EXCLUSIVE: Orange is the New Black alumna Dascha Polanco is set as a lead opposite Tate Donovan and Melissa Leo in the Fox pilot Blood Relative. Tracie Thoms (Truth Be Told) and Sarah Catherine Hook (Conjuring 3) also have been cast as series regulars in the forensic genealogy-themed crime drama from writer-producer Chris Levinson and producer Liza Chasin. The network recently committed to filming filming all six of its 2020 pilots, including Blood Relative, extending the casts’ options.
Known for her role as Dayanara Diaz on all seven seasons of Netflix’s Orange is the New Black and set to co-star in Lin Manuel-Miranda’s In the Heights and as the female lead alongside Sylvester Stallone in Samaritan, Polanco was high on Fox’s wish list of talent for pilots this season. Her deal for Blood Relative was in negotiations when pilot season ground to a halt in mid-March.
Blood Relative is based on James Renner’s 2018 article “Beyond the Jungle of Bad: The True Story of Two Women from California Who Are Solving All the Mysteries,” about Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick and Dr. Margaret Press, who combined their genealogy expertise to push the boundaries of forensic science and helped law enforcement identify Joe and Jane Does and track down serial killers.
Written by Levinson and Renner and to be directed by Phillip Noyce, Blood Relative centers on genetic genealogy, the best new tool in crime scene forensics, and nobody knows it like Louise Kelly (Leo). Too bad she’s impossible to deal with. Tyrone Marshall Brown also stars.
Polanco will play Maria Alvarez. Maria is making lemonade out of lemons. She and her hearing-impaired 8-year-old son Sam live with her home psychic mother while Maria goes to night school to get her Ph.D. in psychology (she will eventually go to work at the same Parish Precinct as John (Donovan) and Brick (Brown). Maria’s reason for wanting to work with cops? She’s spent her entire life in their world. Twenty years ago, her father Diego was convicted of murder. Maria is stunned to learn that the police have discovered the body of Gary Northrup – the very man her father is accused of killing. Lou’s DNA genius might prove her father’s innocence. Maria’s life will be changed by this new science and this oh so unique woman. She will also prove to be one of the only people alive who speaks “Lou,” making her an invaluable asset.
Thoms will portray Lieutenant Hannah Dixon, John and Brick’s boss. The first woman to hold the position in this parish, Dixon is firm but fair and has zero interest in her squad playing guinea pig or testing the 4th Amendment so that Lou can dig through victims’ DNA. But Dixon is a woman at a precarious time in her life. Recently diagnosed with breast cancer, she is struggling to balance the job she’s fought for with the fight of her life. She and Lou will become reluctant confidants and their friendship will have a deep and unexpected impact on them both.
Hook is Ashley Kelly, 16 years old (going on 35) and the daughter of John and Rebecca Kelly. Social, wicked funny, an A student on the fencing team — at first glance, she appears to be yet another Gen Z eye-rolling, selfie-taking, screen obsessive. But don’t let the packaging fool you. Ashley is off-the-charts smart, not unlike her Aunt Lou. Ashley “speaks” social media. She can deep dive into Snapchat and Facebook to find anyone the way that Lou can trace back a family tree. Once Lou learns what’s going on inside Ashley’s mind, she recruits Ashley to help in the search for the John Doe in the pilot. This is just the beginning of a beautiful working relationship.
Levinson and Renner executive produce with Noyce and Chasin via her 3 Dot Productions. Paramount Television Studios and Anonymous Content co-produce with Fox Entertainment.
Polanco also is known for her work in Netflix’s When They See Us, The Irishman and FX’s The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story. She is repped by Gersh, Liebman Entertainment, TS Collective, and Goodman, Genow, Schenkman, Smelkinson & Christopher.
Thoms was most recently a series regular opposite Octavia Spencer on Apple’s Truth Be Told. She’s best known for her roles in Love for Netflix, UnReal for Lifetime, Cold Case for CBS, Rent and The Devil Wears Prada. Thoms is repped by Gersh and Schachter Entertainment.
Hook recently starred in New Line’s upcoming Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It. Last year, she shot ABC pilot Triangle as well as guest spots on AMC’s N0S4A2, Law & Order: SVU and the upcoming Hulu anthology Monsterland. She is repped by CESD and Prestige Management.
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