(L-R) Actress Hannah Simone, Actor Lamorne Morris, Actor Max Greenfield, Actor Jake Johnson, Actress Zooey Deschanel, Creator/Writer/Executive Producer Liz Meriwether, Executive Producer Katherine Pope, Executive Producer Dave Finkel, Executive Producer Brett Baer and Executive Producer/Director Jake Kasdan speak onstage at "New Girl" panel during the FOX portion of the 2011 Summer TCA Tour at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on August 5, 2011 in Beverly Hills

*It’s well known now that Damon Wayans Jr. had to drop out of Fox’s upcoming comedy “New Girl” because his ABC sitcom “Happy Endings” was picked up for another season – defying the odds.

It has also been reported that producers are keeping Wayans in the pilot episode that premieres Sept. 20 at 9 p.m. and have opted to have his replacement, Lamorne Morris, come into the second episode as a new character altogether.

Lamorne Morris

The series stars Zooey Deschanel in the title role as a lovable-but-awkward woman who finds herself rooming with three guys, played initially by Wayans, Max Greenfield and Jake Johnson. Wayans starred as Coach, a former pro-basketball player overseas. Morris will play Winston, a competitive former athlete who has realized he’ll never go pro and moves into the loft.

At the Television Critics Association press tour last week in Beverly Hills, executive producer Brett Baer said his decision not to replace Wayans Jr., but rather write him out of the show and bring in a new character, reflects the transitory lives of roommates in general, “with people moving in and out of each other’s lives.”

Executive Producer Brett Baer and Executive Producer/Director Jake Kasdan speak onstage at "New Girl" panel

“We really wanted to capitalize on that, and we just wanted to bring in a new character who was going to really bring a new energy to the show because we were really happy with what Damon brought, and we wanted to bring a character in who was going to have some history with the guys, and we had Lamorne,” said Baer.

Lamorne’s “history wiith the guys” stems from the fact that he was one of  hundreds of men who tried out for the role early on and impressed the producers – but ultimately had to turn the gig down when he booked another role.

“We had been reading Lamorne and had tried to sort of walk down the road with him when we were first making the pilot, actually, and it didn’t end up happening. He got another job. He turned us down,” said executive producer Jake Kasdan. “Then we had a great experience with Damon. Then, when Damon became unavailable, really sort of in that first conversation, Lamorne became available because his other job didn’t pan out.”

Inevitably the question of race came up during the show’s panel session. In the audio bonus below, a reporter asked Brett Baer if producers were hell-bent on having an African American man as one of the roommates – since neither Damon’s role nor Lamorne’s role were race specific, yet producers chose to cast an African American actor as the new guy moving in to replace Coach.

New Girl EP Brett Baer on the color-blind casting of Lamorne Morris by CherieNic

“New Girl” premieres Sept. 20 in the plum post-Glee spot at 9 p.m. Watch an extended preview below.