No matter what he does, Lamorne Morris will always be at least partly known as New Girl's Winston Bishop.
That doesn't seem to bother him that much and he himself continues to keep the character alive on Instagram (like when Winston and his cat Ferguson appeared to encourage fans to register to vote), but in searching for new projects after New Girl, Morris really wanted to change things up.
His new show Woke, which premieres Wednesday, Sept. 9 on Hulu, gives him an opportunity to do something different and explore themes that New Girl only ever got to touch on.
"Post-New Girl, I remember saying that I wanted to change the tempo and the pace in which my career was going and I really wanted to take my time with different roles and things that meant something," he tells E! News. "Things that kind of held more weight. New Girl carried a lot of that, but in increments."
Woke is all about that weight.
"[On New Girl] we would touch on sexism and racism here and there, but here is a show that checked all those boxes for me," he continues. "And also it mirrored who I am a little bit—the walk that I have in life, kind of being politically ambiguous. You would just see what was happening out your window and go, 'Well, I"m gonna keep reading my lines for my big audition tomorrow.' You would just ignore what was happening in the world around you."
Morris plays Keef Knight, who is based on the cartoonist Keith Knight. In the first episode, the police mistake him for a robbery suspect and pin him to the ground. The encounter leaves him shaken and he finds himself reconsidering his silly cartoons about talking bread and butter as he realizes he can't ignore the real world anymore.
Morris says it was always on his actor bucket list to play someone iconic, but not only did he discover that he and the real Keith Knight are very similar people, but he was able to put "a lot" of himself into the character.
"You wanna have something really genuine to pull from. Keith and I are very very similar, so it's like pulling from myself would be like grabbing that information directly from him," he says, before coming to a natural joke conclusion. "What I'm trying to say is he's my dad. You heard it here first."
Jokes aside, Morris says he would never want to tell an artist what they can do with their own art, but he does think that the events of the past few months have made self-expression more important.
"Whatever side of the coin you're on, if you have the ability to express yourself through your art, then you should," he says. "For me, personally, it's definitely coming from a place of necessity. I don't know how else to express myself other than through it."
Though sometimes, he'd also rather not.
"There are times when I don't want to express myself," he says. "There are times I just want to be silly, and just do something funny and do something strange that doesn't have any political stakes to it whatsoever, but you can't look out of the window without feeling it. We have multiple pandemics going on at the exact same time, whether it be health-related or whether it be race-related. We have voter suppression going on. We have all these things that are clouding our view, and if you're an artist, the best way to navigate is to use your tool."
The first season, which also stars Sasheer Zamata, Blake Anderson, Rose McIver and T. Murph, is available now on Hulu.