Ah, the dangers of second position casting. There was a lot of good upfront news for former Bring Human star Meaghan Rath today. Just before lunch, NBC picked up to series her NBC comedy pilot People Are Talking. Several hours later, Fox did the same with Rath’s other comedy pilot, The Guide to Surviving Life. Rath plays the female lead in both projects but one of them, Fox’s single-camera The Guide to Surviving Life, has her in first position. That means that NBC’s newly picked up multi-camera People Are Talking comedy will have to recast the role.
There is always risk associated with casting an actor in second position, usually to an existing bubble series, as was the case with Damon Wayans Js., a co-star in the New Girl pilot who had to quit when his series, ABC’s Happy Endings, was unexpectedly renewed. Despite the dangers, pilot producers resort to second-position casting when facing a deadline to go into production in order to make their delivery date. The problem had been exacerbated by the explosion of original content on traditional and digital platforms, depleting the talent pool available for broadcast pilot season, especially in some categories, like beautiful and funny twentysomething actresses.
In 2013, another young actress, Briga Heelan, found herself in the very same position as Rath. On May 10, NBC picked up to series her comedy pilot Undateable, followed by the series order by TBS of Ground Floor, where Heelan also played the female lead, just a couple of hours later. Ground Floor had Heelan in first position but, because both shows were from the same studio, Warner Bros., and the same executive producer, Bill Lawrence, an arrangement was made and she starred on Ground Floor while recurring on Undateable.
Given the demands of the roles in The Guide and People Are Talking and the fact that the projects are from different studios for different networks (20th for Fox and Universal TV for NBC), a compromise appears unlikely. In NBC’s defense, The Guide to Surviving Life, a post-college ensemble comedy, looked like an underdog early on. Indeed, the Fox pilot flew under the radar while People Are Talking emerged as an early favorite at NBC. But strong testing results helped push The Guide through to a series order, creating a headache for People Are Talking producers and NBC and Universal TV casting executives.
Since the end of Being Human last year, Canadian-born Rath has recurred on Banshee, Secrets & Lies and New Girl.