It’s been nearly two years since TV bid farewell to Fox’s “New Girl” and for actor-comedian Lamorne Morris, who played Winston Bishop in the Zooey Deschanel series, he’s ready for his next big moment. This year, Morris stars with Vin Diesel in Sony’s action-thriller “Bloodshot,” which opened Friday, appears in a Netflix movie (“Desperado”), has a comedy album coming out called “La-Morning After Pill” and toplines his own Hulu series “Woke,” which he lovingly refers to as his “baby.”
Variety caught up with Morris on the eve of “Bloodshot’s” release (yes, right before coronavirus practically froze the country) to discuss how he’s dealing with the pandemic, his NBA obsession and what Diesel told him on the hilltops of South Africa.
It’s been a crazy week for the entire planet, let alone the entertainment industry. How are you coping?
It’s been strange, you know. You see these things from afar and – to be honest – your mind isn’t aware until something happens to you or someone close to you. So you’re watching the statistics and you’re like, what are the chances it could affect me? And then you hear about Tom Hanks and Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz – I’m a huge basketball fan…
Wait, who’s your squad?
The Bulls, but I’m a Lakers guy because of LeBron. My team is LeBron, I’ll just say that. So it sucks because basketball is my escape. I’ll just put a game on – any one of the teams playing with my NBA League Pass. And it may seem weird but that’s how it’s affected me. I’ve got tickets to these games and that’s just my stress reliever, watching basketball. Once that happened I realized, oh, this is realer than I thought. It’s also affected me business-wise. We’re promoting a film and we’ve got a pretty dope movie coming out, and I feel like I’m dope in it! So I’m like – oh man, I really want people to see a year and a half or almost two years of work come together. Other than that, it definitely opened my eyes just about being cleaner – washing your hands, minding how you interact with people. You take those small things for granted like shaking a hand – you have no idea where that hand has been and then you touch your face, you fix your glasses, you brush your mouth, you put your hands on your phone, all those things can be tricky.
Were there any discussions about delaying ‘Bloodshot’?
I don’t know, actually. If there were I think I would’ve heard about it. I’m not 100% sure going forward what releases will look like. I have no idea. (The studio) must feel some sort of security knowing, or else they wouldn’t be going forward with it. I’m just excited for people to see it. When you go to the bathroom, wash your hands. But no, no one’s spoken to me about it.
If there ever was a window or opportunity for premium VOD, it seems like now’s the time
Any way to heighten the viewer experience should be considered, absolutely. Also keep in mind there are certain people who would like to get to the movie theater who just can’t – people who are older, people with disabilities. I’m a big fan of streaming and on demand services – (viewers) get to access and watch the things that everyone else can see. I think now’s a time where the industry might start considering it. We put so much money behind art – we want people to enjoy it and discuss it so if its on demand it’s great. I’m such a fan of going to the theater, that’s one of my favorite things to do – sit down, grab popcorn, nachos, watch a movie, leave and talk about the movie in the lobby. If that opportunity’s not available during certain periods of the year, then yes, on demand and streaming – people should be able to view it.
Let’s talk about the ‘Bloodshot’ universe. It’s a crazy popular comic book, no?
Yes, the Valiant universe, which has been out for a while. People are definitely aware of the character, even when I was a kid my family we used to trade comic book cards – Bloodshot was one of those magazines/comics that we had (coughs) I don’t have corona, I swear… Anyway, yeah it’s kinda surreal. Ha, sorry.
Your character, Wilfred Wigans, tell us about him
He’s a coder who likes to believe that’s his superpower in a world where someone can throw someone through a wall or live under water based on technology he is like, well sh-t, I can’t do those things but I can code, which is responsible for all these upgrades. He’s a British coder, a neurotic guy. If you watch the film he’s the levity, without spoiling it, he is the guy that sets things in motion, he’s the ring leader for the franchise, potentially. And he’s different from other characters I’ve played because he is the smartest guy in the room. I had a lot of fun playing Winston on ‘New Girl,’ he’s a bit neurotic, but the guy was always two steps behind as opposed to my character (in “Bloodshot”), who is five steps ahead which I think is very cool.
When did you first meet Vin Diesel?
I met him before at Tyler Perry’s birthday party and (Perry) had this kind of concert which was so cool. A friend of mine who throws parties James Samuel – he’s also who I modeled my accent after in the film – was like, ‘Bro, you gotta come this time I’m throwing a party for Tyler Perry’s birthday.’ So I pull up at this crazy house and he has this entire set up where there is a stage, band, everybody there doing karaoke – Magic Johnson, Al Pacino, Susan Sarandon is there. And then Vin gets on stage and starts singing – it was so funny.
What did he song?
I don’t remember the song but apparently he has an album coming out? Anyway, he went on stage and started crushing it, like Vin, you are up here destroying it right now. I spoke to him only briefly at that party but this was prior to me getting that role. I haven’t reminded him of that, he was also wearing a zoot suit, like with a hat and a feather.
What was Vin like on set?
He’s so hands on. I mean, Zooey was hands on, too, when we did “New Girl.” Rachel McAdams also super hands on for “Game Night” but (Diesel’s) level is crazy. He’s going back to the trailer and rewriting moments, rewriting scenes – and he’s not shooting until he gets it right. Vin is like – he’s so aware of what final products can look like, so he takes the time. That’s something that I learned to be a valuable tool – if you have the ability to take the time and take the connection to make sure moments are right and perfect, do it. It will save you so much time on reshoots, and once you play the movie to the entire audience and think, hmm, that moment didn’t make a lot of sense, this doesn’t connect. He is aware of all of that in his head, he’s calling back to scenes a month ago, that’s a skill that only time can offer. But yeah, he’s so in control, that’s one thing I noticed about his work ethic, is that he is very much on top of his sh-t. He’s thinking ten steps ahead of marketing even. Ultimately, he treats every set like it’s his house, very big family, and I know he has a big family, he values family over everything like the “Fast” motto. He wants to have his movie sets feel like family. You want to make sure when you get to set it’s comfortable and we are not rushing the product, we are chilling and making sure we are getting it right.
Where did you shoot the movie?
In Cape Town for most of it; London, Montreal for some of it. I think they had second units in all these different places – Budapest, Morocco. We’ve been to South Africa, Montreal and London.
What was Cape Town like?
Probably the most beautiful place on earth. We did a safari, which was awesome, watching lions in their natural habitat. All the different sets of wildlife you won’t see in LA or Chicago where I’m from. Whenever you get to do a movie in an exotic location it’s almost like who cares about the script, just do it, because this is a life experience that you might never get to do, especially when someone else is paying.
Any favorite moments from the shoot?
One of the highlights for me – in between takes on the first day of shoot, Vin, also I am still totally starstruck by him – he goes, take a walk with me. He starts taking a walk – I’m like, can someone please get a photo of me and Vin Diesel and then I started walking and I was like wow, looking at the scenery. It was one of the most romantic looking things, I’m taking a walk with Vin Diesel and in the background there are mountains and water surrounding it and in like these big ass trees. Even if I wasn’t with him, taking all this in, still doesn’t make sense to me. I had a moment being humbled saying thank god I am in this position and that was day one. And I was like, holy sh-t, I’m doing a movie with Vin Diesel.
Do you remember what the two of you talked about on that walk?
Yes, about character and just the business of it all. Vin gave me some advice – no matter what you are shooting, if you are assigned a character if you create a character, own it and protect it as much as you can. If you have the ability to buy that character, buy it because, at the end of the day that final product is going to be you. If you don’t feel convicted enough to do something, don’t do it, and if you can collaborate as much as you can because everyone can give you good feedback on what you are doing. His feedback was like – talk with the director as much as you can, call him or her at night, message them 2, 3 in the morning shoot them a message’ and he was like, we’re all creatives and these ideas come and random times and we don’t want to forget them. So he is really big on character, that’s why we know him for Dom and Riddick and XXX, and in the action world he owns and embraces them and everything he does is to help protect those characters.
What’s next for you?
Couple of things – a movie called “Desperado” on Netflix with Anna Camp, directed by LP. That’s In summer. Then a new TV series for Hulu called “Woke,” that’s my baby. That one’s about an artist named Keith Knight who is a cartoonist and in the show something happens to him… He’s the comic strip artist that nobody knows is black based off of the texture of his material. So when people see him they are like, oh you are Keith Knight, oh I had no idea you were black. I find it offensive a little bit, but he is still the guy that’s like, oh its cool until something happens to him one day and then he wakes up with this level of woke-ness, literally. Cartoons start coming to life and talking to him and the way he thinks.
What’s missing from your career?
I want to do more action comedy. We’re in the middle of writing one. “Bloodshot” opened my eyes to what I’m capable of doing, to get away from “New Girl” – show some of your range. When you watch “Bloodshot,” you’ll see some of the high intense moments and where levity is needed – but also doing more dramatic, serious stuff. You’ll see some of that in “Woke” as well. There’s this stigma with funny people that comedy’s all we know how to do. You get really anxious for people to see this different side. I think people will be pleasantly surprised.
Finally, if the NBA does return this season, who wins it all?