Many people know you as the hilarious Winston Bishop from New Girl. How did the role propel your career? It was seven seasons, and it resonated with a lot of people. It formed a bond and a friendship with a great group. Having people like that in your corner definitely helps.
Your character, Keef Knight, is inspired by cartoonist Keith Knight of The K Chronicles fame, who is also a creator and writer for the show. What was your process preparing for the role? I’ve always found that music says way more about who a person is. With Keith, I found that diving into what he likes to listen to musically helped me prep for the show. There was a moment when I was listening to a song in my headphones where I was supposed to be passing out fliers or something [in a scene]. He stopped me and gave me a suggestion of a song to play by Bill Withers called ‘A Lovely Day.’ What he didn’t realize was that was the song I was already listening to.
How do you strike a balance between comedy and Woke’s powerful narrative? It’s important when you’re telling a tale of something heavy to make sure it’s digestible for the audience. You don’t want to lose anybody. Because our focus is a funny guy, Keef Knight, and his comics, it’s easy. We hit a stride. There is something funny about tragedy, and there is something funny about real life. The writers did a good job of finding the humor in such a horrendous situation. Injustice is happening all over the world, and it’s not a laughing matter. But if you want people to embrace it and have a meaningful conversation, sometimes comedy is the medium of choice.
As an actor with a considerable reach, how do you use your voice for positive influence in your community? The giving back process is a year-round thing—whether it be helping with college funds with students in Chicago or helping out with local charities like IAMM. It’s a medical mission based out of Chicago. They go to different parts of the world and provide medical assistance to people who don’t have access, whether it be Haiti, Jamaica, Belize—we’re working on an Africa trip right now.