How often does a TCA panel on a TV show includes a question to the star: “When did you first know that you were adorable?” That happened today during the session for Fox’s new comedy New Girl starring Zooey Deschanel as a dorky girl moving in with three guys. The indie darling was, well, adorable, in her responses, including blushing in dismissing the adorable label. “I don’t think I’ve ever read a role as good for myself,” she said of her part on the show. The producers talked about the casting change, with Lamorne Morris replacing co-star Damon Wayans Jr, who had to pull out after the pilot due to his commitment to ABC’s Happy Endings. Instead of making this a straight recasting, the producers decided to keep the pilot as is with Wayans Jr as one of Jess’ roommates and then have his character move out and introduce Morris in Episode 2 as a new roommate. “We were really happy with the pilot, the chemistry was where we wanted it,” executive producer Brett Baer said. “So we wanted to bring in a new character that would really bring a new energy to the show.” Added Jake Kasdan, director of the pilot and executive producer of the series, “We thought the overall dynamic was very rich and were looking to preserve that but tailoring to a different actor.”
Responding to question why a black actor, Wayans Jr., was replaced with another black actor, executive producer Dave Finkel said, “(The decision) had nothing to do with race.” The producers said that they read about 200-300 actors of different races for the role, and Morris was an early standout during the casting of the pilot but became unavailable after he booked another comedy pilot, CBS’ The Assistants. Then, after the upfronts, Wayans Jr, who had been cast in second position to his bubble ABC series Happy Endings, had to drop out when Happy Endings was renewed, and Morris became available after CBS passed on The Assistants.
Creator/executive producer Liz Meriwether admitted that “it was a challenge to start the show” with a major casting change. But the producers found a silver lining. “We wanted to make the show feel as real as possible, and when you are in your 20s, you move around all the time.” The dynamic of the show will not change much because the three guys still know each other, Kasdan said. Added Meriwether, “All characters are in that moment of their lives where they are starting over.”