When Fox announced Damon Wayans Jr. would return to New Girl three years after he shot one piddly little episode and had to go, fans probably assumed producers had his number on speed dial and rang him up the minute Happy Endings got the ax.
But it turns out, it was someone else who began the discussion to bring back Wayans' "Coach" character: New Girl star Jake Johnson (Nick).
"Happy Endings was over and [Jake and I] did a movie together," Wayans explains, referring to the buddy cop comedy Let's Be Cops, in which the duo play the two leads. "We know each other a little too well. And Jake talked to me about coming back to New Girl and maybe doing some stuff. And then it actually happened, so it just felt right…It's like being back with the family."
"It just adds to the dynamic of the show," Johnson told me during a break from filming on the set. "You know, it's like what I always say. It's like a nice gumbo, the more spice, the better. And the beauty of having Damon back is you never know what's going to go into the gumbo."
"When do you say that?" Damon shot back. "I've literally never heard you say that ever."
"I guess I'm just hungry," Johnson admitted, in true Nick Miller form, adding that the interview was happening during his lunch break and he could only speak in food metaphors from here on out. Deal.
Though some cynics may have assumed Lamorne Morris' (Winston) days were numbered, we now know that it's Schmidt (Max Greenfield) who's out of the loft, opening the door for Coach (Wayans) to take his bedroom.
But where has Coach been all this time? "Coach is one of those guys who, when he gets into a relationship, he kind of disappears," Wayans explained. "So he's been in a relationship for like, two years and they finally broke up and now he's back and he's hitting those single streets."
Wayans left New Girl after the pilot shoot because his first-position series, ABC's Happy Endings, got a surprise pickup. We've always been dying to know how he handled the Sophie's Choice: Which show was he rooting for to stay on with?
"I was attached to both but I felt like a little more allegiance to Happy Endings because I did I think 13 episodes with that before I auditioned for [New Girl]," Wayans confesses, adding that he's "now just happy that both worked out."
Like all the other Happy Endings fans who are still gutted by the show's demise in May (we still can't talk about it out loud!), Wayans says he was surprised H.E. was not picked up by another network. "There was talk of it, and it just fizzled...The show is super funny and people liked it, but it's show business, you know?"
The a-mah-zing silver lining? Wayans says the cast has remained close and he's dying to do some kind of Happy Endings movie/reunion/final run to wrap up the story lines.
"I would love to do anything with that!" he says, adding that the format almost doesn't even matter since he and his former costars have so much fun working together. "We'll even just come to your living room and act it out."
Every night of every week until we die? Thankssomuch.
Wayans' return to New Girl brings some serious, Heisenberg-worthy chemistry (a few crew members had a hard time holding it together during filming while we were on set), and he'll definitely shake up the gang's night life as well.
"Coach has been gone long enough to where things have changed substantially within the loft and so he's kind of adapting to the new way it is," Wayans explains. "Nick and Jess are a couple, that's different. Schmidt isn't even living here anymore, that's different. Winston moved in, that's different. So he's trying to make it like old times but it has moved on, so he has to adapt."
Schmidt isn't technically living in the loft anymore, but fear not: He will be there possibly even more than before.
"He always has a reason that he's going to be back in here, getting a spoon or whatever," Wayans says.
"It's very Kramer-like. He pops up every two seconds," Morris adds.
"I just want to know what's going on over there!" Greenfield insists, defending his secret use of a nanny cam. Because...why not?
Check out the tasty old-new spice (dammit, Jake, now we're hungry too!) when Wayans rejoins his New Girl posse tonight on Fox. And let us know if you agree you want more.