EXCLUSIVE: ABC’s multi-camera/hybrid comedy pilot Nana, headlined and co-executive produced by Katey Sagal, is making a major casting change. Ben Lawson (Designated Survivor) has been tapped as the male lead opposite Sagal. He replaces Josh Cooke, who had been originally cast in the role.
The decision was made after the pilot’s table read late last week, which triggered a substantial reworking of the script. While Sagal as the title character was very well received, a number of other elements underwent changes, including the male lead character Alex getting reconceived. That led to the recasting.
Recastings are not uncommon in the pressure cooker of broadcast pilot season when some 70-80 pilots are being made at the same time on tight deadlines. The table read is the first time the key elements of a pilot — script and cast — come together and the producers can see if everything clicks. Nana is one of several broadcast pilots that recast lead roles after the table reads this season, along with Fox’s Prodigal Son and Deputy.
Written by Zimmet and directed by Andy Ackerman, Nana centers on Alex (Lawson), a fire chief in Indianapolis and an obsessive dad, who after the death of his wife, is forced to invite his brash and bawdy mother-in-law – Nana (Sagal) – into his home to help raise the two granddaughters she barely knows.
Zimmet executive produces with Ackerman and Ted Melfi and Kimberly Quin for Goldenlight Films, and Andrew Kosove, Broderick Johnson and Laura Lancaster for Alcon Entertainment. Sagal is a co-executive producer. 20th Century Fox co-produces with ABC Studios.
Nana was not developed by ABC. It was a January buy by the network after being developed internally by 20th Century Fox TV and written on spec Lon Zimmet.
Lawson recently co-starred on ABC’s Designated Survivor. The Australian-born actor previously co-starred on another ABC/20th TV series, legal drama The Deep End. Lawson, who recently recurred on NBC’s The Good Place and will be seen in Netflix’s Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings anthology series, is repped by ICM Partners, Untitled, United management in Australia and attorney Derek Kroeger.