Paul B. Cummings, the director of Rick and Morty’s recent live-action shorts, sat down to discuss how he and Christopher Lloyd crafted the now viral live-action incarnation of Rick Sanchez. The series of shorts aired ahead of the show’s season 5 finale, which premiered in two parts over this past weekend. Jaeden Martell portrays a live-action version of Morty to accompany Lloyd’s performance as Rick, completing the iconic duo.
Lloyd’s casting is particularly poetic considering the fact that series creator, Justin Roiland, first conceived of Rick and Morty as a parody of Back to the Future. The earliest iterations of the two characters were much more overt in their parallels to Robert Zemeckis’ classic time travel trilogy, with the two leads being named Doc Smith and Mharti McDonhalds (riffing on the names of Doc Brown and Marty McFly, respectively). Although the show eventually evolved into its own phenomenon built atop its own merits, Back to the Future’s influence continues to be a foundational aspect of the show; in broad strokes, both franchises follow an elderly scientist and his youthful sidekick as they adventure across different timelines using time travel technology. Now, with Lloyd definitively cast as a live-action Rick Sanchez, Rick and Morty seems to have come full circle back to its humble roots.
Cummings, who directed the shorts, recently discussed how Lloyd’s take on the belching mad scientist came to be. In an interview with io9, Cummings says that he “told Chris [Lloyd] to just run with it and repeat the lines […] to get a little unhinged.” Check out the director’s full comments below:
Everything was pretty scripted out with not much riffing, but when we shot the “100 years” bit I told Chris to just run with it and repeat the lines over and over and try to get a little unhinged. We watched that clip from the show a few times right before shooting it.
Despite the similarities between Rick and Morty and Back to the Future, Rick Sanchez’s abrasiveness is undoubtedly a drastic departure from the eccentric yet endearing nature of Doc Brown. Lloyd himself would agree; according to Cummings, the veteran actor told the director that the two characters “were like brothers that took two very different paths in life.” Lloyd’s comments cement the notion that, despite sharing some creative DNA, the two franchises stand apart as two unique universes.
As season 5 of Rick and Morty comes to a close, fans are still buzzing over the implications – both in-universe and out – of Cummings’ shorts. Following the release of each short, Adult Swim would tweet a cryptic dimensional designation (such as C-137), seemingly hinting that the live-action iterations are canon to some extent within the universe of the show. If this is indeed the case, it’s very well possible that Lloyd and Martell may reprise their roles in the near future. However, no such connection has been officially confirmed thus far. With season 6 on the distant horizon, fans may have a while to wait before any such theories are confirmed.