Morris was born in 1980 in Chicago, IL, where he spent his early years on the city’s tough South Side. His mother moved the family to Chicago’s western suburbs in his early teens in order to place him in a better school district. He excelled at basketball at Glenbard South High School in Glen Ellyn, IL, meanwhile honing a rapier wit with would-be comedy bits, becoming known as something of a class clown and drawing frequent trips to detention for it. Math teacher Robert Dobosz at one point began giving Morris a minute per class to tell jokes to get it out of his system, as well as encouraging him to pursue studies at Chicago’s famed cauldron of improvisational theater, The Second City. Upon graduation, Morris enrolled at The College of DuPage, studying theater while also taking classes at The Second City Training Center. That proved an entrée to Second City’s Outreach and Diversity Ensemble, in addition to doing stand-up in the city’s clubs. While still in Chicago, he lent his talents to the underground college comedy “Urban Ground Squirrels” (2002), doing the voice of the protagonist’s pseudo-spirit guide, an empathic rodent. Morris moved to New York City in 2006, where he garnered work for Black Entertainment Television.
Morris lent his slick wit and amiable charisma to a variety of programs, hosting a series about new tech and video games, the entertainment news show “BET Now” (2003- ), specials on fashion and sundry other BET special event shows. He also made appearances on consecutive broadcasts of the annual BET Awards and its signature music countdown show “106 & Park” (2000- ). As early as 2006, Morris began picking up advertising work, appearing in ads for Edge skincare products, and playing sweet Everyman parts in commercials for McDonald’s and Ford. In 2007, he landed a role in the movie, “April Fools,” playing a high school loser set up by the cool kids for an April Fool’s prank that goes horribly wrong. He put his acting talents on display in some short films, including two by writer-director Shalako Gordon – “One Word” (2008) and “The Truth About Lies” (2010). Transplanting to Los Angeles, he landed a hosting job on the short-lived Cartoon Network reality/game show “Brain Rush,” as well as a few minor film parts and a guest-shot on the sitcom “The Middle” (ABC, 2009- ). But it was a struggle for a time, to the point of having his car repossessed and the actor mulling a return to Chicago.
Morris found a groove in commercial work, adding spots for Taco Bell, Twix, Miller Lite, 7 Up and Hornitos tequila to his growing CV. During pilot season 2011, he found himself with dual positive prospects, landing a role as a put-upon staffer for a fading celebrity in a project for CBS, “Assistants,” and on a propitious short-list for a Fox project, “New Girl,” a young-wacky-roommates affair centered around a clueless teacher (Zooey Deschanel) who moves into an apartment with three guys. CBS did not greenlight the former, and Damon Wayans, Jr. landed the third roommate role on “New Girl,” but when his other show “Happy Endings” (2011- ) was picked up for another season on ABC, he left the show after the pilot was shot. Producers wrote him out and tapped Morris to play Winston, a former roomie in the apartment now returning from a stint in a Latvian basketball league and coming to grips with the realization he will likely not make it in the NBA. The show, evolving through its first season from Deschanel-centric to an ensemble focusing on the loopy cast’s chemistry, became Fox’s best-rated new show in a decade.