12:10pm PT by Michael O'Connell
Damon Wayans Jr. Departing 'New Girl' — Again
Damon Wayans Jr. is exploring his options. A year and a half after returning to New Girl, The Hollywood Reporter confirms that the actor has opted not to return for the Fox comedy's all-but-certain fifth season — instead fielding pilot offers for the upcoming TV season.
Wayans Jr. rejoined New Girl in a recurring status in 2013 before becoming a regular soon after. He originally starred in the series' pilot, but obligations to surprise renewal Happy Endings kept him from continuing with the show. Happy Endings' ultimate cancellation freed up the actor for a return.
“We love Damon and are so lucky to have had him return for the past season and a half," says executive producer and creator Liz Meriwether. "We are working on crafting an exit for him that will leave the door open for many more returns, especially since ‘Coach’ is our resolution to the upcoming ‘Who’s Jess’ Baby Daddy?’ storyline." (Meriwether is cracking a joke about star Zooey Deschanel's real-life pregnancy, though it will not be written into the series.)
A similar scenario just played out on The Mindy Project. The neighboring Tuesday comedy welcomed Adam Pally after Happy Endings finished. The actor recently chose to move on and made his final appearance in Tuesday's episode.
Wayans Jr. is not without his options. The Let's Be Cops star is currently getting offers for pilots. And, should he book anything, it won't keep him from finishing New Girl's current season. He's set to stay on through the finale. "I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to come back to New Girl in season three to reprise the role of ‘Coach,' " said the actor. "Working with this incredibly talented and funny cast and crew has been one of the best experiences of my career."
New Girl has yet to get the official green light for a fifth season, but its fate at the network is hardly in doubt. Fox chiefs Dana Walden and Gary Newman — who also run New Girl's studio, 20th Century Fox Television — have already gone on record with their desire to keep the network's No. 2 live-action comedy on the air.
Wayans Jr. is repped by WME and Mosaic. His departure was first reported by TVLine.