Tonight Damon Wayans Jr. returns to New Girl to reprise his role as Coach. Wayans filmed the pilot a few years ago, back when the future of his show Happy Endings was in flux. Now that Happy Endings has gone to the big network in the sky (boo-hoo!), Wayans is free to return to New Girl full time, right?
In reading comments about Coach's return to the loft, it seems that people believe this will signal a death knell for Jess's other black roommate, Winston (played by Lamorne Morris). Because, obviously, the show already has one black actor. It can't have two.
But why not? Why can't Jess have two black roommates?
Why do people automatically balk at the idea of two African-American men starring together in one primetime network comedy? It sounds as if people assume that Wayans and Morris will be playing essentially the same character because there are only so many roles an African-American man can fill on a TV show, which is such bullshit.
Let's look back at some old standbys: Friends. Seinfeld. Everybody Loves Raymond. Frasier.
All of those shows were huge hits. All of them were completely whitewashed (at least when you stop to think about their core group of characters). Audiences just accepted this. I don't remember there being a ton of complaining (except right around the time Friends brought in Gabrielle Union as a one-off love interest; oh, and Aisha Tyler did an arc toward the end of the series. At least Friends was trying?)
Things have started to change in the past few years. Damon Wayans Jr. was part of an interracial couple on Happy Endings (though he was the only person of color in the six person cast). Community's core group of seven features an African-American woman, an African-American man, and a half-Indian Abed (not to mention Ben Chang, who's around a whole lot). Rookie show Brooklyn 9-9 has Andre Braugher and Terry Crews running the department, as the captain and sergeant, respectively.
Dramas have a much better track record. Shonda Rhimes's shows (Grey's Anatomy and Scandal) are so effortlessly diverse -- not to mention popular -- that it proves audiences are ready for a show that has both a Winston and a Coach.
New Girl has done a great job of allowing each of its actors a moment (or even a season) to shine. Schmidt broke out first, then Nick, and, starting at the end of last season, the writers really started to give Winston some meaty stuff to work with. He entered the show in the second episode as an undeveloped character, and now he's a guy who's overly enthusiastic about pranks and puzzles and Bucky the Beaver. He stole a cat from his cheating ex-girlfriend. He's a sports radio producer, who's unlucky in love. He's weird. Seriously, gloriously weird. Unless the writers plan to completely mirror these characteristics in Coach, I think the loft has space for another roommate, especially one played by an actor as talented as Damon Wayans Jr.
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