After what was described as a worldwide search, ABC has cast Blondy Baruti, a 6-foot-10 former basketball player out of Oklahoma, as the lead opposite Skylar Astin in its untitled NBA buddy comedy pilot. It’s executive produced by Galavant creator Dan Fogelman, Mandalay Sports Media’s Peter Guber & Mike Tollin and Kapital Entertainment’s Aaron Kaplan. Also cast in the pilot, which is being done with the cooperation of the NBA and the the Guber-co-owned Golden State Warriors, is Laura Steinel (Draft Day).
This marks the first professional acting gig for 24-year-old Baruti, who came to the U.S. from his native Congo eight years ago. He played basketball for Mesa High in Arizona and University of Tulsa in Oklahoma, where he continues to reside. He studied acting over the past few years but has no acting experience. Baruti, who does not play basketball at the moment, auditioned for the pilot out of Oklahoma and ultimately landed the job.
Written/executive produced by Casey Johnson and David Windsor, the single-camera NBA project, from ABC Studios, is a buddy comedy about Mo (Baruti), an NBA rookie who doesn’t speak English, and a translator who doesn’t speak basketball. Mo is described as being of humble origins, and what little English he knows he learned from watching Fantasy Island reruns on the one TV in his small village. The humble beginnings certainly apply to Baruti, who grew up in the Republic of Congo during years of unrest and atrocities before coming to the U.S. with members of his family.
Steinel plays the intense assistant trainer for the NBA team that recruits Mo.
Baruti is repped by Switzer Talent Agency out of Oklahoma City and Greenlight Management.