Rick And Morty's Sarah Chalke And Chris Parnell On Playing Multiple Versions Of Their Characters [Exclusive Interview]

"Rick and Morty" season 6 is returning this weekend after taking a few weeks off, and there's a lot to look forward to. Rick has his portal gun back, there's an Evil Rick out there who still needs to be taken down, and the writing seems to be as strong as ever. But maybe the most interesting part of season 6 so far is how much Beth (Sarah Chalke) and Jerry (Chris Parnell) have changed as characters over the years, going from the parents who mostly stayed at home for the episode's B-plots, to characters who carry some of the most fascinating A-plots of the series. 

Going into the second half of the season, I got a chance to talk to actors Sarah Chalke and Chris Parnell about their thoughts on season 6 and what it's like playing these characters. And yes, we definitely talked about the events of "Bethic Twinstinct." 

'We'll record Domestic Beth and Space Beth completely separately'

What's your favorite episode of the season so far?

Chalke: That is a hard question. I loved the season opener because of how they managed to answer so many questions from the end of [season] 5 ... I thought it was so beautifully animated. I loved recording "Bethic Twinstinct" because it was so much fun, and getting to play out that love story between Home Beth and Space Beth was a fun adventure. And then also, I just have to give a shoutout to "Night Family" because we haven't gotten to do anything like that. Those are my three. I don't know. They all had something unique. But if I had to pick one, maybe I would pick the season opener, "Solaricks."

Parnell: Yeah, I like that one a lot, too. Mine would be that one and the "Night Family." And then also the fortune cookie episode ["Final DeSmithation"] were probably my favorites.

What was it like interacting with the writers for those episodes? When they gave you the script, did they say anything like, "Just a heads up: This is a little strange?"

Parnell: We just get it via email, because nobody's handing us the script, giving us a heads up on it. Yeah, the only time I get a heads up about something being weirder than usual is, like in the recording booth the other day, Scott [Marder] mentioned an episode that's coming up. I was recording something from it, actually. That's why. And they hadn't sent it to me earlier, so I hadn't read the script, which is unusual. But he laid it all out for me. And it's pretty crazy. It's pretty amazing. But no, you just expect it. You expect it to be that way.

Chalke: Yeah, you look forward to it. You look forward to getting that script in your inbox and all of the treats that are going to be inside waiting for you.

For both of you, you get to play different versions of the same character, like Space Beth, and then you get season 2 Jerry and Cronenberg-world Jerry. What's it like playing different versions of the characters? Are there any techniques you use to differentiate between them?

Parnell: Well, for Jerry, it's whatever's in the script, so I don't have to differentiate that much. The one that comes to mind was Worm Jerry. There's different emotional stuff going on in the episode ["Big Trouble in Little Sanchez"] and that's just there in the script. It's still Jerry, but it's a different aspect of him. But I think what Sarah does is very great and very interesting with Beth and Space Beth.

Chalke: Yeah, Beth and Space Beth. Space Beth was obviously something I had never expected to be coming into the show and that I was going to get to do. And then at the beginning, I didn't know if it was just going to be that one time. And then it was cool that they continued with her. I feel like the challenge for me was trying to find a way to make them feel grounded and the same person, but also feel very unique and separate from each other. They have such different personalities and such different ways of being. We'll record Domestic Beth and Space Beth completely separately, all from one part of the episode and all from the other. And I'll always do Space Beth second, and I'll throw some throat clears in between to try and make her a little raspier.

But I feel like the biggest part is just how they approach a scene. The way that in "Bethic Twinstinct," when Beth is going in to talk to Rick about forgetting the ice cream, and she's so embarrassed about the whole thing and not sure how to do it and stuff. And that's just never a way that Space Beth would speak or behave. Space Beth is so confident, and she's so sure of herself, and she's so cool. So I feel like you hold yourself differently when you're recording, and your posture's a little bit different. And yeah, I think just trying to find a way that they feel unique, but the same person.

'You're reading that script, and it's like, 'Oh my gosh, this is happening''

For Chris, Jerry started off the show as sort of the show's punching bag in a lot of ways, but the show's gotten a lot nicer to Jerry as it goes on. How do you feel about how he's changed as a character over the past six seasons?

Parnell: Well, as they tell more of the stories of all the characters, they just get fleshed out more and more, and get more and more interesting. And it's been exciting and very satisfying to get to be different versions of Jerry, show different aspects of Jerry and different realities and everything that comes with that. Honestly, I haven't watched the earlier episodes in so long, it's hard to even remember what Jerry was back then. But yeah, there's definitely been an increase in appreciation for Jerry in the show. Then also, even Rick on some level, I think, appreciates Jerry a little more than he used to. Which is great. And it's just great to get to do more and different kind of things.

For Sarah, Beth's gotten a lot more complicated and compelling over the years. How does it feel to play the character, and how do you feel about the way she's evolved over the past six seasons?

Chalke: I love it. I feel really lucky. I think when I got the part and I had read the pilot and I loved it, and you don't know, at that point ... they [Beth and Jerry] could have just stayed at home and never done any sci-fi adventures. Never left the house, never traveled to all of the other multiverses. And I just feel like it's fun and lucky that it took the turns it took and that we got to find out so much more about the characters.

As the seasons have gone on, the relationships between each and every one of them — at this point, I feel like I've gotten to do cool episodes. Adventures with Jerry, with Summer, with Rick, with Morty. And it just fleshed out all of the relationships so much. And I didn't necessarily know it was coming, so that's just been such a pleasant surprise.

The show would've been fun to record regardless, because I'm such a fan of all of the writing, of the storylines, all of it, of the animation. And the fact that we've just gotten to do so many more fun things has just been, yeah, just felt really lucky.

Is there a moment in season 6 so far that has particularly surprised you?

Chalke: Yeah, "Bethic Twinstinct," for sure. It really surprised me when I read that script. And it always continues to surprise me how they figure out how to just play everything out. You're reading that script, and it's like, "Oh my gosh, this is happening." And then one of my favorite scenes in that is her going to talk to Rick about, "How do I deal with the fact that I forgot the ice cream from the Gloppy Drop System?" This whole metaphor about forgetting the ice cream. And you find out that Rick has also forgotten the ice cream.

Meanwhile, while they're doing that, they're not even addressing the fact that they're trying to pull these carbon wires out of the space whale. That's just not even addressed at all. So I feel like there was a lot of surprising things, reading that, that I thought were great.

Parnell: Yeah, me too. That was probably the most surprising episode. Also the first episode, just seeing where Jerry was in that [Cronenberg-infested] universe. But yeah, as I was reading the "Bethic Twinstinct," I was thinking, "Oh yeah, Jerry's going to feel really threatened by this, and he's not going to be on board." But then when he was, I was like, "Oh, okay. That's great."

Chalke: Totally. That was another good surprise.

'I think everybody's going to be really happy with them'

Who do you think your characters bounce off of the best? Who do you have the most fun performing with, if you get to?

Chalke: Well, the sad part is that we don't actually get to do the scenes together, which I think would be really cool. I know it's not probably, time-wise, as efficient. But it's mostly the case on most shows. I think, Chris, you were saying you've done it a couple of times, where you've been in a room with the whole cast recording, on another show?

Parnell: Yeah, I did a guest thing on "Bob's Burgers." And all of the L.A. people were in the studio together, and then they had the New York folks; they were there, too, but only in voice. I like doing it separately just from an efficiency point of view. But yeah, you do miss that camaraderie thing and just that energy. Actors like to talk, and we start chatting, and things take a lot longer. And it's fun.

I think that's part of why I still love the chance to get to do on-camera stuff, is because you get to be there. And there's lights that are being set up, the camera's getting moved, so there's time to do all of that. But with a voiceover, there's really nothing that needs to happen, except you need to record your part. I think Jerry and Rick, Rick is always fun to counter that energy and that kind of thing that Justin's doing.

How do you feel about the way Beth and Jerry's marriage has evolved over the past six seasons?

Parnell: I feel good about it. It's come a long way. It's been through a lot, but I'm very happy where they are now. I can't help but empathize with them and want things to be good between the characters. And healthy, more or less.

Chalke: Yeah, for sure. I feel like it's the healthiest they've been. And again, initially in season 1, and then where it goes in season 2, you'd never see it getting here [in "Bethic Twinstinct"] with the scene with the three of them, with Rick and Summer and Morty in the kitchen eating and in so much pain, having to listen to them. But you wouldn't have imagined them getting to that place. So yeah, I think they're in a really good spot.

Have you guys done anything for season 7 yet? I've heard that the writers are a little ahead of schedule.

Chalke: I've recorded [episodes] 1 and 2, I think from [season] 7. What about you, Chris?

Parnell: Yeah, I can't remember which ones, but yeah, I've recorded at least a couple, I think. Yeah. And they were also talking about how I think they're about to start breaking stories for season 9.

Season 9? Wow.

Parnell: Yeah. Yeah, they're really moving along.

Throughout the show, we've had Evil Morty and then Evil Rick. Do you think there'll ever be a chance of an Evil Beth or an Evil Jerry? 

Chalke: Yeah. It'd be fun. Oh, we don't know anything, though. We don't know what happens.

Parnell: Yeah, it'd be fun to play Evil Jerry. I don't know if we'll ever see that, but maybe.

I know you probably can't say much, but is there anything you can hint at for the second half of season six?

Parnell: Just I think everybody's going to be really happy with them. They may even be better than the first six. I think people will be very happy and excited and satisfied by them.

The second half of season 6 premieres at 11:00pm ET on November 20, 2022, on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim.