Sarah Chalke on the strange appeal of animated sensation ‘Rick and Morty’

Critically acclaimed, half-hour series returns for a fourth season Sunday on Adult Swim

Of all the major series Ottawa-born actress Sarah Chalke has starred in — from “Scrubs” to “Roseanne” to “How I Met Your Mother” — it’s an irreverent animated one with wacky storylines that really gets her celebrity friends jazzed.

Chalke is among the stars of “Rick and Morty,” an adult animated comedy about the space misadventures of sociopathic mad scientist Rick and his anxious teenage grandson Morty. Both characters are voiced by Justin Roiland, who co-created the series with Dan Harmon.

Chalke voices Rick’s daughter, Beth, alongside Chris Parnell as her husband, Jerry.

The critically acclaimed, half-hour series returns for a fourth season Sunday on Adult Swim.

“This show, more than any other show I’ve worked on, I get approached by friends saying, ‘I want to do a voice, I want to be on it,’ because everybody loves to watch it,” Chalke said during a stop in Toronto back in May.

“I think part of the reason of why it’s resonated with people so much is because the humour is so funny and so smart, and also it dives into much bigger questions about life and the universe and our position in it.

“You think you’re going into a comedy and then all of a sudden you’re asking questions about the planet and the universe and if it’s infinite — ’Does anything matter?’”

“Rick and Morty” sees the title characters encountering madcap scenarios and intergalactic characters as they hop around alternate dimensions via Rick’s portal gun.

Its celebrity fans have raved about the show in interviews and on social media, including Chris Evans, Daniel Radcliffe and Kanye West, who tweeted last year: “This is my favorite show. I’ve seen every episode at least 5 times each.”

And celebrity cameos abound.

“The Late Show” host Stephen Colbert played a rival alien scientist named Zeep Xanflorp, Jemaine Clement of “Flight of the Conchords” voiced an alien cloud nicknamed Fart, and Oscar-winning actress Susan Sarandon played a therapist trying to help the family understand why Rick has turned himself into a pickle.

Other cameos include Oscar-nominated filmmaker Werner Herzog as a wise old alien, and comedy stars Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele as a two-headed testicle monster.

“It lives in this amazing little universe of sci-fi, comedy, and it’s sort of filthy and amoral at times,” said Parnell.

“It’s the minds of Justin and Dan and this amazing team of writer-producers they put together. They’re geniuses, really. I mean that sincerely. I hope they don’t hear this, because that’s too sappy.”

Asked who might do a cameo in the fourth season, Chalke and Parnell couldn’t say, noting they’re not usually privy to such information before the show airs. Network officials also remained mum this week when asked.

“I often don’t know who’s playing the parts. Sometimes I’ll recognize a voice but often I don’t,” said Parnell, a former cast member of “Saturday Night Live.”

“I’m usually in the dark completely about anything that’s going on until I see it or read it.”

Parnell said he and Chalke don’t even record their parts together, so their stop in Toronto was a rare chance to see each other face-to-face.

“Rick and Morty” is notorious for taking long breaks between seasons, and the latest instalment is no exception, landing more than two years after the previous one ended.

“Justin and Dan just want it to be a specific way and they want it to be right and they don’t want to record until it’s right,” said Chalke.

It also “took forever” for Adult Swim and the show’s creators to work out a deal, added Parnell.

“That was the only time that I’ve really been concerned, because I knew it was a hit and I was like, ‘Are they seriously not going to step up and renew the show and make the deal that Dan and Justin want?’” Parnell said.

“And finally they did, so I was very happy to hear that.”

Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press

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