This story about “Woke” star Lamorne Morries first appeared in the Comedy & Drama Series issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine.
Hulu’s Lamorne Morris-led comedy “Woke” ended its first season with an episode that saw his character, cartoonist Keef, sit down with the white officer who racially profiled and assaulted him in the series premiere. The meeting was orchestrated because the officer was suing Keef for portraying him negatively in his work, and the police department offered to make the case go away if Keef would have a beer with the man. Keef agreed—but took it as an opportunity to try to educate the cop about what he did wrong. Of course, that’s easier said than done, and building their exchange took a lot of hard work in the writers room and on camera.
“In our world, our country, we have preconceived ideas of who people are, and we act accordingly,” Morris said. “You will hear from police, ‘I was in fear for my life.’ I was like, ‘I had a stapler in my hand,’ and he was like, ‘It could have been anything.’ But that’s leveled with skin color, and I think sometimes we try to pretend that it’s not. You see a Black dude, you’re automatically going to think, ‘Oh, that’s more of a threat than a non-Black dude.’ So when you’re coming up with a scene like that, you want to figure out what to say. And ultimately, what we wanted to say was, ‘We are everything.’”
Morris said it was important for Keef to make it clear the conversation should move beyond race. “There should be an assessment of who it is you’re dealing with, what the crime would be, what you’re looking for,” the “New Girl” alum said. “Whatever that may be, you shouldn’t just profile solely based off of what a person looks like. So when you’re coming up with a scene like that, you’re trying to keep the conversation going in terms of Black not being a monolith — it being a bigger thing, it being all shades. That’s the whole point of our show, that it can happen to anybody. And what we don’t want to do is keep pushing that narrative that what you see on the news is true, that how they depict us is true and it’s a real thing.
“So we wanted the officer to know, ‘Hey, you are looking at me as a threat for some odd reason. Did you know that I was a dork, though? Did you know I’m a nerdy dude? If you get to know me for 10 seconds, would you have felt the same way? Would you have felt that I was a threat?’ Putting together a scene like that, you have to walk a fine line, obviously. But I feel like we did it justice.”
The scene concludes with Keef flicking beer in the police officer’s face while listing out multiple ways in which racial profiling has affected him and other Black people. He’s then arrested on charges of assaulting the officer. In the final moments of the episode, he is bailed out by his friends and exits jail to find a large group of reporters and cameras point at him, asking to hear his story.
Hulu renewed “Woke” for a second season last November and Morris says the writing stage for that batch of episodes is “almost done” and will pick up with Keef after he’s received this attention for his situation.
“I think we have a pretty good outline and a pretty good direction of where the show is going to go,” he says. “I’m excited. I don’t want to give away too much. But where we left off with our characters, Keef was trying to figure out what it was he was going to do now that he has the cameras in his face. So now we’re seeing where a person goes when they get that attention. Now, obviously, we know the world of activism, people can say the wrong things, people can do the wrong things. And Keef’s worldview, you know, he’s hearing things in his head, he’s seeing things, and those can take him left or right. And I think it’ll be really fun for the audience to see exactly which direction he chooses to go and what role money has when you’re trying to be woke and activated. How does money play into that.”
“Woke” is, at its heart, a comedy that incorporates animation into Keef’s story—an element added by co-creator Keith Knight, the real-life cartoonist on whom the series is based. “Our show is saying, ‘Hey, you see this, right? Look at this big issue that we have over here.’ You don’t want to look at it? All right, let’s tell a few jokes. Now you’re following the jokes, and you’re looking at the thing we wanted you to look at. We’re not going to solve anything, but ultimately what we want to do is make people laugh while occasionally thinking about something they can figure out for their own personal lives.”