We’re in the midst of the annual ritual of broadcast casting executives chasing their tails, also known as casting the leads of dozens of network pilots at the same time. As usual, many pilots go after the same names, resulting in a few actors holding a slew of offers thus bringing pilot season to a standstill.
Related: Primetime Pilot Panic Listings
Last year, Damages‘ Rose Byrne was the focus of attention with virtually every pilot vying for her, but she ended up passing on all. Actresses receiving multiple offers early on this season but not yet committing include Jennifer Connelly, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Diane Lane, Maria Bello, Hilary Swank, Octavia Spencer, Felicity Huffman, Kyra Sedgwick, Sarah Chalke and Elizabeth Banks. We already had a very elusive leading lady, Tea Leoni, locked in for a pilot, CBS drama Madam Secretary, with popular pilot targets Jack Davenport, Jennifer Carpenter (both on ABC’s Sea Of Fire) and David Schwimmer (ABC’s Irreversible) also spoken for. Several usual suspects, including Ellie Kemper and Natasha Lyonne, got an early jump by attaching themselves to projects (NBC’s Tina Fey/Robert Carlock series for Kemper, the Amy Poehler pilot for Lyonne).
On the male side, House star Hugh Laurie is in demand for a second straight season. Last year, he flirted with NBC’s pirate drama Crossbones and passed on a number of pilots, including NBC’s The Blacklist. He is getting a ton of offers — both one-hour and half-hour — again this year. Also heavily sought are Magic City star Jeffrey Dean Morgan and John C. Reilly. Other popular leading-man choices this season include The Office‘s John Krasinski, though he has not indicated an interest in returning to TV; Thomas Haden Church; James Marsden; Seann William Scott; Dennis Quaid; Luke Wilson; and Adam Pally. Every season, there is the cast of a recently cancelled show that creates a feeding frenzy. This year, that is the Happy Endings ensemble. Two cast members — Eliza Coupe and Casey Wilson — already have been snapped up by USA comedy series Benched and NBC pilot Marry Me, respectively, with the others, including Pally and Damon Wayans Jr, still in high demand. Two other high-profile series departees, Parks & Recreation‘s Rob Lowe and Rashida Jones, also were drafted back for pilot duty right away: Lowe is toplining NBC’s The Pro and Jones is playing the lead in TBS’ Tribeca.