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Spencer Grammer, Voice Of Summer On Rick And Morty - Exclusive Interview

Summer, voiced by Spencer Grammer, has evolved more than any other character on Rick and Morty: she's gone from being just some extra family member into one of the main characters, going on adventures with Rick almost as much as Morty. She's also, paradoxically, the most consistent — she's the only member of the Smith family with any degree of common sense and knows how to adapt to any situation.

Looper spoke with Grammer after the 2020 Adult Swim Fest. In an interview filled with enthusiastic laughter, Grammar told us about the evolution of Summer, her personal connection to the character, and where she'd like to see her go in the next 70-odd episodes. A big fan of the show herself, Grammer also broke down favorite episodes and moments, as well as how at least one of them hits a little too close to home these days. We also tried our darndest to squeeze some info out about season five, currently in production.

Playing a teenager

You play a very convincing teenager, right down to the vocal affectations. How do you get into the headspace of a teenager?

I don't know if I ever got out of the headspace of a teenager, to be honest. [Laughs] I mean, I know I'm older but I sort of feel like... I became a mom nine years ago and even saying that sounds crazy to me. And it's given me a deep appreciation for my parents because I honestly thought they knew everything. And now what I learned was that no one knows anything, and you just think that they do and we're all just kind of pretending that we're grownups.

You know when you're a teenager, you actually think that there's some place you're going to get to in life where you're going to know all the answers, and it's just that you're stuck in the home as a teenager and you're going to get out one day and it's going to be so much better. Like, I think that I really truly in my soul believed that as a teenager, and then I've been out here for a few years and I'm like, "Oh, it was way better," but I can feel that earnestness, that angst still in my bones trying to push me to go, "We can reach another threshold. We can keep going." And maybe that's how I connect with it. So, you know, that... and I guess the mood swings. [Laughs]

That dovetails perfectly into the next question, which is how much of yourself, how much of Spencer Grammer do you see in Summer?

No, I guess much to other people's dismay, not that that's the right word at all. I was not necessarily popular ever. You know? [Laugh] And I do feel like Summer's really trying. She could be popular, but she's just not hot enough. And she's just got a weird enough brother that it just doesn't work. She's also probably just too smart to really buy into having to be popular. I guess I connect with her in that kind of a way.

It looks different from the outside. Like the actors on this show and I love Rick and Morty, but some of the roles I've portrayed in my life are not representative of who I actually am in private world. They're like two different people, you know? And people think that what you play on TV is who you are a lot of the time, even if that's not true. My favorite color isn't pink, much to other people's dismay, it's probably black. [Laughs] I guess there's a lot of Summer in me and vice versa.

Spencer Grammer's favorite type of Summer story

Summer's gotten a lot of really great stories. As the series has gone on, she's become a bigger part of the show. Is there any specific direction you'd really like to see her going, or if you could craft a storyline, what would it be?

I don't know if I'd ever "take her back." Like I feel like they do a great job. I said earlier, I was like, you know, I would love to see Summer try to run a cult. You know? I think that would be really funny. Like come up with one, although she's done pretty well recently. Right? Like she somehow was fine, in that one planet that they forgot her on. She managed to become a goddess because she had a toothpick. I think that's pretty brilliant to be honest. But, I would like to see her trying to find more crusades that make her stand out. I think that would be a fun thing to watch.

I know that there are more episodes coming up where you're going to see more of Summer. So obviously they haven't killed Summer yet. You know? No big surprise there, there's not a spoiler. They might. I always think, there's always a chance when you're on a show, when you're an actress, you're always like "This could be the season they kill you." You just don't know, you just literally go and you never know. It's completely possible, because that could be interesting... you know? Not interesting! That's a terrible idea! Nobody write that down! I love playing Summer! [Laughs] So yeah, that happens. You think about that sometimes.

We'll get you on record saying you like playing Summer. How's that?

Yes. That sounds like a good idea. [Laughs]

Summer as a chameleon (not literally, at least yet)

You're really hitting the nail on the head about Summer — that very often she ends up being the most useful person in a situation because she's the only one that has some kind of common sense and ends up surviving better than anyone.

Yeah, she's a chameleon. She does, actually. You think of even in the Tiny Rick episode, you know? She does, in a way, put Rick's safety above her wants, below what she thinks is probably best for the whole family at that point, you know? Even much to Morty's denial of what's happening to Rick's decaying body. I mean, yeah, I think she is pretty grounded in that way. I mean, even when they're in that Cronenberg world, she's still performing versions of movies for her parents to enjoy. Even when they were in the wasp world, she was like [Summer voice] "I'm not a bee, dad." She knows what she's doing. It's always self assuring.

That's really astonishing because I just heard you slip into Summer there for a second.

[Laughs] I know! I can! Obviously I have a very weird kind of California accent and I live in New York. They'll be like, "Where are you from?" I'm like, "Well, California," "Oh yeah." And I was like, "Well, now I play this character, uber valley girl," which has gotten even I think more as we've gone along because when I just, like, elongate these sounds it becomes more of a character. I think at first it was just the way I was talking and then as it's gone along, I'm like, "Oh, I can really utilize this." It is so fun. It's fun to do in my real life. But also, I do think that a lot of the times women do these things where we pretend we don't know what's going on to make other people feel stronger. I feel like I put that voice on often to do that. I'm like, "I don't really don't know what you're talking about. Would you explain it to me please?" You know, but inside I'm sort of cringing. It's fine.

A changing role

Summer kind of started out as almost an extra character, someone to round out the family, and now she's the third main character. Was there any point where you realized your role was changing?

I would say no, not really. I just kind of, I don't know, came in and did my thing. In some of the panels Dan has explained that in some ways, some of the performances that I had given enabled them to want to build Summer more as a character, which I feel so privileged or honored to have say that to me or even say that about me because I maybe wasn't necessarily aware that I was having that kind of an influence at all, but I love voicing Summer and I love acting. So it's really lovely when you do something that you love and other people can find inspiration from that too. So I don't know if I knew that was going to happen, but I know that I come into every job that I do, and particularly Rick and Morty to do the best work that I can to push my boundaries and to make people laugh.

Even when I looked into some of the episodes, I'm like, "Oh man, I could've done that better." Even the old ones, I'm like, "Oh no, that was really good" and then sometimes I'm like, "Oh, but maybe if I'd done that..." I'm very highly critical of myself and I always want to do the best work because I know we're providing entertainment for people, and sometimes, especially in times like this I tend to even fall back on television as a way to find... It's almost like, you can't hang out with friends, right? But you can watch a TV show about people and you feel connected to them and have a catharsis through their stories.

I think it's really important for us that we talk about that, because as much as Rick and Morty is able to do things in a reverent way where we can talk about issues in a way that's a little bit distant, but we can laugh about it too and find the satire in it and the stupidity sometimes, and the vanity in the things that we find to be so important in life. While that's surrounded with the family dynamic, I think it also allows it out in a way that we connect with in a real grounded way. I'm talking a lot. I'm going to just be quiet now. Sorry. [Laughs]

No, it's fine!

Did that answer your question?

That's good!

Okay! You'll find something in there that works.

Turning points

At what point did you realize Rick and Morty was going to be like a special show? Like not just another job for you, something special?

I'd been on other shows that have said I couldn't do the show anymore. Like if I wanted to do the other show, like an on-camera show, right? That I would have to give up Rick and Morty, and I was like, "No f***ing way. No way!" I was like, "I don't care how much I get paid for this show, this brings me so much joy." Now I don't know if that means that I knew the show was going to be something special, but I knew it was special to me and for my life — more than a number of other shows have been. It's always brought me so much joy and made me laugh every time I read a script. And all of the people I work with, I love — every aspect of this show has been like a supportive, amazing, wonderful experience for me, and it's a show where I feel like we're all treated equally in a way that I haven't necessarily experienced all the time in the entertainment industry.

I just truly commend our creators and producers and Adult Swim and all the people who are part of the show, it has really been an incredible experience. So I can't necessarily say I didn't know it was going to be this great, but I just know that being a part of it has felt really satisfying. And maybe because I felt that way and I think that the people who make the show feel that way about it too, that it speaks to some truth in the world as well. I think we put a lot of time and energy and love into it. And love, I sound like such a hippie. Whatever, okay? [Laughs] I really like working on the show and I'm glad everyone likes it too, because we can keep doing it.

Season five and recording

So you're probably going to have to be a little careful how you answer this, but is there anything you can tell us about the upcoming season?

I categorically got an email that said I cannot tell you literally anything. So I don't know. I'll be like the general, like, there's going to be some more family stuff. There's going to be some fun storylines that involve everyone, and probably some cool, interesting worlds we visit. But that's definitely the most I can tease about it. Okay, a more specific thing would be because we have a lot of episodes coming up, I think it's going to get a lot of more unique storylines than you have that might be, like, one-off episode or character stories that you can follow, because it just allows us more creative freedom, you know? And you know you have so many more coming up, so lots to look forward to. If you don't like this season, you'll probably like the next 10, you know? [Laughs]

So the recording process for Rick and Morty is a little unique. You're there with the creators and the writers. Is it a lot of pressure? Are there any weird stories from the recording booth for you?

No, no. Apart from maybe my own madness, when I go in? It's interesting. It takes me like a minute to warm up, you know? Sometimes I'll ask if we could go back to some of the beginning lines, if they don't think that they got it. But no, I'm just weird in general, obviously, you're interviewing me. [Laughs] I'm Chatty Cathy. Imagine what I do when I'm in the booth, trying to be like fighting aliens or something. Also having a very weird moment probably. Or I'll be like, "That was terrible. I have to do it again. I can't even."

I'm generally pretty hard on myself I think, but they always enjoy what I do at the end. So I feel good about it. There's been times where sometimes I haven't gotten a script until I get there. So that can be tough because I don't know if I'm doing a good job, or I'll be like, "What's happening? What's happening right now? Give me some context." But no, I mean, no one's been weird. It isn't like I've been on a Zoom and somebody accidentally flashed me or anything, you know? So it's fine, right? [Laugh] We're living in a new world now, right?

Favorite episodes and closing thoughts

Is there anything you want to bring up that I haven't asked about yet?

Well, do you watch the show?

I do watch the show.

Do you have a favorite episode?

Off the top of my head, probably the one with the love potion.

Oh yeah. "Rick Potion #9."

Yeah, I love that because I think that was where the series really found itself. That was where the show really found out, "we can be really funny and we can also be really sad at the same time."

Yeah, yeah! That was such a great episode. I think that season, was that season one? It might've been. There's some pertinent s*** in there, right? Like, the flu season happens and all these people get, like, changed and I was like... It's a pandemic, right? We're living in one now! They had to leave the world and build another reality, you know? It's interesting, and there's a few episodes like that. Yeah. I liked that episode a lot too. That's when I got to do the "dolls eyes" — the Jaws quote at the end in the theater for that one, yeah. There were so many good things in that. Oh, it's so funny! And then the song, like, "I! Love! Morty!" And Morty... [Laughs] I can't. Anyway, I am a fan of the show too, obviously. Well, thank you. That was it. I'm glad you said that. That made me happy to go down that trip down memory lane of that episode. Anyway, do you have any other questions for me or anything else you'd like to know?

Well, since you got that, I might as well ask, what are your favorite episodes?

Oh, what are my favorite episodes... I love the snake episode of the last season. I love that one. I also love, "Rick Potion #9." I also love "Rest and Ricklaxation" where they go to the alien spa. I also love Citadel of Ricks. I love that episode so much. I think I watch that episode a lot, that one. And then also when Jerry is moving out and the wind goes [whispers] "loser." I use that all the time.

That's so good!

It's so good! I just do that all the time now. My son and I do that, or we'll do other things... The wind is so good. Anyway, those are some. I'm done.

Yeah, there's a part of me that hopes they explain it's something larger and there's a part of me that hopes they never explain it ever.

Oh I know, right? Yeah, because they let it exist in its reality. We don't need to necessarily know. And then we can just wait and wonder if one day... I feel that way about you know, Evil Morty. There's so much that can happen with Evil Morty. I want to see more of Evil Morty. I want him to infiltrate the family for a period of time and try to change us to more evil or something, against Rick. I mean, none of these things are storylines, but it would be fun to see it, you know?

Thank you very much for taking time to talk with us! We're very much looking forward to the next season.

Oh, me too! Me too! I can't wait to see it, because I get to see it when you guys see it. I don't see them generally before anyone else does. I only know what's happening because of what I've read and what I've done in the studio, but I don't know what it looks like. And so it's always fun to see it put together like a Christmas present, you know?

Catch the Adult Swim Festival replays for a limited time on the Adult Swim YouTube channel. Rick and Morty season five is in the works now.