The vast majority of broadcast pilots have been ordered, yet only a handful of the hundreds of roles available have been filled. That is because the networks and the studios every year create wish lists of name actors they pursue before opening major parts to testing. And every year, there are names — not always obvious ones — who create a feeding frenzy, garnering multiple offers early on.
Rose Byrne was very sought after early in the 2013 pilot season. Last year, Mary Elizabeth Winstead was one of the top choices. This year, Jaimie Alexander has emerged as an early favorite with several offers. On the male side, Strike Back and 300: Rise Of An Empire‘s Sullivan Stapleton is being courted by multiple pilots.
The hot streak of series with black casts/leads including Empire and How To Get Away With Murder has not been lost on casting executives. Rosario Dawson is in big demand, with Sophie Okonedo, Meagan Good and Jurnee Smollett also holding multiple offers.
On the comedy side, Damon Wayans Jr. is once again a top choice, along with Rob Riggle. Also getting early attention is Mulaney‘s Nasim Pedrad. (A talent agent noted to me that she has never seen as many roles in comedy pilots specifically designated as ethnic as this year.)
There has been an unusually large number of shows that just ended or are wrapping their runs, making established actors available. That should alleviate a little the anxiety of network executives who are lamenting again the depletion of the broadcast pilot talent pool as competition from cable is stronger than. (Just today, a sought-after for broadcast pilots actor, Thomas Hayden Church, signed for an HBO pilot).
That includes the star-studded casts of NBC’s Parenthood and Parks & Recreation as well as USA’s Covert Affairs, whose stars Piper Perabo and Chris Gorham are expected to get inquiries; CBS’ The Mentalist and Two And A Half Men, whose co-star Jon Cryer was a pilot season staple before hitting it big with the Chuck Lorre sitcom; FX’s Justified; HBO’s The Newsroom, whose star Jeff Daniels is holding an offer; Fox’s Glee, whose star Lea Michele just signed on for Ryan Murphy’s new Fox series, Scream Queens, and Melissa Benoist was cast as Supergirl in the CBS pilot; as well as Cinemax’s Strike Back, whose star Stapleton is already in demand.
Parenthood‘s Peter Krause has an offer, Monica Potter has her own NBC comedy pilot, and Lauren Graham, who also was attached to a project she co-wrote, is expected to be courted too.
Meanwhile, Ramon Rodriguez, star of Fox’s summer drama series Gang Related and The Newsroom recurring player Marcia Gay Harden are two of few actors at this stage of pilot season who are entertaining multiple offers.
Also getting pilot inquiries are Sandra Oh, who left Grey’s Anatomy in May, Josh Charles, on the heels of his much talked about exit from The Good Wife, and The Following‘s James Purefoy, whose character’s fate on the show had been uncertain.
Among movie actors, fielding interest are veterans Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfeiffer, Susan Sarandon, Dennis Quaid, Diane Lane and John Cusack as well as Dawson and Freida Pinto.