Chicago native and “New Girl” actor Lamorne Morris wants to say something. He knows it won’t make any sense (unless you’re in the cast of “New Girl”), but he wants to say it anyway: “I want to tell Jake Johnson that he’s real,” Morris says, laughing.
That simple, completely random sentence perfectly encapsulates the relationship between Zooey Deschanel, Jake Johnson, Max Greenfield and Morris, the stars of Fox’s hit series, now in its third season. On set, the gang plays roommates and best friends, and when the cameras stop rolling, not much changes. “We goof off in between every take,” says Morris, who plays Winston Bishop, an unlucky-in-love emotional roller coaster and former Latvian basketball player.
The South Side native, 33, recalls a recent on-set moment with Damon Wayans Jr., who has reprised his role as Coach this season. “It’s so different and funny [with Wayans on set]. There was a moment where our director of photography was giving Jake Johnson notes, and Damon reached over and started fondling [the director’s] chest hair.”
With so many shenanigans going on behind the scenes, it’s no wonder the show’s producers capitalize on the cast’s chemistry. “I would say that 20 percent [of each episode] is improv,” Morris says. Fans of the show have even more off-the-wall antics to look forward to. “Winston has gotten crazier and crazier,” Morris teases, referencing his character’s addiction to puzzles and obsession with a cat.
Morris himself is comparatively grounded. A College of DuPage alum, he bussed tables at Ed Debevic’s in his early 20s before his big break. “I was good at goofing off,” he remembers. “If I was late with food, at least I could make them laugh. I could insult them as much as I wanted and it’d still be appropriate.”
At the same time, Morris was finding a bigger stage, performing with Second City. To this day, he counts many of his former castmates as friends. “I keep in contact with a lot of those people,” he says. “I’ve done so many commercials or shoots where the people who hired me were Second City [alums]. It’s a weird fraternity.”
Though he’s now based in LA, Morris maintains strong ties to the city where he grew up, returning several times a year to visit family in the ’burbs. And he credits his current success to his time spent waiting tables and honing his comedy chops in Chicago. “It was definitely the most influential thing in my career.”
Here, the “New Girl” funnyman spends his perfect Sunday in his hometown.
Watch “New Girl” Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Fox.
9:15 a.m. Though it’s early for Morris, he won’t miss Sunday Mass with his mom at the Church of Christ in Colonial Village (12814 S. Lowe).
11 a.m. Morris grabs brunch at Au Cheval (800 W. Randolph). His favorite? Scrambled eggs and foie gras (above, $18).
Noon: A huge basketball fan, he heads to the United Center (1901 W. Madison) for a Bulls game. “I’m obsessed with basketball,” Morris says. “Not even a joke. My TV is permanently on basketball.”
6:30 p.m. “This is going to sound so stupid,” Morris says, prefacing his favorite dinner. “It’s TGI Fridays’ Jack Daniels chicken and shrimp [above, $16.40, 153 E. Erie]. I don’t eat it in LA!”
8 p.m. If he’s not in the suburbs visiting family, he returns to the Second City stage (1616 N. Wells) to flex his improv muscles.
10 p.m. The night ends at his former watering hole, Old Town Ale House (below, 219 W. North), for a drink with friends.