform? There is a good (episode) coming up that involves Rick and Morty and Summer together. You can look forward to that one.
Voice acting seems like it could be kind of a lonely endeavor. You’re in that booth by yourself in most instances. Do you appreciate getting to interact with Justin and Dan when recording? And then interacting with the rest of the cast when you get the chance to?
It’s great. We do all record alone and at a different times but when we get together it’s wonderful to be able to appreciate what each person’s talent brings to the show. I love Justin and Dan. I think they’re so intelligent and so inspiring for me as an actor and as a storyteller. I am always thankful to spend more time with them.
Even though we’re voice actors we’ve all known each other for quite some time. We’ve been with each other through marriages, divorces, new relationships, old relationships. Comic-Con is probably the most time we spend together. We just have a check-in of what’s going on in the universe for us individually. But we all got picked and put on the show for a reason and we each bring a unique perspective. Yeah, I just really love them. And the other side of that is that I don’t spend eighty hours work weeks with them too so we don’t hate each other yet.