Welcome to Fantasy Island. The doors to this Los Angeles gentleman's club are open, with Rihanna's "S&M" blaring as dancers take the stage. "My favorite place in the world," says Lamorne Morris, who plays New Girl's Winston. "I've never been to this one before, but it's dirty and stinky, exactly what a strip club is supposed to be." Morris and costars Jake Johnson (Nick) and Max Greenfield (Schmidt) have gathered here to shoot a scene with Damon Wayans Jr., who appeared as one of the roomies, Coach, in the show's 2011 pilot.
"It's kind of like my second home," Wayans says, referring to the Fox comedy (we think). He shot the New Girl pilot knowing he might have to quit the show in favor of his gig on ABC's Happy Endings, which had just finished a modest first-season run. ABC stuck with that series for two more years, and instead of recasting Coach, New Girl added Morris as a different character. After Happy Endings was canceled, Wayans knew he had to come back.
"It feels better than the pilot because I've known these guys longer and I know my character a little better," Wayans says. "It's like getting right back in the saddle."
So where did Coach go? Turns out, he was just down the road, living with his girlfriend. After a bad breakup, he reconnects with his former roommates. "His heart is broken," Wayans says. "People might think he's a little different, but it's only because he's hurt. He'll ground himself."
Currently Wayans is slated to appear in four more episodes, but plans are in motion to make him a series regular. "We're talking about it," says creator Liz Meriwether, who confirms that Coach will move into Schmidt's vacant room in the loft. "Creatively, we're taking it episode by episode. We want him to stay as long as he can, so I'm going to let those agents and managers figure it out." (Wayans is also committed to filming a comedy pilot for Fox.)
Even though he was brought on as Wayans's replacement, Morris isn't worried about job security. "Just because one black dude comes in doesn't mean the other one has to leave," Morris says with a laugh. "He's a Wayans — do you know the fan base he comes with? The whole black community is going to start watching. The ratings will go through the roof!"
New Girl airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on Fox.