It was a string of detentions at Glenbard South High School that set the stage for Lamorne Morris’ career in comedy. “I used to get kicked out of class a lot,” the actor, 34, says. “I used to goof off. So [my teacher], Mr. Gomez, would give me five minutes to talk to the class and make jokes, and then kick me out.”
In detention, Morris met another teacher who pointed him in the right direction. “ ‘You have to harness this energy you have,’ ” she said, and handed him a Second City pamphlet. Not long after that, he earned the Chris Farley Scholarship to Glen Ellyn’s College of DuPage and began honing his skills at the legendary comedy theater.
Meanwhile, he was also waiting tables at the now-shuttered Ed Debevic’s. “Truly, it was one of those places that helped actors get comfortable with people, and test out characters and reactions on how funny, strange or impactful you could be,” says Morris, who also starred in this year’s “Game Night.”
Now, of course, his most well-known character is Winston Bishop, the goofy guy he’s portrayed on FOX’s “New Girl” since 2011. Earlier this month, the show began its seventh and final season, flashing forward to show Winston married with a pregnant wife. “To be honest with you, I didn’t think [my character] would be married or a grown-up,” Morris laughs. “He’s one of those people who can’t do anything right.” This season also marked the actor’s directorial debut, going behind the camera for episode 5, in which special guest star J.B. Smoove plays his charachter’s father.
Though he still keeps in touch with the cast — including Zooey Deschanel, Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. — via group text, Morris has kept busy since filming wrapped. He just filmed a Netflix movie with Kurt Russell and is producing a comedy album featuring guest appearances by heavyweights like Common and Andy Samberg. He’s also working on a scripted miniseries for National Geographic about the ’90s tech boom called “Valley of the Boom,” set to release sometime next year. “It’s a really great concept,” he says of the project, which co-stars Bradley Whitford and Steve Zahn. “We all play different characters from that time and tell stories of how it came to be.”
Catch Morris in “New Girl” Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. on FOX.
Morris riffs on his favorite things about Chicago
What he misses most: “The friends I made in high school are my lifelong friends. It was a simple time. We didn’t have jobs or responsibilities. We just went bowling, to the movies, chased girls around … but we were all kind of nerdy so it didn’t really work out.”
His go-to: “I’ve recently fallen in love with Soho House Chicago [113 N. Green]. I don’t even work out that much, but I lovetheir gym.”
Local eats: “[Anywhere in] Greektown. I used to audition in that area at O’Connor Casting. The food was fantastic — I’d look forward to eating after the audition more than the audition itself.”
Guilty pleasure: “TGI Fridays [153 E. Erie]! People give me a hard time about that.
Top photo by Angelo Sgambati