Ask a New Girl fan to come up with a list of defining characteristics for each of the show’s four roommates, and you’ll hear an endless stream of quirky, detailed traits for Zooey Deschanel’s Jess, Jake Johnson’s Nick, and Max Greenfield’s Schmidt. But how about Lamorne Morris’ Winston? Well, his list would be either murky or totally blank. Who is he? The question has dogged the Fox series since day two, when Winston showed up to replace Coach, a roommate played in the pilot by Damon Wayans Jr., who was forced to bow out because of his commitment to ABC’s Happy Endings. Week to week, Winston assumes whatever random slapsticky traits might help a given plotline, like wearing an earring or singing songs from Wicked. Lately, he’s been ignoring his own problems and tagging along to help others solve their problems, as with Schmidt’s quest for a lionfish in the March 19 episode. When Winston gets to do his own thing, it’s usually a subplot that separates him from the rest of the gang. Hell, at one point this season, the writers even had him sleeping all day due to a night job, as if they’d finally found a way to completely marginalize him.
How to Fix Him
Winston isn’t without hope, thanks to Morris’ talents. The character’s stories have been improving, but his persona — and spotty backstory — is still lacking. More than anything, Winston needs a clear purpose, like a job at one of his roommates’ workplaces, or perhaps he could pursue Cece and spark a romantic rivalry with Schmidt. Morris excels at finding the funny when Winston’s put in awkward sexual situations, as evidenced by his chemistry with off-and-on girlfriend Shelby (Kali Hawk) and his stammering, anxiety-plagued stabs at dating (”Hey, girl, what your name is?”). Making him a serial dater — à la, say, Penny (Casey Wilson) from Happy Endings — could liven things up for both Winston and the show at large. Otherwise, much like Nick was to Jess before this season’s big kiss, Winston will just be stuck playing the comedic fluffer.