There’s nothing wrong with being known as one of the New Girl gang. After all, that spacious if comically rundown loft was packed with comedy ringers, all taking turns stealing scenes and having enduringly endearing mess-arounds for seven solid season of sitcom goodness. And there was nobody more at home in New Girl’s warmly goofy ensemble than Lamorne Morris’ Winston Bishop, the cat-loving (RIP Furguson), ex-pro basketball player (in Latvia) turned quirky cop, whose inability to judge appropriate prank proportions wound up bringing the seventh and final season to an appropriately silly close. Calling the experience of making New Girl “just pure fun,” Morris, appearing on Tuesday’s Daily Show, noted that his new series starts out that way, too, before the real world forces its way in.
Woke, premiering today on Hulu, sees Morris starting out as a largely carefree cartoonist (the show being based on the life and work of Keith Knight), whose apolitical existence (along with the show’s semi-animated aesthetic) is forever transformed by an all-too-typical incident of racist police profiling. Morris, resplendent in unbuttoned silk quarantine loungewear (“Got the tits out, why not?,” explained Morris proudly), told Trevor Noah that, like Knight, “politically, I just didn’t know where I fit,” and that Woke represents his attempt to break out of New Girl’s bubble with a new project that would “help toward that conversation” about race in America.
Telling Noah that Blackness is “a spectrum,” Morris explained that his own experience has taught him that that conversation could use a little shaking up—even in the form of talking trash cans, beer bottles, and Woke’s other appropriately cartoonish manifestations of his carefree character Keef’s unasked-for awakening. As Noah contributed to their conversation, being Black means that, as insulated as one might imagine oneself to be (in Keef’s case, by drawing a successfully silly strip about talking toast), “at some point you will be treated like a black person,” with Morris noting how Keef learns the hard way that pretending the world will let you keep things light isn’t a lifetime’s survival strategy for Black people.
“You can’t change something unless you’re faced with it,” said Morris of Woke’s comic intensions. He also predicts viewers will indeed laugh a great deal, thanks to the Knight co-created autobiographical series bringing in the likes of Workaholics’ Blake Anderson (as Keef’s cluelessly supportive white stoner pal), SNL’s Sasheer Zamata, and a voice cast including J.B Smoove, Nicole Byer, Tony Hale, Keith David, and Cedric The Entertainer, among others. Telling Noah that he’s had to deal with “microaggressions” like white people telling him “I’m blacker than you” (ugh) because of his own Winston-esque perceived image, Morris said that Woke seeks to cut deep into the various ways that the world teaches Black people to see themselves, and each other. (And also how white people should just stop trying to appropriate Blackness while, you know, simultaneously benefitting from systemic racism.) As Morris concluded about his newest—and highest-profile—project, “At the end of the day, I can feel good about contributing something to the conversation.”
Woke is on Hulu now, and Shannon Miller’s take on the series goes up at the A.V. Club later today.