Lamorne Morris’ week: Watching ‘First things first’ and absorbing ‘The fire next time’
By Kwame Opam
Lamorne Morris, the star of the new Hulu series “Woke,” which debuts Sept. 9, has had a lot on his mind.
The week of Aug. 23 was particularly disorienting. Amid the theatrics of the Republic National Convention, a Black man named Jacob Blake was shot by police officers in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Then, at demonstrations that followed, a 17-year-old white gunman was charged in connection with the fatal shootings of two people. NBA players walked out in protest. It all has had a bewildering effect on Morris.
Morris is at home in comedies, known for his work on seven seasons of “New Girl.” That his new series is so painfully relevant is something he’s still processing. “Woke,” by cartoonist Keith Knight and screenwriter Marshall Todd, follows Morris as Keef, a young artist just getting a taste of fame when he has a run-in with the San Francisco police. The experience forces Keef (with the help of the animated inanimate objects he encounters) to grapple with Blackness and power in America in a newly profound and profoundly weird way.
“I’ll be honest with you. Sometimes none of it feels real to me,” Morris said about the recent news reports — especially the shootings. “You look at it on the surface and you go, ‘No, there’s no way that would happen.’ If that doesn’t get anybody’s skin boiling, then I don’t know what will.”
Still, he’s trying to stay optimistic when he can. In a Zoom call in late August, he tracked the recent routines and cultural items that bring him some joy. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
A Sports Fan in Austin
I had just got to Austin, Texas. I’m here on some personal matters, some business, all kinds of stuff. But I’m a huge basketball fan. My process is I’ll watch a game and then I love hearing what the sports analysts say the very next day. I just binged “Undisputed” — Shannon Sharpe and Skip Bayless. “First Things First” with Nick Wright. Chris Broussard. Colin Cowherd. These are my people. Stephen A. Smith, that’s my guy. I’m always curious as to what it is that they’re saying about my favorite sports teams, mainly basketball, and I’ll just watch highlights. Because basketball is now being played in August, which is crazy to me, and then September, this is a whole new world for me.
Now, obviously, there’s an election coming up too, so I’ve been bingeing a lot on the conventions that have happened. Just trying to catch up on those things, because throughout the course of the day, I’m usually working or running around.
I’m trying to create an animated series right now. So I just find myself diving into a little bit of that, a little bit of “Rick and Morty,” tons of “Family Guy.” Those are the things that were driving me this past weekend, on that front. Some buddies of mine and I are developing an animated film on another front. So just diving into more of those types of shows, movies like “Toy Story,” “Cars,” things like that. So just checking stuff out, to do more research.
But my mom’s in town, too, so we got a chance to get out a little bit. We got some barbecue here, and by get out, I mean, we drove, ordered, they came to our car, gave us the food and we drove off. We haven’t really been into any establishments like that but drove around a little bit just to see some of the area. It’s my mom’s first time here.
I watch comedies. “Ramy” is one of those shows on Hulu that has more than just jokes to it, so I usually lean toward some of those shows that leave each episode with a cliffhanger. I really loved “High Fidelity.” It was sad to see that one go. But the real dark British shows, I really love those. I think “The Five” was a show that I loved watching. If Harlan Coben did it, I’m all about watching it.
A Chaotic World
The shift came with Jacob Blake [news of the shooting broke that day]. Once that happened, it was like, “My goodness.” You start to think a show like [“Woke”] will always be timely, because this type of stuff keeps happening. So my mind moved away from the show a little bit and more on what else could be done or what’s happening. That’s where my mind has been. When you open the door, the world around you is chaotic. So it’s hard to stay focused, but we’re making do as best as we can.
Reason for Hope
For me, I’m clueless and aimless as to what to do now that there’s no basketball happening, but if there was a silver lining outside of this, I’m all for it. [NBA play was halted for three days last month in the aftermath of the shooting.] Let me tell you something. I’m miserable. Hopefully things start to resume quickly, just because I just like watching basketball. However, I’m a huge fan of what they’re doing. If they want to boycott the rest of the season, that’s perfectly fine with me. As long as there’s a plan in place, and as long as it’s getting the attention from the people and the powers that be.
You still keep thinking about the people out there who are being affected by all kinds of things, not just the racial injustice. There are people out of work right now. There are people who don’t have the ability to vote. It’s people all over the world that have ever been going through this type of stuff. All these things are at the forefront of my mind, but there’s other things going on that I want to focus on, but you just can’t. I’ll be honest with you. I’m a little cloudy. I do see a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m very optimistic about where we are. I think more and more young people are engaged. Today, it’s cloudy, but it’s a light cloud. Light cloud, no chance of rain.
The Last Few Nights
It’s usually just saying good night to my mom. Once I say good night to my mom and I go to my room, then that’s the end. I’ll put YouTube on; if I haven’t seen the highlights, I’ll check the highlights out, and that’s how I fall asleep.
The last two days have been slightly different. Someone suggested something for me: “The Fire Next Time.” I just got the audiobook. So I feel like that’s going to be how I end every night, just so I can take all that in.