Heading into the broadcast pilot season, network and studio executives had a sinking feeling, bracing for what they expected would be the toughest pilot casting yet. A couple of weeks in, their fears appear to have materialized.
The increasing competition from cable and digital platforms have been gradually chipped away at the level of actors receiving straight offers for pilots over the past few years. Offers used to be reserved for movie stars and TV actors who have proven they could carry a show. Those days are long gone. The talent pool of experienced actors available for broadcast pilots has become so limited and competition from cable and digital series has become so fierce, actors who would’ve never gotten a straight offer just a couple of years ago are getting multiple ones this season. And I’m not talking only about adults.
In one of the craziest trends this pilot casting season, there is a feeding frenzy over child actors. Again facing a shortage because of great demand from cable shows, I hear broadcast pilots are now fighting over pint-sized performers. Those with notable acting experience are fielding multiple offers and don’t have to read for parts (assuming they are old enough to be able to read).
The situation is so bad, I hear there is fear that we may see more pilots than ever being rolled because of difficulty casting or see more actors recast after the table read because they never tested to prove that they are right for the roles.
Adding to the pressure is the fact that broadcast networks were late with their pilot pickups this season. There was not a single early order in December, the first pilot green light did not come until January 9, and ABC and CBS were behind with most of their pickups. I hear some of those late pilots have been put on an accelerated production schedule, leaving even less time for casting.
There is nothing embarrassing about testing for a part — it helps find a match between an actor and a character and save the potential embarrassment of having to replace an actor. But agents have a growing leverage and are using it, delivering straight offers for their clients.
The result is a pilot casting process at a standstill right now while more actors than ever are holding more offers than ever, with the networks anxiously awaiting to find out which ones would pan out before they move down the list to the next actor with a paper-thin resume who demands a straight offer.
For Deadline’s complete Primetime Pilot Panic listings, click here.