COD alumnus Lamorne Morris stars in new Hulu comedy series addressing racial inequality
College of DuPage Theatre alumnus and actor Lamorne Morris is starring as the protagonist of "Woke," a new semi-animated comedy series on Hulu that sheds light on a variety of racial inequalities, ranging from police brutality to colorism in the entertainment industry.
The show, which premiered on Sept. 9 and is inspired by the life and art of series co-creator Keith Knight, follows Keef (Morris), a rising African-American cartoonist who has spent his career largely avoiding taking stances on controversial issues, or as Keef calls it, "keeping it light."
This all changes when one day Keef is wrongfully detained and physically abused by a group of police officers while hanging promotional flyers for his comic. As a result of the altercation, Keef gains the super power of being able to have enlightening conversations with inanimate objects, such as ink pens, garbage cans and beverage bottles. These conversations force Keef to confront the racial challenges from which he has often shied away, while also continuing to balance his career and personal life.
Morris, who most notably starred as Winston Bishop in the hit FOX sitcom "New Girl" from 2011 to 2018, was drawn to "Woke" after reading the script and noticing parallels between Keef's situation and his own career.
"The world around Keef starts to open up for him and he begins to see things for how they really are," Morris said. "He then has to ask himself if he should get activated, become 'woke' and possibly tear down everything that he's worked so hard to get, or does he just shut up, get rich and draw silly comics? That's what pulled me in, because that was me for a long time. I struggled with trying to be the best version of myself and provide for my family, while on the other hand, noticing things that aren't right and the need for me to address them."
The series marks Morris' return to TV after spending the past two years primarily starring in movie roles, a path that he considered continuing until he was captivated by the subject matter of "Woke."
"After 'New Girl,' I wanted to do something different than just the typical comedy sitcom. I wanted to get into something with a bit more weight and greater stakes. I thought maybe I'd do movies for a few more years and go from there, but then I read the script for this and it felt good. People know me for being funny, but with something like this, I get to do more. It's not just funny. It's thought-provoking."
He said he wants viewers of the show's first season, which is being released during a time when many people around the world are confronting and speaking out against systemic racism, to be entertained while at the same time be ready to continue having meaningful dialogue and creating change.
"One thing that I hope it does is keep the conversation going," he said. "Using comedy as a tool to provide information is a great way to do it. No matter when you put a show like this out, I think it will be relevant because what we're dealing with in this county has been happening for a while. However, now there's an opportunity to prolong a conversation that we sometimes stop having too soon because we've become numb to it."
Morris is thankful for the opportunity to portray the main character in the series and described landing the role as a testament to his hard work.
"I'm very passionate about what I do, but sometimes, there's that feeling of being overlooked. When someone wants to cast you as the lead, it's the ultimate compliment and show of respect. I'm really grateful for the opportunity."
In addition to his performances in "Woke" and New Girl," Morris also had supporting roles in the films "Barbershop: The Next Cut" in 2016, "Game Night" and "The Christmas Chronicles" in 2018, and "Bloodshot" in 2020.
He credits COD, along with Chicago's famed Second City, with providing him a solid foundation for his career and being a major part of his success.
"COD is like the backbone of my career," he said. "It's helped me immensely. COD is where I realized, 'Hey, I can be an actor.' More than anything, I have lifelong bonds with a lot of people I met there. For example, (COD Director of Theater) Connie Canaday Howard is everything to me. Whenever I'm back in Chicago, I try to go back there. I loved my time there."
Learn more about the first season of "Woke" on Hulu.
Learn more about the theater program at College of DuPage at www.cod.edu,