EXCLUSIVE: CBS is adding a twist to the classic TV character of Thomas Magnum in his return to television. I hear CBS’ intention is to pursue a non-white actor for the title character in its Magnum P.I reboot, a role originally played by Tom Selleck.
Additionally, I hear Lacey in CBS’ reboot of Cagney and Lacey, also is likely to be non-white. The character was written in the pilot script as a woman of color, sources say. In the Emmy-winning original, the title roles were played by Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless.
The trio of witches at the center of the original Charmed series (Shannen Doherty/Rose McGowan, Alyssa Milano, Holly Marie Combs) also is expected to look a lot more diverse in the reboot underway at the CW, which also has a Mexican American girl at the center on its Roswell reboot.
This is part of an across-the-board effort by the broadcast networks this year to have casts that represent the diverse makeup of America. What’s more, while non-white actors had often been relegated to supporting roles in the past, judging by early buzz, some predict that we may have one of the most, if not the most diverse group of broadcast pilot leads ever.
A number of pilots went into casting with non-white leads already attached or written into them.
ABC’s The Greatest American Hero is re-imagining Steven J. Cannell’s 1981 cult classic, in which the unlikely (super)hero at the center Ralph Hinkley was played by William Katt. In the reboot, it is Meera, an Indian American woman.
ABC also has a Get Christie Love reboot starring Kylie Bunbury and Untitled Holmes Sisters drama, which explores the lives of five African American sisters. NBC has a Gabrielle Union-led Bad Boys offshoot, with the female co-lead opposite her also likely to be non-white. Fox has comedy pilot Rel toplined by Lil Rel and the Lee Daniels-produced Out People, about an African American man whose fiancée is from the Midwest. CBS has multi-cultural comedy pilot History of Them starring Ana Villafañe and comedy pilot Pandas In New York, about a family of Indian doctors.
In addition to going in a different direction on Thomas Magnum, CBS also is changing the makeup of his all-male team in the original series. In the new version, one of the members will be a woman, whose casting I hear is open to any ethnicity.
The networks have taken a diverse route in rebooting famous titles before. Fox employed the strategy with its 24 revamp, 24: Legacy, which had Corey Hawkins play a new character taking the mantle from Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer. And CBS a couple of years ago reconceived Nancy Drew with a pilot, in which the character was played by Sarah Shahi.