The power of friendship abides in YOLO: Silver Destiny, the sequel season for YOLO: Crystal Fantasy. The adult animated series returns January 22 on Adult Swim and January 23 on HBO Max; it’ll reunite us with party besties Rachel and Sarah and the fantastical portals they often drunkly stumble into, resulting in hilarious adventures within wicked bizarre realms. It’s wild and imaginative, like an epic girls night out under the best sort of influences.
io9 recently got the chance to talk to creator Michael Cusack (Koala Man) and voice actors Todor Manojlovic (Rachel) and Sarah Bishop (Sarah) about the return of YOLO and its hallucinogenic fantasy adventures through Australia between the two friends.
Sabina Graves, io9: I’m just going to start off with my wild story of how I discovered YOLO: Crystal Fantasy. It was at the most unexpected place. I was on vacation at Disney World, and my friends and I were hanging out and talking about movies late into the night. We had Adult Swim on in the background, and it was the Terry Cup episode when Sarah is in the club.
Todor Manojlovic: That’s a good one to drop in on.
io9: We were kind of laughing at some of the stuff early on in the episode, but we just stopped at the moment that Sarah’s in the bathroom and it turns into that wild montage into live-action—and we were all like, “We are very drunk right now.”
Michael Cusack: That was the purpose. Definitely.
Manojlovic: That’s the best introduction, that’s the perfect way to get into it.
Cusack: About that sequence that you mentioned, the live-action one, that was a really odd moment of the shooting because I did that with just a small crew in a theater. It was very bizarre to dance by myself while some crew people were just staring at me. And sometimes it was to no music, and sometimes it was to that song that you hear, and it felt very strange in the moment. But I’m very glad how it turned out.
io9: Yeah, it was bonkers how one minute we were laughing, and the next very moved by the dance sequence. That definitely is a really big example of how this show manages to have so many different tones at a breakneck speed. Can you talk a bit about the inspiration behind the comedy and the story, how it all came about?
Cusack: I made some shorts—a short called YOLO in like 2012, and it was very chaotic and quick and fast. That was kind of the style of cartoons at the time, and online cartoons. When Adult Swim wanted to do a show with me after I’d worked with them for a bit, it made sense to bring those characters back and have them lead this weird show, where we can try to have an authentic thing with two girls in a friendship—but also coat it with all this bizarre nonsense that happens around them. So it’s kind of like a yin yang thing going on, but the quickness is also just the Adult Swim [format]. You know, they do shows in 11 minutes as a format, so you have to fit a lot in. It is an Adult Swim, I guess, tradition to be quick and fit the three-act structure in those 11 minutes, which can be tough. There’s a lot of cutting that goes on. So that’s pretty much how it comes to be.
io9: And for Todor and Sarah, I want to know at what point in the process did you all come along? And how did you all meet and begin collaborating in this genre of animation?
Manojlovic: Well, I’ve been Cusack’s close friend since high school, so I’ve pretty much been there since the beginning. It was when Cusack was in the middle of animating his original YouTube short that he called me. He said, “I’ve got this thing on the side, you know, it’s just a YouTube video. Do you want to do the voice for one of the characters?” And I went, “Absolutely.” And it went viral on YouTube. A few years later, Cusack got the deal with Adult Swim, and it was just back to it, basically. Cusack moved to Melbourne and we started working at Princess Pictures, which was converted church in one of the suburbs in Melbourne. Pretty much it was mainly Cusack the whole time, just shooting shit and just having fun. That’s basically how the recording session happens. They do the writing in the writers’ room, and then the scripts come up; [when] we’re in the studio recording it ourselves, [we’re] just laughing ourselves to death.
Sarah Bishop: I’d known Cusack from a couple of other YouTube sketch comedy interactions in Australia, because I was in a sketch comedy group with one of the writers of YOLO. I was in Melbourne shooting another sketch show and I got asked to come in and audition. So I went to the church and these guys had basically turned it into this really cool music studio. We did a little recording and then we went to the pub afterwards across the road.
io9: Amazing. I think the friendship between Rachel and Sarah is very deeply relatable. I don’t know what that says about me. Can you talk a bit about finding that? Is it mostly on the page or do you get to improvise that relationship a little?
Manojlovic: Well, are you Rachel or Sarah in the relationship? That’s the important part. I would hope that you were the Sarah because Rachel is the toxic one in our relationship, right? There is actually, I mean, Cusack can talk about this as well—but yeah, there’s a lot of room for improvisation. In fact, a lot of the show you’ll find are quite improvised. We do obviously still read the lines on the script and everything, but every line is dressed up just a little bit, you know, tried multiple different ways. Whatever makes us laugh the most basically is the thing that’s going to make it. And whatever jokes that we’re thinking of at the time will make it to the show as well. What do you reckon, Cusack?
Cusack: So when I did that YOLO cartoon, it was just purely about comedy and [friendship]. But when we did the show, it was like, “Well, we actually have to explore these characters.” And that’s why we got a writers room of Australian comedians—Nina Oyama, Greta Lee Jackson, Michelle Brasier—and they brought a lot of their experiences being in relationships like this. And there seem to be the common reoccurrences. A lot of people have had similar friendships where sometimes you’re either the Rachel, where you’re a bit dominant over a friend, or vice versa—you’re Sarah and you’re stuck in this toxic relationship. And it’s an interesting dynamic to explore because why would you stay in that relationship? Well, there’s benefits to doing so because sometimes the toxic friend, you see things in them that other people don’t. It was just a fun dynamic to explore because I feel like we’ve experienced something similar.
io9: The end of YOLO: Crystal Fantasy (season one) felt very final and I was really worried that that was it, especially since Michael, you also have Koala Man and Smiling Friends. I was like, “Oh no, they’re gone.” What was it like to jump back on board and return to these characters?
Cusack: So for me, it was the end. The reason it did have that finale was because it was like, “Well, what if we don’t get a season two, it could be just the end.” And we didn’t know at the time, and then that took a while. When chats with Adult Swim about about doing season two [finally began], it kind of made sense to do another one. It was just fantastic coming back—I love working with Todor and Sarah and the animation crew; it’s just a great crew and a fun writers’ room. It’s a great creative therapeutic experience, you can really put a lot into there, and Adult Swim is the best to work with when it comes to that kind of stuff because they don’t give many notes. They understand that what we’re doing is weird and experimental.
Manojlovic: The notes we get from Adult Swim are only ever character-based, so you can tell they’re really interested in the characters and fleshing out as much of that plot as they can. Honestly, I’m always hanging out for the YOLO jobs because they’re my favorite things. I think Sarah will say the same. It’s honestly the best. It’s so much fun and it’s got a bit of a reputation around the Princess Bento studio because everybody uses their own instincts and brings their own things to the table, you know?
Bishop: Yeah, it’s the best job, it’s so much fun. I’m a huge fan of the show as well, like when the scripts come in I’m such a fan of the writers, and then when I finally see it as well. I’m such a fan of what everyone else brings and there’s so many little jokes and things in the visuals that all the other artists bring to this show. Everyone really takes a lot of pride in working on it, and you can you can really tell.
io9: I love that. And it just gets so big every episode, like they just go to different levels. I’m excited for Rachel’s quest to be empress.
Manojlovic: Yeah, that’s right. Let’s hope it works out for her—but hey, that’s that’s up to Rachel. I don’t know if we hope for the best for somebody like Rachel or not, but she can do her thing and we’ll just see what happens.
YOLO: Silver Destiny debuts Sunday, January 22 at midnight on Adult Swim, and the next day on HBO Max.
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