Credit: Justin Stephens/Fox
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After years of supporting roles on a number of successful TV series (Nurse Jackie, Legends) and in movies (The Perfect Guy, The Best Man Holiday), Morris Chestnut is now a leading man, heading up Fox’s new procedural as a pathologist who helps solve Miami’s most sensational crimes. Here, the 46-year-old star chats about what it’s like to finally carry a show, and how he gets into character as the brainy (and brawny!) Dr. Beaumont Rosewood.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You’ve appeared in more than a dozen TV shows and films — what had to happen for you to get your first leading role on a series?

MORRIS CHESTNUT: It was a combination of things. I’ve been around a long time … and primarily, I’ve placed it on myself to get better as an actor so that when I’m in certain roles, people can see I’m not at home waiting for the phone to ring. I’m out there working and trying to improve myself. Aside from being around a long time and having somewhat of a fan base, I believe The Best Man Holiday performing as well as it did played a role. And doing an arc on Nurse Jackie as a doctor allowed network execs to see that I can handle the medical jargon.

What excites you about playing Dr. Rosewood?

I read the script and it was fun, humorous, light. And the character was smart, intelligent, and witty. Those characteristics were things I definitely wanted to see in my next part. Rosewood is very happy. I’m having fun, telling jokes, in a way people haven’t seen [from me] in a long time.

As an actor, what has been the most challenging part of taking on this role?

The first and foremost in terms of work is the workload of doing an hour-long drama where you’re the lead of a show. It’s also challenging to keep my energy up. My last couple of projects, like The Best Man Holiday and When the Bow Breaks, the characters were dealing with things very much internally. Rosewood is very happy and very outgoing. With this character, there will be days I come to work with a lot of energy, and then by lunchtime, it’s gone. [Laughs] I have to keep it up.

What does this show allow you to do that you’ve never done before?

I think what it allows me to do is show an aspect of my personality people haven’t seen in a couple of decades. After I read the script and said I was interested, the director and show runner of the pilot called me and they were like, “Listen, we really are interested in you or the show but our concern is, we haven’t seen you be comedic and have fun in a role since Two Can Play That Game. Can you do that?” With Rosewood, I’m having fun, telling jokes and being witty in a way people haven’t seen in a long time.

The show takes place in Miami, and your costar Jaina Lee Ortiz is Latina. Is diversity a priority on Rosewood?

Because of Empire and the success of other shows, there’s been a huge push for diversity across all the networks. We definitely represent everybody on the show. And because we are in Miami, we have a big Latino influence. That’s what Miami is. We wanted to stay true to that.

Being that you’re living and shooting in Miami, have you picked up a newfound love of Latin food?

I’m a very simple eater, but if I go to a Hispanic restaurant, I have to have a chicken burrito, refried beans and rice. That’s my dish!

Is there any chance of bringing one of your Best Man costars for a cameo or guest role on Rosewood?

I would love to bring all of them on at some point in time. We all have such great chemistry. If any one of them wanted to do it, I would go to the writer’s room and say, ‘Hey, we need to make this happen.’ I would love for any one of them to come on.

Want more? EW’s Fall TV Preview mega-issue has the scoop on 115 shows! Pick up your copy on newsstands now, or buy it here.

Rosewood premieres Wednesday on Fox at 8 p.m. ET.

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