EXCLUSIVE: Actress Sarah Chalke has signed a development/talent holding deal with 20th Century Fox Television. Under the pact, the studio will develop a half-hour comedy project for her targeted for fall 2012. 20th TV first got in business with Chalke when she recurred on the studio’s CBS comedy How I Met Your Mother from 2008-09 and then cast her as a lead in Greg Malins’ 2010 ABC pilot Freshmen. After the pilot didn’t make the cut to series in May 2010, the studio wanted to sign Chalke in a deal right away, but she was cast in CBS’ midseason comedy series Mad Love, so 20th TV brass were “determined to get her this year,” studio’s chairman Gary Newman said. “She is incredibly talented as a comic force — she can do physical comedy and has great timing. There is almost a Lucy quality to her,” he said, referring to comedy icon Lucille Ball.

Chalke will start meeting with writers shortly. Once she and the studio settle on a concept, the focus will be on developing that project but 20th executives will also keep an eye on other comedies in the works with characters that could be right for her. “She is incredibly castable,” Newman said. “We hope that the project we develop for her goes, but if it doesn’t, we will cast her in one of our other pilots.” Indeed, Chalke, repped by UTA and John Carrabino, has been in great demand. In her first pilot season after Scrubs in 2010, she was cast in two pilots, Freshmen and CBS’ Team Spitz, the latter in second position. But ever since she started as a child actress on Roseanne, Chalke has always been cast into existing projects. “I’ve always been curious what would it be to develop and get involved in the project from the very beginning; I think it will be neat,” said Chalke, who also liked working with 20th on HIMYM and Freshmen and is a fan of the studio’s roster of series. She said she’d love to collaborate with How I Met Your Mother creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, who “have a rare ability to find a balance in creating a characters that are funny but also make you care about them.” As for a possible return on HIMYM, “I have no idea (whether that can happen), but I would do it in heartbeat,” she said.