Rick And Morty’s Susan Sarandon Casting Controversy Explained

The casting of Susan Sarandon as Rick And Morty’s Dr. Wong created controversy and debate. Adult Swim’s Rick And Morty quickly evolved from a cult success in its first season to a beloved comedy, and it had no shortage of big name guest stars lining up to appear. Over the years Sam Neill, Alison Brie, Taika Waititi, Jack Black and many more have made cameos on the series, and one of the biggest guest stars came with Rick And Morty season 3’s beloved “Pickle Rick,” where Rick – well – turned himself into a pickle.

SCREENRANT VIDEO OF THE DAYSCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT

Outside of being an inherently funny concept, Rick’s choice was rooted in the fact he didn’t want to attend therapy with his family. Rick And Morty cast Oscar winner Susan Sarandon as Dr. Wong, a therapist who calmly spells out the multiple layers of dysfunction within the Smith clan to both Beth and Rick. Wong also breaks down Rick’s issues succinctly, in that he uses his intellect as an excuse not to engage with his emotions. Wong was an instant audience favorite following her first appearance, and Sarandon has returned in both Rick And Morty season 4 and most recently in season 6’s “Analyze Piss”

Related: Every Appearance By Susan Sarandon’s Dr. Wong On Rick & Morty


Dr. Wong Was Created To Bring An Asian Character Into Rick & Morty

Dr Wong in Rick and Morty Analyze Piss

However, the casting of Sarandon as a Chinese-American character didn’t go without commentary following her Rick And Morty debut. In fact, Dr. Wong was specifically created by writer Jessica Gao as a way to bring an Asian character into the series. Discussing the episode with Rick And Morty co-creator Dan Harmon on their podcast Whiting Wongs, Gao explained that unless a writer specifies a character’s ethnicity when writing a script, casting directors tend to “default” to casting Caucasian performers in the role.

With Rick And Morty’s Dr. Wong, Gao wanted to create a juicy role for an Asian performer on the show. Rick And Morty’s showrunners started looking for Asian performers for the Dr. Wong role when an unexpected opportunity came along. Sarandon – who won an Academy Award for her work in Dead Man Walking, in addition to receiving four other acting nominations – revealed she was a big fan of Rick And Morty and asked about a guest role.

Sarandon Was Offered Dr. Wong As It Was A Great Role

susan sarandon in monarch

Naturally, Adult Swim and Rick And Morty’s showrunners were only too happy to oblige Sarandon’s request. It just so happened they were working on “Pickle Rick” at that time, and unfortunately, they had no other roles of note for Sarandon to play. Since Dr Wong was easily the best guest star part available, it went to Sarandon, who of course, did a terrific job. Regardless of Sarandon’s talent, the irony that the one character created with the intention of giving a role in Rick And Morty to an Asian actor went to a white actress wasn’t lost on Gao.

Speaking with IndieWire, Gao recounted that after Sarandon’s casting, she approached Harmon about changing the character’s name, but the co-creator admitted he didn’t understand why Gao felt so strongly. Gao recalled that she “… had this long conversation with him where I talked about why representation is important and how different it is when you grow up never seeing yourself reflected in media.” To her, it wasn’t that there were multiple Asian American characters on the show but they lost one, but that “We lost one out of one, the only one so far. And that’s why it’s such a big deal… The whole point was to have representation.”

Sarandon’s casting as Rick And Morty’s Dr. Wong also came during a period when the casting of white performers as characters of color on animated shows was coming into focus. Examples include Hank Azaria as Apu on The Simpsons – who later stepped aside from the role – or Alison Brie as Diana on Bojack Horseman, a Vietnamese-American character. The Dr. Wong casting became part of a wider conversion, though unlike some other series that recast roles, Sarandon has stayed on as Wong.

Harmon & Gao Created A Podcast Called Whiting Wongs About The Controversy

Dr. Wong talking to Beth in Rick and Morty

In the aftermath of the Dr. Wong casting controversy, Harmon and Gao decided to create a podcast addressing it head-on. Whiting Wongs‘ first episode specifically referenced Rick And Morty’s “Pickle Rick” episode, including the chain of events leading up to Sarandon’s casting. Harmon also admits he never once thought of changing Wong’s name to something like “Johnson,” as he felt if he couldn’t get diversity in casting, then at least the character herself would be representation.

The Whiting Wongs podcast ran for one season, with the duo using the Rick And Morty situation as a springboard for conversations about race and representation in media, both past and present. The debate surrounding Sarandon’s casting appears to have largely died away – possibly due to the fact Wong very rarely appears on Rick And Morty – but it helped fuel an important discussion about whitewashing in animation that is still very much ongoing.

Source: Whiting Wongs, IndieWire

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