Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

New Girl's Lamorne Morris Pitched For Winston To Become A Cop

The issue of police brutality and the oppressive nature of law enforcement's relationship to the marginalized, and especially to Black people, has been debated and problematized for pretty much as long as modern police forces have existed in the United States. But it's an issue that has been raised with particular fervor since the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 and the subsequent nationwide protests, which crested into a tidal wave of anti-racist and anti-police cultural sentiment powerful enough to change the face of American entertainment.

The changes that the post-2020 moment have brought about in television, in particular, have been plentiful — from episodes containing blackface and racial stereotypes being pulled from certain shows' pages on streaming services, to police-centric shows like "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" getting heavily reworked. Even more broadly, though, the protests and the subsequent reckoning with police's role in upholding the structures of anti-Blackness in America sparked farther-reaching conversations about the depictions of cops in media, prompting some to question past creative decisions — such as "New Girl" having Winston become a cop.

The sheer number of viral tweets taking the Fox show to task for that particular development in the storyline of its only Black front-to-back regular should be enough to demonstrate how many fans were dissatisfied with it. And, as star Lamorne Morris, who played Winston, revealed in a 2020 interview, he shared those fans' concerns to the point of wanting to reflect them on the show — but the storyline itself was actually his idea.

Lamorne Morris wanted to play a cop on New Girl

In June 2020, Lamorne Morris was interviewed by Metro about Winston's arc of becoming a police officer on "New Girl" and how he felt about it in the wake of the George Floyd protests. And, although he admitted to having felt strange about it at one point even prior to the Floyd case — police brutality against Black people has, after all, been a revoltingly routine reality in the United States for decades — he also revealed that he was originally the one who pitched for the storyline.

Although the language of a lot of social media posts criticizing Winston's career arc assumed a certain degree of arbitrary imposition onto the character, Morris noted that he was the first one to be interested in taking Winston in that direction. "I wanted to play a cop, I love police officers. I'm one of those people that say cops should be among some of the highest paid people for the risks they take, cops, teachers, firefighters, nurses — money should never be a thing for them," the actor told Metro.

Which doesn't mean, of course, that Morris was any less cognizant of the fraught dynamics and politics of onscreen cop representation and its uneasy interplay with Black American identity; indeed, he was also the one who eventually pushed for the show to directly explore that tension, and even co-wrote an episode in which it becomes a major plot point for Winston.

He eventually began to feel uneasy about playing a cop

Despite the admiration and appreciation for cops expressed by Lamorne Morris in the 2020 interview, he also admitted to feeling growing uneasiness with his role as a TV cop from a certain point onward, especially as images of anti-Black police brutality became more and more frequent in the news cycle.

"I felt strange, you felt like you were betraying your people, you're like, 'pick a side,' that's the thought process you're going through in your head," Morris told Metro.

Ultimately, Morris elected to deal with that strangeness by using the show itself as a vehicle. Back in 2014, the killing of unarmed Black citizens by American police was already a recurring occurrence, including such widely denounced cases as those of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. That year, as "New Girl" Season 4 was moving into production, Morris expressed his desire to write an episode that placed Winston within the turmoil of distrust and animosity that increasingly defined the relationships many Black Americans had with the police.

That desire to acknowledge the issue and dig into it within the show ultimately became the basis for the episode "Par 5," written by Morris alongside "New Girl" co-executive producer Rob Rosell. On "Par 5," Winston's typical running efforts to bring some movement into his love life meet an opportunity, and then a roadblock, when he scores a date with KC (Kiersey Clemons), who turns out to be a passionate anti-police activist.

Morris appreciates the show for allowing him to explore systemic police racism

"Par 5" sees the always romantically bumbling Winston, upon learning that KC habitually attends anti-police rallies, lie to her about his profession, claiming instead to be a stripper. This leads to a subplot in which Winston is forced to grapple with what it even means for him to work in law enforcement as a Black man with all that's been going on in the country, culminating in one of the most searing and insightful scenes ever on "New Girl" — an earnest conversation between Winston and his lifelong best friend Nick Miller (Jake Johnson) about the hardships and stigma faced by Winston and not by Nick growing up, due to the latter being white.

Speaking to Metro, Lamorne Morris revealed that he was grateful to the show for allowing him to burrow into the real concerns he had playing the character. "[Series creator Elizabeth] Meriwether was great, she was like, 'Hey, let's write about it, what do you want to say?' That meant a lot to me. That said the show isn't just for jokes and entertainment — it is, that's our goal — but you have characters who are people in real life that this affects," Morris said. 

He also noted that the show's writers were "gracious enough" to help him put the episode together while allowing him the necessary space to really put his vision into it. "The great thing about great writers is that they know where to pull inspiration from," the actor added.

Lamorne Morris has been outspoken in his criticism of police brutality and racism

Lamorne Morris' use of his voice to shine a light on American police racism was not limited to his work on "New Girl." In May 2020, at the height of the George Floyd protests, Morris was one of the celebrities to speak out on what was happening when he took to Instagram to urge his followers to empathize with the plight of Floyd and Black Americans in general. In a lengthy post since made unavailable, Morris, addressing his fans "as a Black man who is oftentimes fearful of the future," encouraged people to start asking questions. "Why did this happen? Why does it keep happening? What can I do to spread awareness? I understand I'm not a politician or an aggressive political activist. But I have eyes and so do you. Just talk to somebody about this," he wrote (via Yahoo! Entertainment).

A few months later, Morris posted a scene from his film "Barbershop: The Next Cut" to Instagram that features Rashad (Common) speaking incisively about police brutality and systemic racism. The clip was captioned with a quote from filmmaker Malcolm D. Lee: "It didn't start with George Floyd or Ahmaud Arbery or Trayvon Martin or Emmett Till or George Stinney or Nat Turner. But it will stop. Keep the pressure on, resist, stay safe. No justice, no peace." The same year, he began to star on the Hulu comedy "Woke," which took American racism, police brutality, and Black artists' experience navigating it all in the social media era as key themes.